The Goldilocks Problem – Body Image

I thought I was pretty original with this one, but apparently some scientists thought they were clever too…so I guess I have to be specific in my title. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the story of Goldilocks, right? Goldilocks and the three bears, three of everything, one was always too cold/little, one was too hot/big, and one was just right? Yeah…today, think of us – the American People, as Goldilocks. Forewarning – this is, to some degree, going to piggyback off of America The Fat, so having read that might help you understand where I’m coming from with some of this.

The problem we face in our society and our culture today is – we can’t find “just right” like Goldilocks did.
That’s not necessarily all our fault either…we aren’t generally encouraged to find “just right”. Instead, we’re told to pursue “too small” or “too big”.
Look at the media, at TV, at movies, at society in general…everything we see either encourages us to be (what I consider) too skinny or tells us that being fat is OK. The examples of “fat being OK” are glaringly obvious and easy to see (my opinion) as its thrown in our faces to make those who are fat feel better, but the “too skinny” message is a little more subliminal than that, so let’s tackle that first.

What is too skinny?

I assume its easy to understand what “too big” means, and I’m sure many of you can visualize it…but what about “too skinny”? What, exactly, constitutes “too skinny”?  “Too skinny” is a stick figure. “Too skinny” has no muscle definition and looks like you’d blow away in a strong breeze. When I think “too skinny”, I think of people doing whatever they can to lose weight, be “thin”, and look as tiny as they can. Guess what weighs a lot? Muscle. The “diets” many people do in order to lose weight and achieve “too skinny” don’t just make you burn fat, they also force your body to break down muscle as well. That’s not healthy! If your body is at a point where it has to break down muscle, it means it is malnourished and not getting enough nutrients and fuel! Here’s my prime example:

Giuliana Rancic. Those of you who watch E!, any kind of gossip news, the TV Guide channel or any kind of red carpet anything have seen this woman. So what’s my issue with Giuliana?

Img Credit – Fame

Well, for one, she’s a perfect example of the kind of body being shown by Hollywood to women as ideal, and let’s be honest – what we see on TV, especially those sorts of programs, is meant to be our model for ourselves. We’re taught to idolize the famous, envy the rich and powerful, and do what we can to be more like them. That said, look at some of the celebrities we’re either told or supposed to imply are the standard of “attractive” that we should be – Giuliana being one (who, by the way, started her own “fitness” website to “help” others get in the “perfect shape”…). Keira Knightley is another one – Pirates of the Caribbean anyone?  It’s tough to find if you go out searching for it, but its there and its sneaky. I had to think about it for a minute, but then I looked at some pictures of Megan Fox from Transformers, and I can’t decide without watching the movie again, but from pictures I can see online, she definitely rides the line. What was the big reaction to her in that movie though? Sexy. The problem with things like that is, while she may not actually be “too skinny”, women, especially teenage girls and women in their early 20’s, want to be that skinny, so they become “too skinny” as a result.

I will say – while this IS still a problem, its becoming less of a problem as we begin to demonize certain celebrities and their behaviors – certain celebrities who, in addition to drug problems and bad behavior, happen to also be too skinny, so that becomes bad too. As long as there are celebrities like Giuliana who are being praised, and movies showing near-toothpicks like Megan Fox in Transformers, it will still be an issue…and frankly I don’t foresee Hollywood casting directors changing that anytime soon.

How About “Too Big”?

I want to be clear here – when I say “too big”, I’m not talking about people who are riding the line and are somewhere close to being “just right”…I’m talking about people who are clearly “too big”. Visibly overweight. When you get winded going up a flight of stairs, you might be “too big”. When you can’t see your toes over your belly you might be “too big”. When you regularly put down over half a pizza by yourself in one sitting you might be “too big”. The worst part of “too big” is that this country is making it OK. Let me give some examples:

Some of you may be familiar with this popular recording artist – Adele. She’s a well-known big girl and I’ve actually read a quote from her saying she’s not concerned about weight and being skinny – she never plans to lose weight. She basically said she could be a house but as long as she’s making quality albums she’s ok with that. That is the wrong message to send. But that’s not really what I’m talking about: Adele’s attitude, I feel, just implies that being overweight isn’t something to worry about. What I’m talking about is much worse than that. What I’m talking about is a culture that makes it acceptable to be overweight. Teaches us that everyone is beautiful and to love your body.

