A blog about life after weight loss.

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Fitness and Change

 We apologize. Last week, we left you hanging. I started a new job last Monday, and Liz and I are still adjusting to my new hours. We only worked out together once during the workweek, and a couple of nights I came home so late that neither of us felt like exercising at all.

Change, whether personal or professional, can turn your fitness routine on its head and disturb your eating habits. When Liz and I started dating, we were gluttons. We greeted each other with cocktails, and our dates usually started by ordering anything we wanted at restaurants. We were dating, consumed by the fog of new love. We couldn’t be bothered to count calories or worry about portion size.

A couple of months went by, and we recognized individually that our over-indulgence was affecting our bodies. So we adjusted. We started cooking meals at home and moved our dates from the bar to the gym.

Grabbing the health bull by the horns as a couple also gave each of us a natural, reliable support system. If I was feeling weak and wanted to skip a workout or order a full slab of barbecue ribs, Liz was there to tactfully remind me of our goals, and I supported her in kind.

Thus far, this new job has disrupted our gym time. We use this time to work out, of course, but also to talk about our days, discuss our plans, and reconnect. We refuse to lose this bonding time, so we committed to hitting the gym on the weekends, even if it means setting an alarm and waking up early. Additionally, we created a workout matrix so each of us is getting the proper amount of exercise, even if we are not exercising together.

Remember, change can only wreck your routines if you let it. Be adaptable. Adjust. Keep the finish line in mind, and don’t let anything get in your way.

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Lost in the Supermarket

The above video is one my all-time favorite songs by one of my all-time favorite bands. While The Clash’s Mick Jones may have been singing about suburban loneliness and the emptiness of materialism, it is easy for the healthy shopper to feel literally lost in the supermarket. American grocery stores are growing faster than a 12 year-old boy; they are adding coffee stands, automotive sections, organic and international aisles, and even furniture. The shopping experience can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you are trying to stick to eating nutritious foods.

Here are some tips to help you navigate your local grocery labyrinth and fill your cart with healthy foods in the process.

Don’t go hungry. We do our best to eat before we go shopping for food. We have made the mistake of hitting the supermarket without eating, and we have found that it is much harder to walk away from cookies, pastries, and other high-calorie treats. We end up leaving the store with more food than we really need, and typically a few foods on the “naughty list” have found their way into our bags.

Make a list. Imagine you are planning a child’s birthday party. Well before the party, you would write down everything you need because you would not want to leave anything to chance. You’d send invitations, buy food and drinks, pick up a cake, book entertainment. You would not leave all of this until the day of the party because you would be bound to forget something–Oh hell! We forgot a gift!–and end up with dozens of crying kids on your hands. You should adopt the same attitude before you go to the grocery store.

Making a shopping list, having a strategy will ensure you are not wandering through the aisles asking yourself whether or not you need certain items. More importantly, having a list will help you plan your meals ahead of time, and you won’t spend money on food you don’t want to have around the house.

Check your labels. Liz and I have laughed at ourselves after spending several minutes comparing peanut butters to find the right combination of protein, fat, sugar, and calories. But comparing nutrition facts is worth it. You will likely find that a serving size is much smaller than you thought, or that a mainstay on your shopping list is packed with calories. We were surprised to find that lean beef (we like the 96/4 version of Laura’s Lean Beef) is actually healthier than ground turkey.

Stay on the perimeter. As a child of the 80s, I love the movie The Karate Kid. One of the most indelible moments in the film is when Pat Morita’s character, Mr. Miyagi, tells young Daniel-son, “Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later, get squish like grape.”  Remember this wisdom when you are at the grocery store.

All of the high fat, high calorie foods are in the middle of the supermarket, while all of the produce, meat and other healthy products are on the outside. You can check us on this. Next time you are shopping for food, walk to the center of the store. We bet you find cookies, pop, candies, chips, and other enemies of healthy living. Listen to your sensei. Don’t be the grape.

Avoid the zombies. This is not some apocalyptic prophecy of the end of days; you can read about that on other blogs. By “zombies,” we mean non-perishable goods. These foods never die. They just sit there on the shelves, day after day, week after week, waiting to strike. Some food for thought: If a food can last a year in a box without going bad, it won’t have much problem storing itself inside your body.

If you can stick to these simple tips, you will never leave the supermarket with anything that will derail your fitness goals. Happy shopping!


