The Sixth Almond: The Effort

Effort is the most important thing in anything we do as individuals. Effort is the most important thing in anything we do as a society. Effort is the difference between dreaming something, and actually doing it.

I was at the gym today and I felt myself waning effort as I tried to push through my workout. I think it is easy for us to know we need to get off the couch and make things happen, whether it be exercise, work, or study. I think it’s a little bit harder to actually get off the couch and do it, but I think a lot of times we will celebrate that act and forget that once we set ourselves into motion, we need to put forth the effort to make getting off the couch as worthwhile as possible.

When I got to the gym, I got on the treadmill (something I always do to start my workout). Strike One: Doing something because it’s routine because that’s what you’re comfortable doing. I set the treadmill to a comfortable, but quick enough pace and set the incline to something I’ve done before. (Let me know when you begin to see where I went wrong with my workout today.) I ran about a mile and a half, then hit the stop button. Strike Two: I didn’t push myself. I could have gotten my heart rate up higher, or stayed on the treadmill for another mile without much trouble. I think I, like most people, have this fantastic ability to justify why I can stop doing something labor-intensive for any number of reasons. I got off the treadmill because (I told myself) I was going to concentrate more on weight training than cardio. Why can’t I do both? I had the time. There wasn’t anyone in the gym so it’s not like a machine I wanted to use just opened up. The truth is, I got off because there was a commercial on the show I was watching in front of the treadmill, and I got bored.
Strike Three, Four, Five, Forfeit of the next game and self imposed sanctions for the post-season. 

I’m not proud of it, but that is really the biggest factor in why I quit jogging today. Now, I did go on to get a good (enough) workout in, and for that I’m happy (enough). I am happy that I am getting out of the house and going to the gym, but I’m at a point in my journey where I need to really push myself to see results. I think my body is getting used to my food routine, and this should be the point in the program where I step up and make things happen I am very happy with how things have gone thus far. I am 15 pounds lighter than I was when I started a month and a half ago, and I believe there is new muscle developing where fat was before. Just ask my girlfriend! But I know there are hours I’m leaving on the table where I could be really pushing myself, and it all boils down to effort.

My goal for this next week is to step up my “effort game.” I am going on a weekend vacation, but I am not going to let that get in the way of my training. I WILL workout while I am down there, even if it means waking up at 7am on vacation to go for a jog or go to the gym and give it everything I have. I am expecting the scales to look a lot like they did last week when I go in tonight, but next week will be a different story. If my effort doesn’t improve, then I don’t feel like I can make this program really work, and I really believe in the Transformation system.

So I challenge you to get out there and make some moves. Get off the couch, and realize that sportcenter is not going anywhere. (It’s on 24-hours a day on any one of 15 stations.) I think that this is the most important couple of weeks in the program. I have the tools to make things happen. Its time to put them to use.

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The Fifth Almond: The Middle

I want this post to be something of a reflection on the program thus far. I think when I began this journey, I thought about the endgame and what the results would be. I don’t know that anybody goes on a journey like this and foresees the hard parts; the decisions to pass on your favorite foods and eat something better for your body are seldom weighed when you are at the starting gate. When I began, I thought of what I wanted to look like and how I wanted to feel when the program was all over. 

I think of the TV shows where individuals go on massive, life-changing weight loss journeys. For those individuals, there must be a compelling enough back story for them to even get on the show. More often than not, those chosen want to lose weight for their children, or because they had parents that lost their lives to weight-related issues. The show will open with them addressing the camera and saying something like, “I am not losing weight for me. I am losing weight so my children have a father/mother to watch them grow up and be there for.” They acknowledge that the journey will be hard, but they are focused on the endgame.

I do not have the same hurdles as those on those TV shows, but I shared the same basic outlook at the beginning. And right now, in my journey, I am at the point of the show where the central character looks at the camera and says, “I knew it was going to be hard, but I didn’t expect it to be this hard.”

For me thus far, the hardest part hasn’t been the eating. After last week, I thought that the detox was the hardest part about this journey. Having to eliminate just about every one of my favorite foods from my diet for 10 days seemed like there couldn’t be anything worse, but reflecting on it makes it an easier pill to swallow.

Right now, the hardest part is the emotional turmoil that I’m going through.

In the past 2 weeks, I have lost my job, moved in with my parents, and most recently, moved in with my girlfriend for the first time. I am trying to job hunt in one of the worst times for twenty-somethings to find work and I am trying to go through this diet program all at the same time. I am, in a lot of ways, emotionally maxed-out and if the program didn’t have as solid of an infrastructure as it did, I can honestly say I would have given up.