Img credit – Fanpop

Let’s get this straight – I thought Pitch Perfect was hilarious. That said, now that I think about it, I have a BIG problem with the “Fat Amy” character. Basically, Fat Amy is teaching people that it’s OK to be fat, that skinny girls (or “twig bitches”) are mean and not to be admired, and that you should love yourself and your body regardless of your size. The movie uses her size for many jokes (both physical comedy and verbal jokes) which, of course, I would expect in a comedy. However, when you couple those jokes with the message the character is sending, you kind of glorify being big like that. They’re portraying her as a strong character because she’s overcoming adversity and being happy with herself. I can’t agree with that. We shouldn’t be teaching people that maintaining an unhealthy body fat percentage is ok. It creates health problems! High body fat percentage puts stress on your body in so many ways, it puts you at risk for heart disease, diabetes and more…why are we telling people that’s OK?

I’m gonna get up on my soapbox for a minute – this is going to be a long paragraph.
 
Your doctor should be telling you what a healthy range is and helping you figure out a plan to get healthy. Your doctor should also be describing all the health risks associated with being overweight. One of my faithful readers and members of the “So Fit” Family messaged me a link a short while ago and I have to tell you it got me so fired up I wanted to pop. There are, apparently, doctors out there who are telling people that it’s OK to be fat, that aren’t making an issue of it, that aren’t weighing you when you come in for a visit and tell you not to worry about losing weight. I don’t even know where to begin with this.

First off, a clarification – not all of the doctors on this list are internal medicine – there is a wide variety. There are internal medicine, family medicine, naturopathic, OB/GYN, midwifery, psychologists, therapists, gastroenterologists, etc etc. What bothers me is that these are doctors making it OK. If nobody else in the universe tells you the health risks of being overweight and urges you to “get healthy”, your doctor should. Frankly I think it’s irresponsible and a violation of the Hippocratic Oath to tell people it’s OK and to tell them they don’t need to worry about their weight or think about losing any. When someone walks in your office door and is 400 LBS…you offer them help, not a mozzarella stick (there is no tall person alive tall enough for 400 lbs to be healthy…please correct me if I’m wrong). Now, don’t bite my head off here – I understand that many people don’t go to the doctor because they’re embarrassed about their weight and don’t want to weigh in, yes I do believe these people should be able to see a doctor without having to be ashamed…but if you feel ashamed because your doctor is telling you about the health risks you’re currently facing…shouldn’t that be a hint that you’re not happy and it’s time to do something about it? If the doctor is being a jerk about it and is intentionally making you feel ashamed about it, that’s another thing entirely and I don’t condone that, but what we have out there is the exact opposite – doctors making you feel good about being overweight! That’s something that needs to stop. Another part that gets me fired up is: some of those doctors out there who are psychologists or therapists are basically preying on those who are overweight. These doctors get the overweight to come in under the auspices of caring about them and not making their weight an issue. That’s deceptive and dirty. Ok…off my soapbox…

Add on to all of those things we just talked about the general culture of “love your body” “it’s OK to be big” and “be happy” that these promote and what you have is a nation of overweight people who are empowered to pick up that chicken wing and chow down because y’know what…I’m OK with this and it’s OK to be big! Add in “The I Don’t Feel Like It Syndrome” and you have a recipie for disaster.

Y’know…let me tell you…I was Mr. I’m-Big-I’m-Not-Ashamed for a while but y’know what…when I stopped fooling myself and lying to myself…I admitted that I really wasnt’ happy. That’s when My Story and My Transformation began. Don’t forget…I was a pretty big guy…so on a lot of this, I’m speaking from experience. I may have seemed happy or tried to be happy, but I really wasn’t. It was the biggest thing dragging me down in my life.

So What Is “Just Right”?

Do we really know what “just right” is? We’re pulled in two directions so much that many people don’t actually find the way to “just right” or the tools to figure out what exactly that is. Where’s the happy medium between “too big” and “too skinny”? Well, many would say to follow a “body mass index” (BMI) chart…but I’m not sure I agree with that. BMI charts follow age and height to find what your ideal weight range is. The government website where I found a BMI chart DID make a point to say that it is inaccurate for those with an athletic or muscular build, or for those who are older or who have lost muscle weight. Not everyone who is 24 and 5’8″ should weight the same…some are lean builds and some are athletic. So BMI Chart is out. My vote is to use the Jackson & Pollock chart.

