Your Fat Cardiologist*

Weight loss advice from a (former) fat man

Putting your feet in the water

I realized something this past week.  When I would get busy at work and not have time to exercise during lunch, I would come home, put the kids to bed, and be energized about exercising.  Then I would sit on the couch and immediately have trouble pulling myself away from the television to work out.  However, when I was able to pull myself away, I had an extended workout session, felt better about myself, and felt better physically.  Once I got going, I had the strength to continue.  It was having the strength to start that was the hard part.

Joshua 3:12: “Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe.  And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream wil be cut off and stand up in a heap.”

In the previous chapter (Joshua 1:18), the Israelites were prepared to do whatever Joshua told them (“Whoever rebels against your (Joshua) word and does not obey it, whatever you may command them, will be put to death.  Only be strong and courageous!”).  I can only imagine that as they approached the swirling rapids of the flooded Jordan that they started to have second thoughts.  After all, putting their feet in the water might provide a large reward, but they were sure what they had if they did not.

We go through this internal discussion every day, don’t we?  Every time the alarm clock goes off and we decide not to get up and go to the gym.  Every time we drift off to sleep on the couch rather than going for a walk.  Every time we order the chicken crispers instead of the salad.  The lesson in Joshua—and we’ve all experienced this in some fashion—is that it takes a lot more strength to make that decision to put your feet in the water than it does to continue. 

As a Christian, I believe that God will provide the power if I’m willing to follow direction.  There’s nothing clearer than what he tells the Israelites: “When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river (Joshua 3:8).”  Note that he doesn’t say, “I will show you once you reach the edge.”  I believe that intentionally, the Israelites had to test their faith first.  They had to put their feet in the water, first.

What does this look like for me?  It looks like setting ten alarms until my wife threatens my life if I hit snooze one more time.  I have to go into the basement and get on the treadmill the minute the kids go to bed rather than taking 15 minutes to “decompress”.  I have to ask people to hold me accountable rather than trying to keep myself honest.  I don’t know what stepping out into the water is for you.  But think about it.  It makes a difference.

Commitment to Show Up

This past weekend, I asked someone to hold me accountable for writing down what I ate.  The next day, I ran into him and he asked if I had done what I said I was going to do.  I had a choice.  I could lie and tell him yes or I could tell him that no, I had avoided it.  My first, second, and last instinct were to lie.  I don’t like admitting that I’ve failed.  So I lied.

Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.  – Walter Elliot

The next day, I texted him to let him know.  I didn’t ask him to hold me accountable for him.  I asked him to hold me accountable for me.  If I was going to lie, then there wasn’t really any point in even asking him in the first place.  I was wasting his time, and mine as well.

How many times do we do this?  You can look back over this blog and see times where I miss a week or even a month of posting.  Rest assured, these were times when I was struggling.  But that defeated the purpose.  I’m not perfect, and part of the reason I started writing is because I need this blog to keep me going, to hold me accountable, and to get me to admit that it is time to pick things up and reverse course.

Last week, I made a point to say that you can’t fix what is on the outside unless you fix what’s on the inside.  So what does that look like for me?  I think it looks like showing up.  Some of the people I most admire are those who have the strength to push through difficult circumstances when I know I would have given up.  Whether I have a bad week or a good week, I need to be right here posting what I’ve learned.  Whether I have a good day or a bad day, I need to be honest with my accountability partner.  Whether I have the energy or not, I need to get to the gym.

I’ve tried committing to lose X pounds in 30 days, I’ve committed to exercising more consistently, and I’ve committed to eating better.  What I haven’t committed to is being truly accountable to any of these things.  What I haven’t committed to is continuing on, even when it is hard.  Well, that stops now.  I am committing to showing up—on the blog, to my accountability partner, to the gym—for the next 90 days.  What do you need to show up for?

Amelia’s Eulogy

Author’s Note:  I have been reading “Like a Rock” by Andy Stanley about becoming a person of character.  His suggestion was to imagine your funeral with all your loved ones there and the most important people in your life get up to give your eulogy.  What do you want them to say?  Not what do you think they will say, but what do you want them to say? 

This past summer, I was in downtown Philly and had an encounter with a panhandler.  I didn’t give him any money.  I didn’t ask him his name.  I didn’t care about him.  I’m not proud of it.  That’s not who I want to be.  The story below about the panhandler is made up, but one day it won’t be. 

