This is the second chapter in the Evolution series that documents how I’ve lost 40 pounds in the last year and my ongoing fitness adventure. In this chapter we look at the first phase of “the master plan,” analyzing and modifying my diet….

Previous Chapters in the Evolution Series Include:

Chapter 1: The Motivation for Motion

So now I have the motivation to get fit. Over the course of some 15 years I let myself become something that I really didn’t want to be anymore. So how was I going to fix it? Well, as I do with so many things in my life, I started with a plan. And I don’t know about you, but I’m a backwards planner. Start with the end goal in mind and then work from that point in time and space plotting out the steps along the way that will lead me to that goal. So the thought process looked something like this.

GOAL: Lose 40 lbs. by Nov 30, 2010 (40th Birthday)

Note to Self: That’s a week after Thanksgiving. Get Real! If you’re going to lose this weight, you need to have hit it before Turkey Day~!

Start date: April 1, 2010 8 mos.

So lose 5 lbs. a month for 8 mos. VICTORY!

That was it. That was the plan, initially. See? It’s simple, right? I didn’t say it was a complicated plan. I didn’t even say it was a particularly good plan, but it was a starting point. I also didn’t have much to work with initially. I had a goal in mind. I had the embers of desire. I thought I had a novice understanding of the formula for fitness and weight loss (i.e.: move more + eat less = lose weight). But I needed to figure out HOW I was going to make it happen. So I focused on the “eat less” element first and committed to a couple of things in my diet.

1) Tracking My Diet — nothing revolutionary there, right? We all know that accountability is the key to any endeavor. And in this case, it makes perfect sense; having a solid understanding of the fuel we use in our engines is a key component of performance.

2) Eat Like I Make My Kids Eat — I was a PROFESSIONAL ghost eater! Before 40×40 I was always “too busy” to eat the healthy meals that I’d prepare for my kids. In the mornings, I’d make the kids sit down and eat a healthy breakfast, cereal, milk, fresh fruit and meanwhile, I’m packing lunches for the boy, filling book bags, showering, dressing, shuttling everyone out the door, skipping breakfast for myself in the process. All under the alibi of not having time.

A couple mornings a week, I had the privilege of running the boy to school. After I dropped him off, on the way to the office I’d stop and get not one but TWO Sausage Egg and Cheese Croissants at Burger King. I’d eat them in the car before I ever got to work. Phantom calories were my best friend! The calories don’t count, if no one sees me eat them, right? I’d pull that stunt a couple times a week. Partner that with a pizza take out lunch a couple times a week.

For dinner on nights when Erin worked (typically 3 nights a week), I’d make the kids a meal of veggies, a protein and milk to wash it down. But I was always “too busy” dealing with getting a meal on the table for them for me to actually eat it with them. After they went to bed, but before Erin would get home, I’d eat whatever junk food was around. Maybe boil up a couple of hot dogs. Eat those with whatever chips or pretzels were in the house, plus dessert. I didn’t ever skip a dessert.

Now bear in mind, on these nights when Erin worked, these solitary dinners were usually my “first dinners”. Erin would come home sometime after nine pm most nights and it would be rude to let my wife dine alone right? Besides, first dinner consisted of phantom calories. No one saw me eat that shit. So what the hell, “sure, if you’re cooking that up, I’ll have a bite.” It was NUTS.

Once I started paying attention, every time I got hungry I would ask myself, “OK, based on what you’ve eaten today, if the kids had the same inventory of food to this point today, would you let them eat this?” If the answer was no, I either went hungry or picked a truly healthy snack. I have eaten enough baby carrots in the last year plus to choke an entire warren of rabbits. But I did it. I forced myself to have the piece of fruit and the glass of water that I would have imposed on the kids.

3) Fight Addictions -Then there my personal beast, Coca-Cola. It was totally commonplace for me to drink two 20 oz. bottles in a day, some days more. Of course, I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t sleep at night?! Yeesh. So as I’ve done innumerable times before, I gave up Coke. I tried making Diet Coke a substitute. I tried Coke Zero, Pepsi Max…all of them. I’m not knocking them, but they don’t work for me. They’re just not the same. I had to quit. I weaned myself off over time. I got down to one 20 oz. bottle a day. Then one 20 oz. bottle every couple of days. Then we switched to those 8 oz. cans and I would allow myself one of those a day. Then I got to the point where I didn’t want one of those every day. Eventually, I kicked the habit. (Disclosure: after the 40×40 challenge, I got cocky and I tried to reintroduce Coca cola into my life in a controlled manner. The experiment failed. I’m now cold turkey again 40 days or so.)

4) Portion Control – I had to really pay attention to this. Once I started tracking my meals and realizing the massive quantities I was putting in my body, I was pretty embarrassed. So I started employing all the tricks that I’d heard. Smaller plates, check. Instead of racing through my meal and then conversing with my family over empty plates, I started conversing during the meal. Yes, I actually learned to put my silverware down from time to time BEFORE my plate was empty and talk to the people around me. I came to realize that if I didn’t treat a meal like a race and picked up on the clues my body sent me, I actually filled up much sooner than I expected and really could do with less food.

So that’s how I started improving my diet at a fundamental level. Eliminating bad habits, choosing better options and controlling how much fuel went into the system. What did I forget? What could I have done better? What are some other folks’ favorite dieting tips? I truly want to hear them, because I’ve still got a lot of weight to lose! Next time I’ll tell you how I started to move more!

Previous Chapters in the Evolution Series:

Chapter 1: The Motivation for Motion