These charts, I think, hit the nail on the head. They go by age and gender, and there is a range! Lean, Ideal, Average, and Above Average. I’m gonna go ahead and say that, since this IS “America The Fat” that “average” is probably “slightly overweight” and “above average” is probably “too big”. I’m not sure where I fall right now because I can’t for the life of me figure out how much pressure to use when I use my body-fat measuring calipers. I’ll go more in-depth on this in a later article, but the basics here are: women have higher acceptable body fat %’s than men because they have more need of it in their bodies. These charts use age because as you get older, you naturally have / need more fat in your body. Like I said, this is a really REALLY basic explanation but the gist here is, I think this is the chart to follow. Ask your doctor to help you figure out your body fat percentage and go from there. This is also good for those building muscle as it allows you to account for muscle in your body – notice this chart doesn’t use weight as a measurement! Imagine that…weight itself isn’t everything.  I feel like I’ve heard that somewhere before…

“Just Right” is different for everyone. Some of you might want to fall into the “ideal” category, some of you might want to be a little more in the “lean” category. Just make sure if you’re gonna go down the “lean” road you have some muscle in there…don’t go down the “lean” road in such a way that you become “too skinny”. I don’t want to sound like I’m putting down the “love yourself” idea, but you should be able to love yourself and be healthy too! It’s all well and good that people want others to be happy, but there’s nothing wrong with being fit and healthy as a means to be happy . All too often the “fit” people are demonized as the jerks, the evil ones, the people putting me down for being fat. The sad truth is, there are “fit” people out there who DO actually do that. So my advice to you is – Offer help, not hate.  Part of why this whole “love yourself, fat is OK” thing is out there is because of “the jerks at the gym”. Let’s try to turn that image around, ok? Otherwise Goldilocks is never going to find “just right” and we’ll end up like the humans in Wall-E. Nobody wants that.

America The Fat

Not sure if you’ve noticed, but there’s a serious problem in this country. I’m not sitting here trying to lecture people about the “obesity” epidemic, or spit out some figures and statistics at anyone. I’m talking about what I see in the world around me each day. What am I talking about?

img from medicaldaily.com

We, as a nation, are fat. And for the most part, it doesn’t really seem to bother us. Not as long as the line at McD’s isn’t too long.

The problem is – we want what we want when we want it. When do we want it? Now. What do we want? What we like. Don’t worry,  we know what we like…

Everything we’re told to like.

Sugary, salty, fatty, sweet and designed to taste so good we just. want. more. What foods do you see advertised on TV? What delicious delicacies are you told are so good, so irresistible, you simply HAVE to go out and get it right now? Everything bad for you. Fast food burgers and fries, ding dings and hoo hoos, little snack cakes, drive-in hot dogs and potato puffs you don’t even have to get out of your car for brought to you by people who can roll to you (because why should they be bothered to walk if you aren’t?) and cheese poofs that look bold and daring because the cheetah eating them is a jerk. All these awful foods are glorified and celebrated as something we are privileged to be able to have. But that’s just ONE part of the problem…

IN MODERATION, and I mean, like, as a once-in-a-while treat…I suppose it could be possible that your health and energy level wouldn’t suffer too much from all this stuff. Problem is we don’t seem to understand the concept of moderation. I find that many people just aren’t taught limits. Our bodies will tell us  when we’re full, when we are satisfied…when we are sufficiently nourished.  When I was little, I was told to finish my plate before I was allowed to have dessert. “Eat your food, there’s starving kids in Othercountria”. That’s great, stick it in a box and mail it to them…little-kid-me is full! And that is the instant we are taught to ignore anything resembling a signal from our body. We also don’t eat slowly…we just inhale this stuff. People eat all this awful “food” so fast that it doesn’t even register with their body that it’s in there, so we miss the signals our body is still trying to send us. 

And this is a behavior that we celebrate!

How many food-eating contests do you see? Food “challenges”? That famous American hot dog eating contest on July 4th? Where like 10 people line up on a nationally televised stage and try to shove 50+ hot dogs down their food-hole in the fastest manner possible? Seriously? It’s disgusting to watch!  I used to LOVE “Man vs. Food”…I thought it was awesome. Then over time I noticed the guy on the show seemed to be getting kind of fat. Like visibly, noticeably fat. Pretty soon after that there was a new show called “Man vs. Food Nation” where he wasn’t the one eating, it was other people! Imagine that.

