Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Being ON is Just as Important as Being OFF

My first trip abroad has been a massive challenge to my ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I am really ready to resume my fairly tedious dietary life. 

Yesterday in London was awesome for me. Why? I found a gym that had the basics I needed and did a double workout. I really craved the neural release that comes with being connected to my body, and loved the sense of normal that comes with exercise. 

I was also benefitting from the confidence that comes with reestablishing a handle on my nutrition. After loading up Saturday at Holland & Barrett, I packed my bag with 2100 calories and 200 grams of protein, while also factoring in a half a piece of fish and some chips (I am in London after all). 
The gym, Nuffield Health in Covent Gardens was a labyrinth, as so many city gyms are, stairs down and more stairs down and then stairs up and around to the changing room and gym floor. The staff was nice but the facility was so-so — not enough variety in equipment, no wifi — but it was clean and I was able to hobble together a kick-ass workout and then got in a full 2.5 mile run as well. I then ate a bit and ran around London. When I got back to my hotel room I looked in my food bag and was amazed — I had over 1000 calories I had no consumed. It seems my body clock was still off causing my under-eating. I was going to dinner at the London Playboy Club so at least I had plenty of room to explore. 

At the Club, I had an amazing meal and hands down the best Caesar salad I have ever had. The meal was primarily meat to keep my protein up, but I still had to eat some more when I got back to keep my numbers in place. 

And then today I made a major discovery — London takes Christmas very seriously. The tube shuts down, regional trains are closed, Victoria Station is sealed shut. I was going to store my bags at Victoria, grab a workout and then take a long self-guided walking tour before my flight. Luggage storage was all closed. No gyms are open, at least that I could find. So I walked 1.5 miles to an open Pret with my luggage and decided to wave the white flag. A $100+ Uber ride got me to the airport as it was that or a 2 1/2 hour bus ride with hundreds of other puzzled travelers. 

So here i sit fairly late into the day and I still have a 9 hour flight ahead of me. So my day is going to be….
The above sentence is unfinished because my flight was called and I slid into business class, watched movies, played games and came to a realization: time off means time off from scrutinizing my diet and recording every morsel. I started thinking about the professional athlete I have worked with for years — I know he takes time off from his training and nutrition, he has talked to me about it many times. I started thinking about the coach of another big sport who has mentioned the importance time off plays in training for himself and his players. And I thought about basketball, baseball, football — all have seasons where players are on and equally off. 

So that my friends, is the end of me attempting to control my diet when I am away. That said, healthy eating is contagious (just like unhealthy eating I suppose). Me “cheating” means using butter on a piece of bread or eating an extra protein bar, not downing a pint of ice cream or getting drunk and binging. So letting my hair down is not that big a deal based on who I am in 2017. 

And the result of the overeating and under-eating and no gym? I weighed in at 5:30 EST — very nervous might I might add — and I gained a whopping 2.2 pounds while I was away. Big deal. All that worry for a 34-ounce gain. 

So what now? Back to it folks. I know what happens when I don’t exercise and eat well — I get fat, out of shape and depressed. So the choice is clear and I’m going back to what I did to lose all that weight and keep it off. After all, I’ve still got major goals ahead!  

Happy Boxing Day to you all — see you in the gym.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Of Pounds and Pounds

Oh the challenges of staying healthy on a transatlantic trip

One of the great things (maybe the best thing?) about traveling is the insight I get into who I really am. Who I am out of my constructed world where I have so much control. Lying in the early AM of my third day in England I came to the conclusion about why being in control of my body is such a gift. It is the control itself. For so much of my life I was completely out of control with regard to food. But now I finally, FINALLY get it and the past 48 hours has reminded me of why I treasure it so, in that it has been impossible to maintain. 

I had pretty grand ideas about my dash over to the UK, imaging that I would hop off the plane and resume my normal day. Theory and practice have crashed into each other, as is quite often the case. 

It started off as I image, and despite the large time difference I actually had no trouble falling asleep when I got to my hotel, even though it was 6 pm EST when I went to bed. I actually slept past my regular wake up time and got up around 5:45 GMT. I looked at the hotel menu and decided beans on toast was not going to help me reach my protein goals, so I headed to the local Starbucks hoping to find cuisine more relatable to my objectives—1900 calories and 200 grams of protein. 

I found the place easy enough and ordered my Americano just like I like it. But the food failed to meet neither my palate nor my caloric demands. I have never really cared for sausage and it seems sausage is a basic building block for so many dishes, in and out of Starbucks. The other challenge was the UK nutritional labelling system, which is dramatically different than the flawed system I at least understand back in the US (luckily my gold card helped me with the pounds and pence issue I faced prior to my first sip of caffeine). 