What does this have to do with weight loss?  I’m not entirely sure, except that you can’t fix how you look on the outside until you fix yourself on the inside.  This is what I hope my daughter will say about me when I’m gone.  She’s 6 this month.  I started losing weight almost 6 years ago.  That’s not a coincidence.

 

Daddy and Amelia on Christmas Day

Copyright Munye Miles

My Dad was my hero.  Not because he worked hard to give us good, comfortable lives (He did.).  Not because he passed up job opportunities where the travel would have kept him away from us (He did.).  Not because he showered his family with love, affection and even the occasional discipline (He did.).

My Dad is my hero because of how he treated people who were not his “responsibility”.  At church, he would seek out the newly baptized people to shake their hands and offer any assistance he could give them.  At my sports games, he would take note of whose parents couldn’t be there, and make sure that he put his arm around that kid and told him or her how well they had played and how proud he was of them.  When he was stopped on the street by a panhandler, he would give them money, but only after he asked them about their story.

One particular time I remember, we ran into a beggar in downtown Philadelphia.  The man was asking for bus fare to get back home.  My Dad asked him if he had time for a meal before he gave him the bus fare.  We went to a pretty nice restaurant, and Dad gave him his blazer so that nobody would notice his clothes.  Dad asked if he liked steak and ordered him the most expensive one on the menu, and they talked about where they were from like old college buddies.  Not once did Dad ask why he was on the street.  He treated him with respect.  He treated him with love.

Was he perfect?  No.  He got angry, didn’t always listen (especially during Gator games), and did things he wasn’t proud of.  But he was never too proud to make things right.  He was never too proud to say he was sorry.  He realized that his faith was absolute and that to become a man of character, he needed to do what was right in God’s eyes regardless of the cost.

There were times when I was jealous, when I wished that he spent more time with me or that I could have him all to myself.  But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that those times I was jealous he was teaching me a lesson.  When he died, my mother gave me access to an email account.  Dad has written me an email once a month ever since I was 5.  He cared enough to put his thoughts down on paper as I was growing up, so that no matter when he was gone, I would know what he was thinking, I could go to him for advice, and I would know that he loved me.

I look at all the people gathered here today, and I realize that you are here because you love my Dad because he loved you.  On a day like today, there is sadness because he is gone.  But there is also great joy that all of you have the ability to carry on the legacy that he began.  You have the ability to walk outside and show love to that beggar or put your arm around that kid.  You have the ability to be the hero to someone that my Dad is for me.  I love you Dad.  I miss you already.  But you’re always here with me.  You’re always here with us.

When a Shredded Knee is a Blessing

Exactly a year ago today, it happened.  Our point guard jumped into the passing lane and took off towards an open layup.  His counterpart ran after him, trying to make the open layup a little bit more difficult.  I raced behind, more because I was trying to maximize the exercise than I was expecting my teammate to miss.  But he did miss, and I jumped up, caught the rebound, and attempted to put back the board.  The minute my left foot hit the ground, I heard the snap.  It’s a sound I’ll never forget.  My whole left leg collapsed and I fell on my right side, with my kneecap completely dislocated and unable to straighten my leg.  As I lay on the floor, I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know how bad until the paramedics wheeled me into the ER and I saw the nurses look queasy.

James 1:12 – “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”

For the past year, the words I would have used to describe the torn patella tendon, the surgery and the rehab would have been things like grueling, depressing, exhausting, debilitating, or burdensome.  Not once would I have thought to describe it as a blessing.

But whether I realized it or not, it has been a blessing.  It has been a blessing.  Immediately afterwards our neighbors immediately dropped what they were doing to take the kids while my wife came to get me from the ER.  Finding those kinds of people are definitely a blessing.  My mother came up to help with the kids during the surgery.  I both got that time with my mother, but also got to stay home from work and watch her interact with the kids in a way I normally don’t get to see.  I gained much more patience for handicapped people, as I was temporarily handicapped when we flew down to Florida for Thanksgiving.  I met some great physical therapists who walked me through the fear right after the injury, the pain as I began moving the knee, and the setbacks when I collapsed a few weeks after the surgery.

And I can say the same thing about my weight.  I’d spent years thinking it was a curse.  I’d spent so much time wondering why I couldn’t be blessed with good genetics, or why I was always hungry when other people seemed to be full, or ordering a salad at a restaurant because I was embarrassed to order what I really wanted (and then heading out for fast food later that night).  But being overweight has been a blessing.  I’ve met some great people at church and during the classes that I’ve taught struggling with the same thing.  I’ve learned techniques and I’ve had lengthy discussions and I’ve learned that I’m not alone.