Speaking of portion size – I was talking with a co-worker the other day and I mentioned that I really liked the bbq chicken pizza at such-and-such restaurant – it was REALLY good and very well-done. They replied “Oh, I don’t like such-and-such restaurant…their portions are so small!”. Really? Their portions are actually a pretty good size…it’s just not the overflowing platter of nom that we’re taught to expect. What a shame that’s the expectation…the food at such-and-such is actually really good and not the typical get-fat-and-blow-up fare you get at most big chains. 
And y’know what makes this awful food and lack of moderation even worse

It’s all so cheap you can feed the wife and kids too!

Ten dollars feeds the WHOLE family from the dollar menu! Got a powerful appetite all on your own? Get a big box of heart-stopping tasty for just $5! Want to make sure you REALLY fill up? There are plenty of buffets to choose from, some as cheap as 4.99 for endless everything!

Appetite Stimulus Plan? Are you kidding me?

This has got to be one of the top reasons, as far as I’m concerned, that we as a nation are so fat – it’s so damn cheap! I know as a recent college grad I have been broke since I was “on my own” in college. What happened when I got hungry? I’d find something cheap! But boy was I HUNGRY! Well, I was taught to make sure I got my fill…Easy beans! 4 bucks at Taco Bell and I was stuffed for the night. Then again, that 4 bucks’ worth of food was probably more fat and calories than I should’ve taken in for the whole day.

Another problem with all this cheap food we stuff ourselves with is…it’s cheap! Not just price-wise, but quality-wise too. Next time you go grocery shopping look at the ground beef. Notice that the higher the fat content (and lower the quality) the less expensive it is. The health food section, “natural” section…whatever they call it… is often much more expensive than the rest of the store – prohibitively expensive for many people.  The average American can do a pretty good job eating relatively healthy, but the average American is also pretty decent at stretching a buck – so the cheap stuff makes it into the cart.

But if you’re feeding the family with this…that means the kids are eating it too.

img from the-menace-of-obesity.com

This is one of my biggest problems with this WHOLE thing…we’re teaching our kids that not only is eating to excess ok, but its the norm. Some of you may know, I work in a pretty big restaurant chain (over 100 locations)…and I’m in a tourist town, so LOTS of people come in. I can’t tell you how many round children I see walk in the door. ROUND! I can’t understand how, as a parent, some people can allow their child to eat so much that they become so fat they’re round. Kids can’t get their hands on that amount of food on their own, it’s being provided to them. I don’t even know what else to say…it’s just irresponsible to feed your kids that kind of food that often and that much that they blow up. And this isn’t a nutrition thing…but most of these kids aren’t encouraged to go out and play all that much…many of these kids are the same ones who sit at one of my tables with their eyes glued to and hands surgically attached to a GameBoy or smartphone playing games. Not the best way to burn off the 3000 calories your kid ate today.

No. You’re not. You’re bored. Put down the burrito!

I guess where I’m going with all this is – we need to SERIOUSLY re-examine how we as a nation behave when it comes to food. Fast food, snack food and deep-fat are so ingrained in our culture that it’d take a pretty big paradigm shift to get truly healthy. This whole problem, coupled with the “I don’t feel like it syndrome” is why we’re in such a bad situation right now. However, if we take baby steps, follow good nutrition guidelines like I’ve talked about before, and embrace healthy-eating movements we can start going in the right direction.  

I implore you – start at home, with yourself and your kids. Be conscious of the foods you’re putting in your mouth and putting on a plate for your kids. Make sure not too much of your food is coming from a greasy bag or box handed to you through your car window. Listen to your body – it will tell you when you’re done. We eat for nourishment and to enjoy the taste, not because we’re bored.  Teach your kids healthy habits and the right foods to eat. They’re learning from YOU – so make sure you’re careful about what you’re showing them.

We, as a nation, don’t have to be fat. But it starts at home. With you.

The “Get Up And GO” Guide

At this point a lot of people have heard, seen or read my story and asked me how I did it. How I got started? How I stayed motivated to keep going? Turns out, a lot of people ask me that question because they want to know how THEY can do it too.

Well, here we are. The “Get Up And GO” Guide. This will break down everything you need to know, do, and remind yourself in order to…well… Get Up and GO! Let’s dive right in –

First Thing’s First – Get Out Of Your Own Way!