The EU nutrition labelling is a little much for my provincial brain. Based on what I can tell it helps one compare different foods based on the same metric, but outside of that I am still flummoxed by the entire thing. Sometimes I think I get it—a small yogurt appears to have 133 calories (seemingly low, even for about 6 ounces) but I’m recording it that way. But other things have clearly been far outside of what I know to be correct (I could not make heads or tails out of the information on sliced turkey) so I am just going with my what it would be in the US.

Another  on-going issue causing concerns is my continued inability to fully recover from jet lag, which continues to effect my energy. When we are short on energy one of the things our bodies does is to look for other energy sources—like food. I’m not making bad food choices but the increasing need for food combined with the ability to accurately record my food makes me unhappy. 

Yesterday, between the Victoria & Albert (about what I thought it would be) and seeing Witness for the Prosecution (worse than hoped for but then increasingly better in the second act) I went to the GNC website to find someone, anyone. who could help me better understand the EU nutrition information and sell me some protein bars and shakes to get me back on track. Healthy nutrition is so easy to find in the US but no so much here. Eventually a store called Holland & Barrett delivered the sort of supplemental bars and drinks I needed to get back on course. 

I’m about to head out to find a Starbucks open at 6 AM on Christmas Eve, eat from my pre-packed bag of protein and go to the gym. Then I”m going to a classic pantomime, leave that early to have a A Christmas Carol walking tour and then ask the tour guide for a tip on great fish and chips, where I have budgeted half a piece of fish and a small fry. And to conclude my awesome Christmas Eve in London, high tea at the last Playboy Club in the world, located in Mayfair. Check my Twitter feed @DavidEzell for a pic of me and a bunny sipping a toast to Mr. Hefner. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Downside of Being a Mammal

Just like squirrels, bears and cows, we slow down when the temperatures drop. Slower achievement can make us feel like changes aren’t occurring, even if they are. Feelings are not facts. 

I diligently (some would say obsessively) weigh myself every morning at 5 AM. That data has given me a great deal of insight into what works and what does not with regard to my fitness, training and diet. It also helps me make accurate predictions about my progress. Most of the time I can predict how much loss will occur with pretty surprising accuracy, especially considering my compromised numeric skills. 

Keeping that in mind, I have noted a rather disappointing trend in that my weight loss has plateaued despite my moderately good (I hesitate to call them “best”) efforts at being disciplined. You see, I put on a good show with regard to weighing myself, recording my food and going to the gym. But I’m a tad bit of a fraud. How? Well, despite my preaching the gospel of writing EVERYTHING down that I eat and drink, there are a few indulgences that typically don’t effect my long-term goals. 

For example, I don’t record the skim milk calories in my coffee, typically I use between 6–9 ounces a day. Another allowance I give myself is pickles and watermelon. If I am hitting the wall with regard to macros and I still need a nosh to get me through, pickles and/or watermelon are my defaults. On long days with a small amount of calories I will go between one or the other based on the needs of my palate and what I think will satiate me. Up until now this has worked; but as it gets colder and I move less frequently and more slowly, my numbers are alarmingly static so every calorie is suspect. 

I’ve been told most bears don’t truly hibernate,
 they sleep for long periods called “torpor.” 
(photo courtesy of fun-with-pictures.com) 
Humans are animals, mammals by vertebrate class, and mammals slow down (and in some cases totally stop) when the temperatures drop. Humans are not immune to that process and I am feeling the effects of shorter days, longer nights and frosty mornings as I make my way to the gym. As a result my march towards losing 101 pounds is more like a saunter in December.

I feel like the weight is not coming off to my liking. But when I study the facts I am reminded of one of the central tenants of cognitive behavioral theory — feelings are not facts. Just because I feel something is true does not mean it is. Keeping that in mind, let’s examine the facts. 

During this time of year most people gain weight — on average about a thirteen pound weight gain starting in October (per a study done by Cornell University). Not only have I not gained any weight, I’ve dropped some weight over that time as you can see below. Yes it has peaks and valleys — totally normal for weight loss, but the jagged line continues along a negative slope — with the peak being 231 in mid-September and the lowest point being 218 in the first week of December (my lowest recorded weight is 217 even on December 15th — 83 pounds lost total. 

