The Beauty of "Yes" and "No"
It was last August that I decided something had to give. Every year, while on tour, I head out in pretty decent shape and then succumb to the scintillating allure of burritos and margaritas all summer until I come home and see video or pictures taken at a show and wonder what the hell happened. Then, along comes fall tour followed by the "eating holidays" of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, which makes for some artful dodging of calories. With winter approaching and temperatures dropping, it then becomes a case of whipping myself back into shape while also cursing the cold. By springtime, I'm fit again and the whole damn cycle resumes.
It reminds me of the old joke about cigarettes. "I have no problem quitting; I've done it lots of times."
Somewhere in the fall, I made some big decisions about lifestyle changes to be implemented in 2016 (See "Happy New…Can I Still Say That?") and, this time, I planned to help my physical efforts by applying more oomph in the mental, spiritual and social realms. On November 1st, 2015, I weighed 189 lbs. This morning, I find myself at 161 lbs. That's 28 pounds lost despite a November road trip that was keen on hunting out eateries featured on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives", Thanksgiving, Christmas (with its copious amounts of egg nog and sweets), a week in Memphis, the start of Florida fair season and, just this past weekend, Easter. I haven't sworn off certain kinds of foods. In fact, I splurge on deep-fried Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Chicken and Waffles. So, how am I doing it? It's simple science and I want to share with you my not-so-secret.
Accountability and Counting
I've been using Weight Watchers Online For Men since 2007 and I know the system works. I've lost weight using the program and, when I ignored it, gained the pounds right back again. I won't bore you with all of the scientific details, but it really comes down to watching your portion sizes and staying moderately active. Not everyone has the time to work out for 120 minutes a day, but it's not even necessary. What if I told you that you could work out zero minutes a day and still lose weight? It's possible. You might have to eat a bit like a rabbit, but it's possible. The calories that we eat need to be used as fuel. What's not used is stored and that is where the weight gain begins. Weight Watchers is a great overall program, but I don't go to meetings or buy their branded food. I do, however, use their iPhone app, which is my way of keeping track of my food and remaining accountable. Over the years, they've done some tweaking to the logistics, added and dropped accessories to help you keep track of activity and now you can sync a device like a Fitbit Flex so that it automatically updates in your Weight Watchers app. I also use an Apple Watch to monitor activity and the data collected can be used through the Health App on your iPhone.
Basically, it works like this: you have a set number of points that you can use per day. Different foods are assigned point values. Use only your set number of points and you lose weight. Gain additional points by being active. Using length and difficulty of activity, you can accumulate FitPoints which you can then either bank (don't use) or swap out for food. Then, you're given an additional bank of points for the week that you can use however you want. Use a few a day if you want to splurge a bit, or save them until the end of the week and go a little nuts.
After a while, the numbers all start to imbed themselves into your daily routine. 2 points for one egg. About a point an ounce for most meats. 3 points for a light beer. I weigh my portions, something that was a pain in the ass when I first started doing it, but now - I feel either naked without my little scale or I work very hard to suss out the volume of my food when I eat out. Those serving sizes that make you roll your eyes? Sticking to them will help you on your road to weight loss. For example, it's 3 points for one slice of the brand of bread that I like. Well, 6 points for just the bread in a sandwich is kind of expensive in the scheme of a day's eating. So, I take that one piece of bread and cut it in half, eating a half-sandwich instead. Three-egg breakfasts? Why did I ever eat them? Because a restaurant menu touted its 3-egg omelets? I now do either one or two eggs on a daily basis. Sometimes, I'll do just one slice of bacon as opposed to two or three. It just depends on what I've got planned for the rest of the day. There are filling foods that'll keep you satisfied and non-filling foods that you can nibble all day and placate your stomach. Fruits and vegetables are great for this (and great for you as well!)