YOU are the only obstacle in your way. Nobody can
tell you that you can’t do it. Your voice is the only voice that matters. You are perfectly capable of achieving your goals. So, stop the excuses, do what you need to do to be in a position to begin your journey…and do it! I could go on for hours, but that’s about all there is to say in this part of the guide. I’ve already talked about the “I Don’t Feel Like It Syndrome”, The Fear Monster, The Napoleon Complex and motivation itself, so we’ve covered a lot of the bases concerning why you might not have been doing anything – it’s time to figure out what’s been keeping you away from a better you and beat it. Those other articles might
help.

So What Are You Gonna Do Now?

 
No, really…assuming you’re ready to do something, you have to know what it is you’re gonna do! That means you need to have a goal envisioned in your mind. What is your goal – what do you want in the end? It’s going to be a long road, and you need a road map to get there. So, figure it out!

Are you trying to burn fat and get lean (known in fitness world as “cutting”) or get big and build muscle (“bulking”)? What do you want to look like? What size do you want to be? What weight are you shooting for? Where do you want to be in a year? I know it seems far off, but if you set your ultimate goal now you can figure out your plan and set little, more immediately attainable goals to achieve along the way. Trust me – little victories along the path to the Promised Land can do a lot more for you than you can appreciate right now.

OK, So you know where you want to go – How Do You Get There?

This is the part where you have to choose your starting point – what you’re actually going to do to start losing/gaining weight. This can be a big decision, and it IS an important one.  Megan (my fiancee) and I were between two programs – P90X and INSANITY. We were familiar with the two from word of mouth, internet ads, and tv infomercials. We had a rough idea of what we were in for and what the two were like. In the end, the differences we were deciding between were:

P90X – requires some equipment, allows lots of modification of moves, well-rounded program
Insanity – requires NO equipment, doesn’t really allow much modification (or any at all), cardio HELL.

We decided, in the end, to do P90X first. Frankly, I’m glad we did. For what we were looking to do it was a good starting point. It allowed us to ease into things modifying moves and achieving little victories, still getting the full workout done instead of failing after one or two full-out intense reps. It allowed us to feel good about our achievements and see our progress as we went along. Yes, we would’ve seen progress in INSANITY too, but the fact we couldn’t go balls-to-the-wall and get more than a couple reps might have discouraged us from finishing the program. Doint P90X also helped us build a base of muscle and shed some initial weight (read: a LOT of weight) that helped make INSANITY suck a whole lot less.

In the end, we made the right choice for us. Maybe the other choice would’ve worked for you. That’s probably the toughest part – in the end, you have to make the call. Look into your available options and choose what you think is going to serve you best. P90X allowed my 300 lb out-of-shape self to struggle for 10 pushups on my knees and still complete the workout. Progress is progress –

Because let’s be honest – you’re already lapping the guy still sitting on the couch.

Once you figure out what you’re doing, you need the tools for success.

What are The Tools For Success?

Generally, whatever the program you’re doing calls for! If you’re going to do a program like P90X that requires equipment, you need that equipment! Things like resistance bands, pull-up bars, push-up stands, yoga mats, etc can be found at stores like Marshalls, T.J. Maxx, Wal-Mart, or your favorite sporting goods store. I got my resistance band set for about $12, same with some nice push-up stands. Yoga mat was about $12 for a nice one and yoga block was $5 (worth it). Trust me, the equipment is worth the investment. Don’t let a few extra bucks scare you away – it’s worth it for your health, fitness and enjoyment. I’d happily invest that $50 again to add enjoyable years onto my life. If you’re going a little more hardcore with something like P90X2 or Body Beast, you’ve probably already done some workout programs and have built up a collection of equipment already. Don’t choose a program simply because of a lack of required equipment. I almost made that mistake, and if I had, I might have gotten discouraged and quit INSANITY, and I never would’ve gotten in shape and started running.

If the program you’re doing has worksheets, trust me…print them and use them. I WISH I had printed and used the P90X worksheets – I’d LOVE to see how far I’ve come since then. Not only that, but the worksheets help you stay on track, remember what weight/how many reps you did last time, and continue to steadily improve. I thought I knew better. Guess what? I didn’t. I’ve come so far that now, in Body Beast, not only did I use worksheets, but I found better worksheets online and modified them to suit my needs. USE THE WORKSHEETS. You’ll thank yourself later.

Before and After Pictures & Measurements are HUGELY Important!