Keeping that in mind makes me feel better I did not gain since October, I have lost. And if we factor in the typical seasonal gain, the results are even more impressive. Take Thanksgiving Day; the day after I gained .02 pounds by eating whatever I wanted but eating small portions. I have changed my thoughts about food. I don’t have to gorge myself to enjoy the flavors of the season. I have a more sophisticated relationship with food and that come from examining the beliefs around it not only in everyday life, but on holidays and special occasions as well. 

Speaking of holidays and special occasions, I am going to London for Christmas. On the trip as I make my way across that sprawling metropolis I going to work hard to keep my waistline from sprawling by working out and finding healthy ways to eat like a Brit while I’m there. 

What foods do you think are truly British? Tweet them to me DavidEzell and I’ll put them on the list. And if you have a suggestion for great eating, healthy eating, or both, send those my way as well. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

What Behavior Tells Me About Potential Partners (Business and Otherwise)

Everyone has a timetable — so consider theirs as well as yours, especially if they are in control of what you want. 

I can’t help it. I am trained to analyze behavior and I do it in all parts of my life. I’d be a fool not to, because I know that behavior, combined with what a person says, are all I have to go by when interacting with them.

In addition to being a life coach and CBT therapist, I am also the CEO of Darien Wellness, a group of mental health experts in Darien, CT. I have learned over the years to be very careful about who I partner with, as they are a reflection of the brand we have built in our region.

Yesterday I logged in to look at our current pool of applicants and found a man I will call “George.” He had a stellar resume and offered some skills that I think would really be a value-add for our group. At 1:26 PM I wrote him a note telling him I was impressed with his resume and asking if he had 20 minutes to discuss the possibility of joining our group. I told him I knew it was last-minute, so I also offered the following day as an option as well.

About ninety minutes later he replied and was perfectly cordial. He followed the directions of my request and did so in a professional fashion (greeting, closing, no misspelled words — all good signs).

Because I practice what I preach, he immediately got this auto-reply from me:

I appreciate you writing.

Because of my commitments with staff and clients I usually check this email once daily on workdays (Monday to Friday, save for vacation days and personal off days).

If this is a more pressing matter, call the office line at 203–883–0464 and leave a message.

PLEASE DO NOT EMAIL ABOUT A CLIENT CRISIS OR AN EMERGENCY. If this is a medical emergency, do not notify us via email. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

You see, I teach my clients that living by email is a way to look very busy and get very little done. I have a full agenda from the moment I rise to the moment I lay back down, and behaving like Pavlov’s pup every time I hear an email bell “ding!” means getting very little done.

That said, I was fully aware I had written to him and another potential applicant about speaking. Keeping that in mind, I looked at my email at 6 am this morning to schedule anyone who may have replied. 

I was surprised to see that George had written me the first time, and then again, exactly twelve hours later (!?) at 1:26 AM. Keep in mind he had already been notified that I only check email once a day. But he wanted me, the person who is extending a potential offer to him, to conform to the typical practice of checking email all day and night (some studies show up to 150 times a day). And because I did not do so, he was mad and told me so.

I’m not going to repeat the content of the email — it’s not explicit, it’s just negative and dismissive because I did not reply on his schedule. Needless to say, I will not be speaking with him today, tomorrow, or any day, about working with us. If he acts like this about scheduling a call, how healthy can be? What he be like in a crisis? 

Folks, smart employers and business folk look at details. When you are looking at partnering with someone, keep in mind that your idea of the time for an appropriate response may not be the same as theirs. We all have ideas of what’s right in varying circumstances, so think carefully before you hit that “send” button. Write out what you are feeling — your frustration or anger — in Word or Pages and then sleep on it. I am willing to bet you may want to edit it, or throw it away, when you wake up the next morning.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Oh Those Holiday Parties…

December is a time to let go, right? WRONG!