Where There’s A Will

People commonly associate will power with weight loss. Lack of will power is often an excuse for not losing weight, and it is often assumed that those who live healthy lives have an inordinate amount of will power. Will power is thought of as a panacea, a mysterious magical formula only select people have solved.

How often have you heard something like this?

I want to lose weight, but I have no will power.

I don’t have the will power to go the gym.

You look great! You must have a TON of will power.

The phrase itself–will POWER!–conjures the image of a shaman or magician, someone who possesses other-worldly abilities like levitation or shape-shifting. If fitness or weight loss were simply a matter of will, if you could be at your ideal weight simply by wanting it enough, the world would be populated with happy, healthy people. We would have no need for the Body Mass Index, gyms, fitness DVDs, or weight loss magazine and blogs like this one. Everyone would have a six-pack and no one would feel too embarrassed to go to a pool. If losing weight were merely up to will, we could achieve world peace.

When people talk about will power, what they really mean is discipline. No one wants to admit being undisciplined because it sounds like a character flaw, so we talk about will power to make ourselves feel better.

Discipline comes in many forms. We have the discipline to exercise five or six days a week. The place we are most disciplined, where we have to use the almighty “will power,” is at the grocery store. We want to buy cookies. We want to buy chips. We want to buy frozen pizza. We just don’t.

We lack discipline, will power if you will, at home, but we recognize it, so we don’t allow unhealthy food in the house. Most of the time.

Once food is in our pantry, we are going to eat it. In the comfort of the apartment, where no one knows our dietary secrets, our discipline waivers. Sometimes we lose discipline altogether. If you were to swing by our apartment and drop off a tray of Golden Oreos, they would be gone in three hours. And that is assuming we left for an hour to escape the terrifying deliciousness of the cookies.

Exercising discipline means changing your habits. As a friend of mine likes to say, habits are just decisions you make every day. Make the decision to exercise today. Make the decision to eat only one serving of a healthy dinner. Make the decision to eat breakfast each morning. Make one smart, disciplined decision at a time. Make these decisions over and over until they become habits.

Before you know it, you will feel empowered, like a new, greater version of yourself. Healthy living does not take magic, mysticism, or supernatural powers. Recognize your weaknesses and change them one disciplined step at a time.

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Sand Volleyball: That Set Cray

Tonight, we will take to the sand for our summer session of volleyball. We’ve been playing sand volleyball together for a couple years now, and we can no longer imagine not playing. We have been off for two weeks between sessions, and we are thrilled to play again.

Our weekly league is a great way to burn some calories and, particularly in these humid summer months, work up a good sweat and set a nice base tan. We participate in a rec league where no one is gunning for the Olympics, so we win on account of hustle. We sprint across the court, jump at the net, and exercise in ways the gym just cannot provide. We do get into some games where we remain as stationary as mannequins because one team will get on a hot serving streak, but for the most part we are constantly moving.

Photo courtesy of Sandbar Facebook page.

But let’s be honest: sand volleyball isn’t all about exercise; it’s about fun. We like playing, but we love seeing our friends every week. As we get older, we find it more difficult to coordinate schedules with friends. There are work schedules, family obligations, and straight-up fatigue to contend with. But sand volleyball trumps all that. The six of us on our team break our weekly monotony and assemble for some friendly competition. You can’t beat that.

Sand volleyball does present a Skinnyfat dilemma. To drink, or not to drink? That is the question. One of our teammates goes to the bar for a bucket of beer before anything else. He doesn’t say hi or even acknowledge us until he has that bucket in his hand. He’s not a jerk; that’s just his way. Our first season starts in late March. It’s easy to turn down a cold one when you are wearing long sleeves and icy sand turns your feet to stone, but now that we have hit the dog days of summer and can break a sweat simply standing still in the shade, frosty beers and mixed drinks are that much more enticing. Sometimes we indulge, sometimes we don’t.

We play in a league run by Cincinnati Sports Leagues. Note the city. We live nowhere near a beach, but still get a beach experience. CSL also offers kickball, softball, co-ed flag football and several other fun ways to get some exercise. Chances are, a similar league exists in your area. If you want a fun way to break your routine and get fit, do a little research, call your friends, and have a blast.