Seriously, if you take one piece of advice, take this – DO THE BEFORE AND AFTERS! You have no idea how sorry I almost was…I waited until Day 6 of P90X to do before pictures.  I was so ashamed of my body and disgusted with how I looked I didn’t even want to do before pictures. I wanted to forget all about it. I am SO glad I finally did the before pictures. I can see how far I’ve come! I can appreciate my achievements! It’s such a great feeling and now that I’m so much more fit people look at the before and can’t believe it. (you can see all the before & afters here) I wish I had taken measurements before. The only one I have is my waist size, and that’s not entirely accurate. It was likely bigger than I think.
Take Pictures, take your measurements, document your journey. Fit-&-Healthy You WILL thank yourself.

Once you do that, it’s GO TIME

SO, You’ve got direction, you’ve got a program, you’ve got the tools and you’ve taken the pics/measurements. Presumably, you have a suitable space to do your workout. Anywhere you can do your workout, use your equipment, not disturb others (too much) and not be disturbed by others will do. Don’t worry about people watching you – let the hater’s hate. I would think anyone that could see you in your workout space would be someone close to you, and I would hope someone that close wouldn’t judge you.

NOW that we’ve moved on from the haters – Get your fit test done (if there is one). Some programs, such as P90X, have a fit test you do before and after the program, whereas other programs like INSANITY have a fit test that is part of the regular schedule. Whatever the case, DO IT. Again, you’ll thank yourself later.

This Is The Easy Part

Not to rip a line from Nike or anything…but…well…Just Do It! You’ve got everything you need. Just. Freaking. DO IT! If you need motivation along the way, just think about where you came from, where you want to be, and how much you don’t want to look like that before picture again. Think about how good it feels to finish a workout and have that little success under your belt. Think of how good it feels to see yourself shrinking week to week, see your clothes fitting looser, needing to go shopping to buy new ones. Think of your loved ones and how you’d like to be around a little longer for them, or how you’d like to look better for them. If you’re like I was, think of how much it sucks to get winded going up one flight of stairs. Everyone has that one little nugget of something that will kick their butt into gear no matter how much the workout sucks, how much you’re swearing at Tony Horton or Shaun T through the TV, or how much you REALLY just don’t want to get out of bed and go work out this morning.

If you need a little outside help keeping yourself accountable, be a part of a group designed for just such a purpose. There are many on Facebook, many in real life (with real people!) too. Enough people reached out to me talking about inspiration and asking for advice that I went and made one. If you want, you can become a part of it here. I’ve been a part of one for a while and I can tell you it was definitely a great motivator on the days I needed it. Other days, it’s a great place to learn something or help motivate others. Maybe having a workout partner is what you need. I know having my fiancee there beside me every day doing the workout with me was a big deal. I tried harder. For her and for me. If she could do it, I could do it. If I could do it, she could do it. We were a team. Once we got to the end of Week 1 Day 6 we looked at each other and said “If we can get through the first week, we can get through the whole thing.” – and we did.

Fight off those last little excuses that creep into your mind! Don’t try to fool yourself and say you don’t have time: no matter how long you work, how screwed up your hours, how awful your schedule, remember:

Think you can’t do it? It’s just too hard and you’re too out of shape?
So get to it, Nancy. You got this.

Our First REAL Challenge – Falmouth Road Race

So, two weeks from this very moment (at least, the very moment I’m typing this) the gun will go off and the 41st running of the Falmouth Road Race will begin. 10 minutes later the 5th corral will be allowed to start and off I’ll go. A few minutes later, the 6th corral and off goes my fiancee Megan.

Holy. Crap.

This is what we’ve been working up to since March (whether we knew it or not) when we went for that first run.

That’s great Darrell, but what if I don’t know what the Falmouth Road Race is?

The Falmouth Road Race (which is kind of a big deal) is a 7.4 mile road race from Woods Hole to Falmouth Heights. The course goes by Nobska Lighthouse, along some scenic roads, along Surf Drive (and its beaches), along the beach at Falmouth Heights, all the way around Grand Ave. down to the finish line in front of the British Beer Company. They cap the total number of race participants somewhere around 12,500, and they have elite runners from around the world fly in to run this thing.

And then there’s us.

***UPDATE***

So I took a break in writing this post to actually go run the course with Megan. Boy am I glad I did We learned a lot about the course and we’re definitely better prepared.

OK, so…why are you two running this?

 I’m running as a part of Team Lanzoni. That’s the 99 Restaurants team. Team Lanzoni is a part of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute running programs. That means that I’m running to raise money for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Why?