A typical day for me would be:
• Half a breakfast sandwich with two eggs and one piece of bacon
• Fruit and veggies during the day with some hummus for protein
• A high-protein meal with veggies and maybe a grain of some sort
Believe me, I'm treating myself along the way. Last week, Jae brought home these white chocolate macadamia nut cookies that were to die for! So, I figured out the points, adjusted my intake for the day and then splurged every single day on that delectable cookie. In the past, I would've just gobbled the whole damn bag down, but that's why I got off the plan. Now, if I was out riding 20 miles a day on my bike, it wouldn't be an issue. The problem with that is, during the summer, there's a lot of sitting on my butt in the motorhome, driving or working on stuff. I don't always get the opportunity to break away for two hours and exercise. The goal now is to lose weight with minimal exercise so I can train myself to have self-discipline when I hit the road.
Now, I'm not gonna lie to you and say that I lost 29 pounds by simply watching what I eat. With the Fitbit keeping count, I aim to walk at least 5,000 steps per day, which is pretty easy to do when you're drinking a ton of water, because you're up every ten freaking minutes to hit the john. On the days that I purposefully walk, I score 10,000+ with my current route. A few weeks back, at the Florida State Fair, Jae and I both got 10,000 steps just by milling around with the crowd. So, you don't have to set aside two hours or one hour out of your day. Whether you're at work or play, the steps will accumulate as long as you try to keep moving. That definitely helps.
So, I can eat whatever I want, right? Sure. If I want to gain weight again. Being mindful of the points helps me to make decisions like "do I really want a second margarita or do I want to reach my weight goal before I'm 50?" Learning to say "no" to self is something I'm embracing in all parts of my life, not just nutrition and health. It's tough sometimes, but the reward is well-earned and the battle well-fought if you can stick to your guns. So, yeah, it can be very tempting to sit down at the Mexican restaurant and just go for the Burrito Grande, but when I order the shrimp salad instead (dressing on the side), it's just one more notch in the belt of success. After awhile, you get used to letting go of old habits and warmly embrace the new ones. And with every pound lost, even more resolve to stick with the program falls into place. The portion sizes in America are the largest of any other country in the world. Quite simply put: we eat too much. And we've grown accustomed to stuffing our faces or else there wouldn't be so many All-You-Can-Eat buffets scattered through every city and town. I'm not slamming buffets, I'll still go. But I go for the selection and variety; not to see how much I can put away. By changing my mindset, I'm empowering my actions.
There have been several times over the past four months where I carefully plotted out my menu for the week and scheduled extra activity with the foreknowledge that I was going somewhere absolutely scrumptious. My week in Memphis was filled with 10,000+ step days which allowed me to indulge a bit. Even then, it got a little out of control and I gained five pounds, which I quickly lost the following week. By staying on the stick, I avoided nose-diving into a situation where I was suddenly disappointed in my actions, unhappy with how I felt and looked while still enjoying what everyone else likes to enjoy. You can't say "no" all the time just like you can't say "yes" all the time. There's a balance that applies across the board to all things. Moderation should be exercised whether it's food or study, work or play. Instead of focusing on just one area of my life, I'm applying thoughtful practices to all areas and learning some valuable lessons in the meantime. That's the beauty of it all. Once you've begun to retrain your mind, you realize that truly nothing is impossible.
Now, I'm no expert at this stuff. I've lost weight before and then gained it all back; the year is still young. But what makes this different? We all make resolutions in the new year, only to backslide and fall into the status quo of our lives. What truly makes change something that we can hold onto and enable? I think it takes a sense of saying, "that's it, man, I'm sick of losing control" and getting fed-up enough to the point of action. Without having an anchor moment that serves as a catalyst for improvement in any part of your life, it's way too easy to shrug it off and chalk it up to being gassy and sassy before resuming the path you've been treading for so long. There's a line in one of my songs that goes, "if you do what you've always done, you'll be what you've always been" that I stole from one of those clever church signboards and isn't that the amen truth? Another way of saying that is the quote which reads "insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results." We all wish to change, but do we all have the courage to step outside of the known and into the unknown in order to make it happen?
On so many levels, I sure hope that we do. And all that we can do for those who don't is to be supportive, encouraging and sympathetic as well as empathetic. No-one's perfect and we've all been there at one time or another. Even if we don't know what a person has been through or is going through, we can do our best to exercise interest and respect while observing the dignity that we all possess as critters of the Creator.
So, be encouraged in your journeys. Be the you that you want to be. And along the way, live it up. It's your birthright. Because, sometimes, you just hafta say "yes" to deep fried butter.