This morning I got up, meditated, did my morning routine and then planned my nutritional day. I do that by opening up my favorite food tracking app, MyMacros Plus, and mapping out my eating for the day. I am currently feeding down and that means on Mondays I am allowed 2100 calories; the only restriction is that my protein consumption cannot be less than 200 grams. 
On normal days where I am in control of my eating I simply fill up my bag with food and slowly nibble away until the last bite is gone. Once that happens if I get a craving to nibble I “cheat” with my old standbyssugar-free bubble gum, cough drops and occasionally a few pickles or some egg whites if I’m really famished. 
The thing is, I’m not always in control of my eating plan this time of year primarily because of holiday parties. As I continue to network and build my practice I get more and more offers for holiday happy hours and end of the year sit down dinners. And since they are at the end of the day, usually between 6 and 8 pm, my resolve is low, the goodies are plentiful and just the right pricefree. So planning in advance is the key to sustained success. 
So what to do? Well I have two approaches that I freely offer to you dear readers: 1. Don’t Eat! or 2. Build the get together into your day. 
Option One is the easiestat least from a planning perspectiveand exactly what I did Thursday night when I went to an awesome get together at The Goose in downtown Darien. I grazed throughout the day as always (usually six small meals around 350 to 400 calories) finishing my last meal about 6:15 pm on the train to the event. Knowing that I had event at the day’s end, I left myself around 300 calories to play with by omitting parmesan cheese and sunflower seeds from my Thursday salads, just in case I was feeling left out. 
Once I got to Darien I told the bartender I wanted a drink that looked like alcohol but was just seltzer (imagine a nice garnish, a straw and a swizzle stick or two) because alcohol is empty calories and lowers even the stronger resolve. There were tons of goodies floating aboutchips and dip, handmade sliders and hand-tossed pizzaall of which I passed on thanks to my trust seltzer with lime.
Then I spotted a “safe” food that I could nibble; broiled prawns with cocktail sauce. I had around 8 ounces of shrimp and dipped each in cocktail sauce, equaling around 200 calories and 46 grams of proteinthank goodness I had saved myself some nibble room. 
When dinner came I sat next to some really interesting people. The man to my right had lost a considerable amount of weight some years past (and had beat the odds and kept it off), so we had loads to discuss. And the woman to my right, a family therapist from Fairfield, was a delight. 
The waiter slowly made his way around and everyone placed their orderssteak, lobster rolls, seafood au gratin—all way outside of my daily dietary orbit. When the waiter came to me I told him to bring me a plain dinner salad with no dressing and no bread. My plan for the rest of the night was to move the salad around on my plate and keep the conversation going. Why not skip ordering? People don’t tend to like that. They will cajole me and tell me how I should “just have a little bit” or even encourage me to “take a break the night.” But with food in front of me few people noticed and I avoided making others uncomfortable. I went home delighted with my numbers and the next morning my weight was right on track219 even. I was so proud of myself for holding the course and doing what needed to be done. 
Was I temped by seafood au gratin and sliders? What do you think? Of course I was—it’s homemade sliders with cheese! But after decades of struggle I know how it worksif I eat off course I am going to put weight back on, it’s just that simple. So while I am sometimes tempted I don’t waiver. I know what not being disciplined gets me and I never want to go back to that again. 
Later this week I will discuss plan two in detail and give you a real-world example from Sunday when I met friends for lunch across from Grand Central Station. But nowoff to workout! Have a great Monday! 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Where Have I Been? Sick… :(

Food poisoning has kept me out of sorts for the past week so blogging has been on hold.
I got a few really nice notes asking where I have been. And the answer is right here, flat on my back sick. I will be writing a post about what I learned from severe food poisoning, but right now I’m going to join friends for Thanksgiving in lower Manhattan.
So have a great day off, as will I, and I’ll catch up with you guys tomorrow.

Friday, November 10, 2017

81 pounds down!

I’m delighted to say yesterday’s prediction of moving into the teens happened, even better than expected. Now the next step….

This morning I woke up a bit early and laid in bed, meditated, napped a bit more and then hit the scales. I was strangely anxious and really needed to see good news. I heard the “beep!” and looked down to see this glowing up at me: 

Needless to say, I was delighted. I was hoping for 219.9, so this is damn solid. I hopped off the scale, took the above picture and celebrated with my Starbucks cheat drink, a Masala Chai (70 calories) and my favorite protein bar, Stronger with caramel pretzel (300 calories, 25 grams of protein). 

I looked at my stats and realized this weight had not only moved me into the teens but made we only 20 pounds shy of my goal, 101 pounds lost. It’s been an amazing year for me and I’m stoked about finding what the next 20 pounds off will have to offer. 

I’ve gotten so much great response from writing about my journey — a woman stopped me outside Equinox and said she and her husband were pulling for me; a man at church tapped me on the shoulder and offered his support; and several of the phone calls we have gotten at our amazing mental health practice, Darien Wellness, over the past month have been inquiries about how people can work with me as a coach. It’s always a surprise and I am so grateful for the kind words and expressions of support. 

I actually already have a waiting list for clients in Connecticut (pleasant problem) so I have been thinking about a way I can help people keep weight off for life. I’m in the process of putting a plan together, and I still have some details to iron out. But once I have it all set up I’ll announce it here and across the web. 

Okay, I’m off to start the day — aerobics, writing, meetings and more — have a wonderful Friday!