My Grandfather – Peter Scuteri. A loving husband and father, retired Malden police officer and pilot of the Malden PD K-9 program, Freemason, Shriner, and all-around hero. He passed away from cancer last July. The short story is, during his battle with cancer, he received care from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Dana-Farber helped my grandfather in his battle, and I wanted to use a run to raise money for them so someone else could have a fighting chance too. My other reasons for running, yes – even my new-found health and fitness, pale in comparison to this reason.

What about Megan?

My fiancee Megan is running the race for a different reason. Megan’s brother – Chris Boselli – passed away last summer from complications with heart surgery. He was 27 years old. His passing rocked her family in a way I can’t even properly describe to you. Her family set up a memorial scholarship fund in his name to honor him by helping others who share his love of theatre and the arts. Originally, Megan had been trying to run the Falmouth Road Race on a team to raise money for this scholarship fund. UNFORTUNATELY, the team was not selected in the lottery.

She still wanted to run the race. For herself and, I think, for him.

So, long story short, she (and her sister, Kim) are running as a part of the West Falmouth Library team to raise money for them. Megan went with this because, of all the fundraising opportunities available to her, this one made the most sense. Megan always has a book on her and reads like its her job. If she couldn’t raise money for her brother’s memorial, being able to support a place that helps others with the same hobby/habit/problem (hah) as her is a great compromise. While I have surpassed my own fundraising goal through the help of the people at Team Lanzoni HQ, Megan has not yet achieved her fundraising goal.

This is where I’m calling on you, faithful friends and readers.

Please visit Megan’s personal fundraising page and consider making a donation to help her towards her $1,000 goal. As of my writing, she is at $170. There’s a yard sale this coming weekend to raise money towards the goal, but it’d take way more stuff to sell than we have in order to achieve that.

Please consider helping and contributing to a great cause. Megan has until August 6th to raise the money she needs – I have a few weeks after that. It would mean a lot to me if you could help her out.

That said – the training continues. Two weeks from this moment the two of us will be celebrating a great achievement and looking forward towards the next. It’s all about the journey.

Why Workouts Fail #2 – The Scale

I tried incredibly hard – probably WAY harder than I should have – to come up with a catchy title for this article…but when it comes right down to it…it’s really simple. The Scale – the common bathroom scale – is a major reason why workouts fail.

Yeah, you heard me right. The Scale is a problem. There are a few reasons why, but The Scale is Public Enemy No. 1 in workout world. The Scale contributes in a HUGE way to what I’m calling “Perceived Lack of Results”. “PLOR” is why an incredible number of people get frustrated and just give up.  The scale can make you think you’re on top of the world or a complete and total failure.

It’s all. About. The Scale.

The Scale Doesn’t Lie – 

As a matter of fact, The Scale is incredibly honest. Too honest. The Scale doesn’t know how to lie – It knows how to do one thing: Tell you exactly what you weigh. 

Isn’t that the point?

Yes and no. The Scale will tell you what you weigh, but the problem is there are a lot of factors that play into how much, exactly, you weigh RIGHT NOW. How much you weigh over time. Your weight loss or gain trends. Stress, sodium intake, hydration (or lack thereof), sweating, fat loss/gain and muscle loss/gain all affect what you weigh. And don’t forget – the food you actually eat throughout the day weighs something too! All of these things can play into a false sense of where you’re at when you step onto the scale.

So far I’ve thrown a lot of information at you, even though it may not seem like it. Let’s take it one bite at a time (hah, I made a funny).

Stress – 
Being under high levels of stress, which isn’t uncommon these days, can lead to weight gain (or to the scale staying the same – we’ll come back to that) as discussed in this article on WebMD, this article on MedicineNet, and this post on About.com Health. I’m taking away three distinct factors from all these (and more) discussions about stress and weight gain –

1. When you’re stressed your body enters a primal “fight or flight” mode and generates a number of hormones, including Cortisol. Cortisol serves to facilitate fat and carbohydrate metabolism, but it also triggers insulin release to help regulate blood sugar. The end result is YOU craving more high-carb high-sugar foods. Helloooooo tub-o-ice cream.

2. Cortisol, a result of stress, causes your body to store fat deep in the abdominal area. This not only produces an INCREDIBLY attractive gut-like appearance in the belly, but it’s also the kind of fat store that can lead to health issues.

