#Blogtober Day 5: “What time is it? It’s time for lunch!”

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

[If you’re a parent of a toddler, or just know a toddler, you might recognize the quote.]

I haven’t been back to F3 for early morning workouts in a few weeks, and have really been hit or miss for the last few months. Part of the issue has been work/life stuff, but a big piece has been nagging injuries that just aren’t getting better (including tendonitis in one and then both elbows). My wife wisely reminds me that part of that problem may be high levels of bodily inflammation, exacerbated by both being now middle-aged, carrying a lot of weight, not getting good sleep, and not eating in a consistently healthy, disciplined way.

I’m slowly getting back into low-carb eating–still struggling, still not perfect, but trying to make better choices, watch my intake of saturated fats in the short-term, drink lots (and LOTS) of water, and make sure I get enough protein. But before I really get locked in about what I eat, I’m trying to get control over when I eat and how much.

As part of that, I’ve started intermittent fasting (IF)–also known as “time-restricted eating,” if you don’t like that particular”f-word.” There’s lots of evidence that IF has major benefits beyond caloric reduction, specifically in the area of inflammation recovery, improved digestion, and burning visceral fat (the dangerous fat that collects around your internal organs). If you haven’t considered IF, there are lots of good resources out there. I follow both Thomas DeLauer and Logan Delgado‘s channels on Youtube, and they provide some good info. (DeLauer in particular digs into the scientific research around a lot of these issues.) Neither of these guys are doctors or scientists professionally–they’re fitness Youtubers and coaches/consultants–but they both have lost weight and kept it off, so they know something of what they’re talking about.

For me, IF begins with pretty simple routines. Certain days, I’ll go around 14-15 hours between meals, while other days it’s just a basic 12 (8pm to 8am, for example). I haven’t pushed it beyond 15 hours yet, but I may get there. Honestly, just sticking to the 12-hour window is helping to curb some of my snacking temptations–and forcing me to drink more water.

If you’re struggling with over-eating/over-snacking or you’re carrying a lot of weight (especially around your middle), you might want to look into IF. I can’t tell you it’s done all these amazing things for me–I just started. But I can say that it’s pretty easy to get started, and seems like it’s simple enough to be done consistently and for the long term.

Also, I can confirm that once I hit the end of that fast, whenever it ends, something like that Bubble Guppies song I referenced starts playing in my head.

“What time is it? It’s time to EAT!
What time is it? It’s time to EAT!”

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Have you tried intermittent fasting / time-restricted eating? Has it been helpful? Let me know what you think and any advice you have in the comments.

“See you in the gloom.”

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

I started working out again.

I wasn’t planning on writing about this so soon–perhaps I was afraid I’d jinx myself or something (not that I believe in such things). More likely, it’s that I don’t feel I deserve any kudos for doing this yet.

When I start to make some positive change in my life, my wife will sometimes tell me she’s proud of me. My knee-jerk response is, “Be proud of me later.” Maybe that’s the wrong response to give, but I know myself. I know how often I’ve begun new projects or habits or “life changes” and how quickly I’ve faded out, lost steam, and fallen away. I’d much rather that she’s proud of me for being faithful at something for a long time than for merely starting it.

Anyway.

I have some friends who are part of a fitness group called F3 (which stands for “Fitness, Fellowship, and Faith”). They have been encouraging me to take part in their early morning workouts for a year or two, but I’ve rebuffed their suggestions with various lame excuses about timing and schedule and energy levels.

The fact of the matter is I didn’t want to join for two very important reasons: 1) Most of the workouts are at 5:30 a.m. and I hate waking up early; and 2) I’m fat and lazy and don’t like to be uncomfortable.

I needed something to jolt me out of those excuses.

Embracing My Why

In conversations and coaching about lifestyle changes like weight loss and fitness, a common refrain is “find your why”–the bottom-line driving reason for you to make a change. The logic of this is that you have to want a certain outcome more than you want the bad-for-you momentary choices. If you can hold on to your “why,” you can say “no” to yourself enough to build a better habit.

Obviously, a big “why” for me is my family. I’m 40 years old, and I know (at least on some level) that I am shortening my lifespan by living at a very unhealthy weight. Nevertheless, I still struggle to break some of the habits that keep me at this weight. (We don’t need to get too deep into the psychology of why that is, at this point. But suffice it to say, unless something changes, I’m not doing myself or my family any favors.)