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Scorching Indulgence: Our Skinnyfat Summer Staycation

Starting last Tuesday evening, Liz and I enjoyed a summer staycation. We were excited to spend some time together and away from the obligations of the office or the daily squeal of the alarm clock. As such, we dreamed big. We planned on hiking, getting massages, riding the ducks on the Ohio River, catching a World Choir Games friendship concert, and eating whatever the hell we wanted. After all, the word “vacation” comes from “vacate”, and we were itching to vacate our diets for a few days. Unfortunately, not everything went as planned.

Here is a daily rundown of our Skinnyfat staycation.

Tuesday, July 3

We kicked off America’s birthday with foreign food. After Liz’s work day ended, we went to our favorite Mexican restaurant, Nada, for their delicious baked tortilla chips, mini sliders, and margaritas. The chips are so warm and salty, they make me want petition Congress to annex Mexico. When we left the restaurant, we watched a magnificent fireworks display at Fountain Square in Cincinnati. The fireworks added a magic to what was already a fantastic night. Another pair of couples joined us, and we hit another bar before heading home for the night.

The fireworks on Fountain Square.

Wednesday, July 4

We did not wake up for the country’s actual birthday until around 11:00am. Happy Birthday, America. Sorry we were late to your party. Not feeling our brightest, we spent the day in our apartment. We caught up on our DVRed shows, and watched the entire season of the HBO series Girls. That’s right, the whole season. We decided the Fourth of July would be the perfect day for our monthly pizza ritual. Each month, we split a large pizza and a large order of bread sticks. We opted for a pepperoni pie this month. My mouth is watering just typing about it. I can’t wait until August.

Thursday, July 5

Following a day of resting up and downing Advil, we were ready to hit the city. Unfortunately, the sun hit us first. Temperatures reached triple digits around the Queen City for the remainder of the weekend. We quickly crossed hiking off of our staycation wish list. We tried to see a World Choir Games friendship concert at the Cincinnati Art Museum, but apparently so did the rest of Cincinnati. There was nowhere to park our car, and from what we saw on the news, nowhere to sit and watch the show. We made lemons out of lemonade and looked at the plants at nearby Krohn Conservatory and took a short walk on a shaded path in Eden Park until we felt too hot for comfort.

We split a BLT at Bar Louie at Newport on the Levee. After lunch, we went to see the movie Moonrise Kingdom. It was a sweetly quirky movie that moved Liz to tears. Director Wes Anderson outdid himself. After the movie, we rode an amphibious vehicle on the Ohio River. It was a blast! We learned a lot of interesting facts about the Ohio and its bridges, and we quacked at pedestrians and bystanders when the wheeled boat hit the downtown streets. This was the unquestionable highlight of the week.

The Skinnyfats blowing in their quackers.

Friday, July 6

On Friday, the heat was especially stifling. It was so hot, I broke a sweat on the one block walk from our apartment to our car before we drove to Cincinnati Premium Outlets in Monroe, Ohio. The merchandise selection was underwhelming, but we stopped in nearly every store just to take a break from the brutal humidity. We had dinner at the Melting Pot that evening. Liz brimmed with excitement to take me to this upscale fondu restaurant for the first time. Her excitement turned to disappointment when they sat us in a dark corridor that was little more than a glorified closet. We asked them to turn the lights up, but we still struggled to read our menus. The food was good, but dessert was, without a doubt, the best part of the meal. We dipped strawberries, bananas, and marshmallows into a bowl of melted chocolate and washed it all down with s’mores martinis.

Between the heat, having to miss the choir concert, and the pitch black restaurant, staycation was starting to feel like a bust. In need of  laugh, we went to Go Bananas comedy club. The headliner was a local product so the house was packed, but the crowd did not stop us from getting some laughs at just the right time.

Saturday, July 7 and Sunday, July 8

This was it, the last weekend of our summer staycation. We could not avoid the gym any longer, so we did the Spartacus 2012 workout just to feel human again. We spent our Saturday night playing Nintendo Wii with friends. We dueled in a virtual game of doubles’ tennis, and managed to avoid elbowing each other in the face even though we were flailing our arms around a small living room. The four of us snacked on sweet potato and apple chips. They were really tasty, and a healthier alternative to Doritos, Fritos, or the normal snack fare.

We spent that Sunday like any other; we relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company. The afternoon was punctuated by naps and we caught up on laundry.

Liz went back to work yesterday and we dropped right back into our workout and food routines. In the moment, staycation was not all we had hoped, but it is people who make life interesting. We’d do it all again in a heartbeat.