The program is built around three cornerstones: medical supervision, exercise and nutrition counseling, and emotional advocacy. Every visit, you check in with each “division” and talk about what you have found that works, and what frustrations you have. I can say that I have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge about myself through each of these “divisions,” but the one I didn’t think I would get very much out of has turned out to be the most important for me thus far in my journey.

Shannon, the emotional advocate, does a tremendous job at getting to the core of what struggles and frustrations you are having. A lot of times, food is not even the point of conversation what she meets with me. I will go in and when she talks to me, I think I have to somehow tie everything back in to how I’m eating or why I’m not exercising as much as I should and she stops me, and diverts the conversation to what struggles I am having in life. Because these last few weeks have been so hard for me, she has been a very important person in getting me through what I have been going through.

As I progress to the latter half of the Transformation program, so to do I progress to the latter half of my journey. Thus far, it has been extremely rocky. Every week you have struggles and don’t think things can get much worse, and then life has a funny way of reminding you of why you need to stay focused and stay positive. I am at a low point in my life right now, but there are signs of light at the end of the tunnel. I am happy in my relationships and I am settling in to apartment life with my girlfriend (we are only 2 days in and our apartment is full of boxes, but we are both excited and happy about where we are and where we are going).

I will leave you with this thought: when we are happy we think things will always be that way, and when we are down we think things can’t get any worse. What we need to do is constantly keep our focus on where we want to go and our individual journeys will get us there if we keep our chin up and our sights set on our goals. Life is full of struggles, but if we didn’t struggle, we wouldn’t appreciate our successes when we eventually reach them.

The Fourth Almond: The Restart

So the detox came and went and I survived. It was a grueling 10-day program that saw the steady elimination of all my favorite foods. I will admit that one of the days I took a casino trip and broke the rule about no alcohol one or two (three, four, five, who’s counting at this point?) times. I think in life it’s only realistic to savor some moments like this and just enjoy yourself; and I certainly enjoyed myself! What I think is important is that I hold myself accountable. I went into the program understanding that I was going to go to the casino and that I was going to allow myself a “night off.” I made sure that there were no slip ups leading up to the trip, nor were there any afterward.

The point is this: We can set ourselves up to succeed or we can set ourselves up to fail. I think if we go into difficult situations with the expectation to set personal records or automatically succeed, we are destined to be disappointed. I live a pretty healthy lifestyle. I think by this point of this blog that is pretty apparent. But I am not one who can go two weeks without pizza, or a diet coke. What I can do is be honest with myself. When I went to the casino, I knew exactly what I was doing. I didn’t try to justify my drinking or hide it from myself or say that “it didn’t count because…”

Looking back on the detox, I am extremely happy with the results. I lost four pounds and, more importantly, I have more energy in the mornings. Here is what I wanted the focus of this blog to be about: When we look ahead at a tall mountain, we have a hard time figuring out how to climb it. When we look back after we climbed that mountain, we realize that it started by taking the first step.

The detox seemed like a very large mountain, but now that it’s over, I realize that it is absolutely possible for anyone with the will power enough to say no to fast food or dessert to get through it. I craved food like you wouldn’t believe. For me, watching the Food Network helps. Seeing all of the grilling shows or dessert shows might be harder for some, but if I can see something being made and see people enjoy the food, a little bit of my craving subsides. Now I realize what this would do to some people, and I am not encouraging anyone to do this if it doesn’t work for you, but I do encourage you to find what takes your mind off of your cravings and allow yourself to do what’s best for you.

Shannon (the Emotional Advocate at Transformation) often says that when you have a craving, when you think you’re hungry, allow yourself 15 minutes to see if it’s really hunger, or if it’s boredom. Go clean your room, or do the dishes, and if you’re still hungry afterwards, then eat something (something sensible that is!).

So now I am about half way through the Transformation program. Five weeks in, I am down 14 pounds, down 4% body fat, and I have more energy now than I’ve had in years. I am excited about the direction my life is going, and I encourage you to look at where you are at in life and be honest about where you are at, both emotionally and physically. If you want to change your life you absolutely can. And this isn’t just about losing weight. If you are unhappy personally, professionally, or just unhappy in general, you can change.

Sometimes we stand at the base of a mountain and we look up and we cannot see the top. The question is, will your next step be forward?