3. When you’re stressed there’s lots of nervous energy that needs to be expended – your body and mind have to find a comforting activity. Many times, eating becomes that comforting activity and, HOW CONVENIENT – you can go ahead and nom on that high-sugar high-carb stuff you’re craving as a result of cortisol release. Perfect.

Sodium Intake, Hydration / De-hydration and sweating-

Where does all that salt come from?

The ideal daily sodium intake is around 2,300 mg. I don’t know if you’ve looked at sodium levels in some of the foods you eat, but it can be INCREDIBLY difficult to keep sodium levels low…especially if you eat out at all. The chart to the right shows you where all the salt in your food comes from – if you look at it you’ll see why the more “processed” food you eat, and the more “processed” it is, the more salt you can’t help but take in. Increased sodium levels make you retain water (don’t believe me? Google it). Retaining water makes you weigh more – water has weight, right? Totally makes sense. If you decide you’re gonna stop drinking water and get pretty dehydrated – yeah, the scale is probably going to look a little bit better, but you’ll be disappointed next week/month when you weigh in and you’re hydrated differently than the last time.

And just like taking in or not taking in enough water can affect your weight – you’re obviously going to weigh less after you’ve just gotten done sweating out a bunch of water. In my experience, I can sweat out 1-2 lbs of water (maybe even more) during a super-intense workout (1+ hours), yours may vary, but that IS a significant amount of weight just from sweating. Your body will replenish it when you have that post-workout “oh-my-god-I’m-dying-of-thirst” water guzzle, so this is an even more temporary fluctuation than the others, but it is a weight fluctuation just the same.

Food Weighs Something – 
This one’s quick, easy and obvious – the food you eat weighs something. If you weigh yourself before you eat in the morning you will weigh less than if you weighed yourself after eating. Every time. There is no food out there that makes you lighter after you eat it (and if there is, tell me!). 

And this leaves me with my favorite point to make, and the one that, I think, really brings this whole article together:

MUSCLE WEIGHS MORE THAN FAT –
No, this is not just some kind of corny line – volume-wise, muscle weighs more than fat. Think of it like a pound of feathers and a pound of gold – it’s gonna take a super-huge pile of feathers to weigh a pound – that pile is going to take up a lot of space. The same weight of gold is small, sleek and in a tight tiny package. Same goes for muscle and fat. Fat is less dense than muscle, thus 5 lbs of fat takes up a lot more real estate than muscle.

Let’s put it another way that’s easier to understand:

  Starting to get the picture?

Muscle is tighter and denser than fat – same weight, smaller package. If the scale doesn’t move, or barely moves, it’s likely because you’re building muscle while at the same time burning fat. The more muscle you have in your body the more calories you’ll burn – your body has to burn calories to feed all the muscle on your body.  That’s a good thing. Don’t be afraid of building muscle.

No. Not necessarily.  Wasn’t the goal to burn fat? Get healthy? Get fit? Yes, you’ll lose some weight, but it’s going  to come to a point where you stop losing weight so rapidly. You might even stay the same for a while. This could be a true plateau or it could just be some muscle gain (I’ll cover true plateaus in another article), but either one can be overcome. I lost 107 lbs so far – it did not steadily come off 5 – 10 lbs per week. There were weeks I didn’t lose weight. There were weeks I GAINED a little. You have to think LONG TERM with your weight-loss and fitness goals. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was your body. Be confident in what you’re doing and believe in yourself. If you get so frustrated that you want to smash the scale and throw it out the window…well…I’ll pretend I didn’t see you do it.

So, what? I can’t trust The Scale?

Like I said – The Scale will ALWAYS tell you exactly what you weigh…at that moment…with no regard for muscle vs. fat, hydration, stress, etc. Weigh yourself at your own risk. Don’t weigh yourself more than once a week – definitely not daily. The number The Scale tells you is NOT the only number in the world that matters. Trust other measurement methods. How do you FEEL? How do you LOOK? Are your clothes fitting looser? Can you tighten your belt more? Do you see more muscle definition when you flex? Has your body fat % gone down? Don’t let the number The Scale tells you skew the image you see in the mirror.

When you start a program and take your “before” pictures, whip out a measuring tape and get your measurements – neck, chest, waist, hips, thighs, biceps, calves, etc. You’ll be glad you did, because THOSE are the measurements that count. If those are changing in a positive direction, the weight will follow. Believe in yourself and stay positive – don’t let The Scale make you think you’re failing.