But most of all, the biggest blessing has been that I’ve changed inside.  I’ve gained (some) humility.  I’ve become (more) patient.  I’ve (hopefully) become a better, more attentive father.  I’ve (hopefully) become a more appreciative husband, a better friend, and a better person.  The knee injury is a part of that, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.   

I have come to sincerely believe what it says above in John 1:12.  Years ago, I may have asked God why he chose to have me struggle with my weight.  But now, I ask a different question.  The question I ask is how I can use the struggle with my weight to help myself and others.  Over the past year, you have written in to tell me about your struggles and the small part that this blog plays in your life.  Thank you for writing and for reading.  Just like with the knee injury, I never would have described being overweight as a blessing.  But now I only have one thing to say to God when I pray.  Thank you.

Week 10 – What do you need to rep?

There are rare moments in life when you temporarily master something and are in complete and utter control.  In sports, this is sometimes called, “being in the zone.”  I experienced that once in my baseball career.  I was a pitcher who didn’t throw very hard, and so I had to rely on putting the ball exactly where I wanted.  Even the best pitchers in the Major Leagues miss their location occasionally, but on this particular night, I couldn’t miss.  Every pitch the catcher called—fastball, curveball, changeup—hit his glove without it moving even an inch.  I gave up one bloop hit and no walks in seven innings.  It was my absolute peak as a pitcher.

1 Timothy 5:18 – “For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

I tell that story because it wasn’t always this way.  When I was 10 years old, I hit my absolute bottom as a pitcher.  I couldn’t throw a strike and walked something like 11 hitters and hit another couple with a pitch.  There wasn’t anybody to replace me so I had to keep on pitching, regardless of how bad I was.  So what changed between 10 years old and 15 years old where at one point, I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn and the other I could have hit a quarter? The answer, is reps.

My father bought me a tarp with a strike zone on it, and I spent hours with that tarp, up and in, low and away, down and in, up and away.  I harnessed my ability to control the pitches when nobody was looking, and was finally able to take that out onto the field.  The situation I described above was out of the norm—I was “in the zone”—but it wouldn’t have been close to possible without all the work I put in prior.  We all want to succeed when the lights come on.  But how many of us are willing to put in the reps?

And so it is with losing weight.  If I’m completely honest, I may have been willing to throw at that tarp over and over, but I wasn’t willing to start my morning out with a run to get stronger.  We all want to be skinny, to be perceived as sexy and desirable.  None of us want to worry about whether our eating is going to lead to an early death.  And then we return to our normal lives, not willing to put in the work necessary to get what we want.  We’re not willing to put in the reps. 

The good news is that a weightlifter didn’t start out benchpressing 300 pounds.  They got to that weight by slowly building, doing reps at lower weights and then increasing over time.  Also, do you know what I always notice when I see that guy benchpressing 300 pounds?  He always has someone there with him, to push him and to help him.  It’s foolish to start doing reps alone.  You might need someone to wake up with you, to ask you how you’re doing, or to help you when you’re dragging.  What do I need?  I need someone to give me a defined plan to execute.  I’m excellent at accepting where I am and committing to a goal.  I struggle with developing a plan and having people hold me accountable.  Thus, I’m going to ask for help.  I’m going to enlist the help of a personal trainer.

For a long time, I would have seen this as a sign of weakness.  After all, I know what I need to do, I’m just not doing it, right?  The reality is that I didn’t avoid asking for help because I knew what to do.  I didn’t ask for help because I was scared to admit I did’t know everything.  I didn’t ask for help because I was embarrassed to ask for help.  I didn’t ask for help because I was scared that the trainer would ask me to do things that I say I’m ready to do but know deep down that I’m not really ready for.  When it comes to losing weight, I need to rep asking for help.

So what do you need to rep?  Do you need to ask for help?  Do you need to accept that things need to change?  Do you need to commit to making changes in your life?  Do you need to develop a plan to move things forward?  Do you need someone to hold you accountable to your long-term goals?  My challenge to you is to write down below in the comments what you need to rep.  Don’t be too scared, too embarrassed, or too proud to admit that you need to work on things.  We all need to work on things.  Not admitting it is holding us back.  So I need to ask for help.  What do you need to do?

 

  • Starting Weight = 261.0 lbs
  • Current Weight = 257.6 lbs
  • Weight loss so far = -3.4 lbs
  • Weight loss since last week = +2.2 lbs
  • Good Days = 3 Yes, 2 Maybe, 1 No
  • Goal:  Write down what I eat
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