On top of that, at my current weight, I can only get a limited amount of life insurance, so if anything were to happen to me, my family would struggle financially for a while before they could get their feet under them. That’s not at all what I want for them.

In the past, thinking about my “why” has usually triggered at least some sort of short-term change that quickly burned out as I reverted to old patterns. Then something happened about 2 weeks ago that flipped the first switch.

One night at around 1:30 a.m., our newborn woke up crying–piercing screams rather than her usual slow build-up cries. She was totally fine–she had a gas bubble, which in her 6 weeks of life experience would fairly be called an emergency–but I realized that I was not fine. For some reason, her cries triggered a physiological panic reaction in me: heart racing, chest tightness, jaw tightness, arm/shoulder pain, difficulty breathing, headache. Even as my wife tended to our daughter and I laid myself back down to sleep, I still felt amped up. My mind buzzed.

What if this was it? What if this was actually the heart attack I’ve been warned of but pretended wouldn’t catch up to me? What would happen to my wife and daughters if I died right now?

I’ve had those types of thoughts before. And while I can always rest in the reality that ultimately God will watch over my family, it’s still my responsibility to provide for and protect them–which I can’t do if I’m not alive.

For some reason, this early-morning shock hit me differently, and it was enough to make me decide to take a leap I’d been putting off for months.

I was going to go work out with other people.

Friendly New Guy

There is a third reason I put off going to those early-morning workouts with my friends: I didn’t want to embarrass myself. I didn’t want to be the one really fat guy who couldn’t keep up and who spent the whole time sucking wind and sweating like a wounded buffalo, while all these other athletes were completing exercises I couldn’t get close to finishing. (Seriously, the “burpee” is a cruel, sadistic exercise that has no right having such a cutesy name.)

But I went anyway, willing to risk embarrassment to try it out. I didn’t think I’d like exercising with other people. I didn’t think I’d finish the workout. I didn’t know if I’d ever go back. But I wanted to give it a try. But here’s what I found.

The guys were really welcoming. I was greeted warmly and welcomed by several of the group that morning. Between very challenging sets of exercises, some of them took turns hanging back in the back of the pack with me to talk. I was a little surprised by how cool everyone was. I was obviously in the worst shape of anyone there (by orders of magnitude) but they were all working hard and encouraging each other and me. That was refereshing.

I did better than I thought. I had to modify most exercises (and was encouraged to do so), and I’m most definitely the last man to finish every set. But I didn’t quit and I didn’t puke. That’s a small victory. The group’s repeated encouragement was that I wasn’t competing against anyone out there except myself, and my goal should just be to get better. And that is definitely my goal. I want to get better each time.

I became part of the group, not just a tag-along. One of the cool things about F3 and the culture they build is that they give each person a nickname or call-sign. You show up as a “Friendly New Guy,” but by the end, the group gives you a nickname and you are invited back. This sounds corny, but I think this may be part of the secret sauce of the whole thing. The feeling I was dreading most of all, going into this, was of being seen as a poser, as not really belonging there. The way these F3 groups welcome new guys and build rapport is something special.

I felt way better than I expected. I was totally gassed, and my muscles were unbelievably sore the next day. But I came home after that first workout with a smile on my face, and even told my wife it was “fun.” I committed to myself to show up for 3 workouts a week (at least at first) and have only missed one in the last 2 weeks. Obviously, it’s still really early in the process, but no matter how hard the workout is each time, I’m always glad after I finish and looking forward to going back.

SYITG

This really wasn’t supposed to be an infomercial post for the F3 program (#NotSpon), but this is just a cool development in my life and I wanted to share a little bit about it.

If you’re a man in the US and you need some motivation to get healthier or get stronger or just get moving, check out their site and look for a group near you. It’s all free to participate and volunteer-led. If you think you’re too old/fat/slow/shy to join any kind of workout group, I’d say just give it a try. Do your best. Swallow your pride. Get after it.

And depending on the day, if you’re in a certain part of the Houston area, I’ll see you out there in the early-morning gloom. Because I’m not planning on stopping anytime soon.