Monthly Archives: July, 2011

Week 29 – Did you miss me?

July 29, 2011

This week’s weigh-in: 181 lbs.

Loss to date: 55 lbs

To goal: 11 lbs

A great couple of weeks. Thank you for all the support.  While I was limited in my ability to reply or even read comments while I was away, you were never far from my thoughts.

Last week was a week off from writing, but not from the journey.  I’ve been going flat out for a while, so it was nice to dial down the pace a bit and get back to Cape Breton to get some real salt water in my system.  Having a salt water swimming pool at my building is great, but there’s something about the Bras D’Or Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean that cannot be replicated in a pool.  It’s probably the gential-shrinking cold.

Had a great time.  It was the first time I saw my parents since commencement in DC, a little over six weeks and fifteen pounds ago.  Mom fought back tears.  Again.  My Facebook-less relatives were shocked at my weightloss.  Spent a good amount of time helping Dad get his boat operational.  The rest was at Big Pond Beach.  Much to the consternation of my family, I wore my speedos to the beach, the ones I refered to in an earlier entry as “aspirational”.  Parts of my legs got sunshine that have heretofor never seen sunshine before.  Needless to say, SPF 60 did not prevent a sunburn.

Sometimes you can learn from recreation.   I actually learned a lot about the challenges ahead during this trip.  In particular, I learned how hard it is to eat healthy when you travel.  I love driving.  If I had the time, I would have driven from Ottawa all the way to Ben Eoin with an overnight in Fredericton.  Instead I flew to Fredericton on Sunday after I finished the last of my groomsman duties for the Reed-Richardson (or is it Richardson-Reed? I’ll let them fight it out) wedding.

BTW, how hot did I look in that tux? For those that weren’t there, I’ll add a photo once I can find one of me solo (the public nature of this new blog means I should be a little more judicious of the photos I post).  I mean that in the sense of temperature, not attractiveness.  It was the beginning of a heat wave and the rented tuxes were winter weight wool suits.  Since I’m the one who talked the grooom into going rental instead of just wearing black suits, I have only myself to blame.

August 6th update – Judge for yourself.  Here’s the video from the wedding (and yes, that’s yours truly drinking from a flask in the thumbnail.  In my defence, the minister offered it me.  Can’t refuse a man of the cloth, even if he’s an Anglican):

Back to our story.  As someone who prides himself of being a rubber-tire tourist, I like to spend as little time on the road as possible.  That means speeding and take out food on the road.  Problem:  the healthy options at the fast food joints aren’t exactly driver-friendly.  Salad is not something that can be eaten with a hand.  The same is true for a bunless hamburger.  Even if I chose chicken nuggets as a lesser evil (which I did on my return trip), the salad still meant pulling into the restaurant and sitting down to eat.  I really and truly hated this.  The food is awful, too.  If you think a fast food hamburger is disgusting normally, try it without the bun.  Most of the condiments stick to the bun and the patty left behind is rather bland.  It’s just not a substanial meal.  I think the DQ fiesta burger at the rest stop in New Glasgow cured me of ever getting a burger from that chain again.

For the actual vacation, I was well prepared.  I made a sidetrip to the Moncton Costco on the way to CB to pick up a jug of whey, a blender, and other foodstuffs it was easier for me to find there and bring than to send my parents hunting and pecking through the supermarkets of Sydney.  I had little problem sticking to the nutrition plan.  I did drink a lot of beer.  It was light beer, but when you drink a lot of light you might as well drink a few at regular strength, instead,  and have a better tasting drink.  The result, combined with some wedding weekend cheats that I probably didn’t swim off, was a weigh-in on Tuesday two pounds heavier than when I left.  Those were gone in 24 hours and I’m finishing the week with the results above, a new low.

Starting to get rid of my fat clothes.  I decided to leave some of the clothes I brought with me behind to let my Dad and brother-in-law fight over them.  Since I’ll probably never wear them again, it seemed kind of silly to bring them back when I could leave them behind and make room for other stuff in my one piece of checked luggage.  I’ll probably do the same when I go back for my cousin Fred’s wedding at the end of next month.

One of my tasks this weekend is to get the donation read for Moore’s clothing drive.  This is the second year the chain is doing it.  They give, in turn, the suits go to local organizations that will help men be properly attired for job interviews.  For your genorsity, they give you a 50% off coupon for your next purchase.  If you have some business-y stuff you don’t wear anymore, you might want to consider donating.   More info, including what they are looking for here.

(BTW – if any women in Ottawa reading this are looking to shed some of their office attire, my friend Marlene Floyd is the Chair of an organization Dress for Success Ottawa National Capital Region that helps women prepare for job interviews and the like. You can find them here.)

As you can see, that’s pretty much 3/4 of my wardrobe.  On top of that I have a lot of stuff that they won’t take that will end up in another charity’s bin elsewhere.  There has been the occassional suggestion that I sell them on Kijjijji or Craigslist to make a few bucks for my trouble.  I’ve been so blessed by the benefits of this weightloss, I feel the need to pay it forward. Sounds sappy, I know, like the movie with the kid from the Sixth Sense and the killer from Se7en.  A more positive spin than my naturual inclination to portray it as punishment for my frivolity.  Not only was I total glutton, but a spendthrift one at that.  Who needs over a dozen suits? Apparently, I did.  I was like the HYDRA of suits.  I would wear one out and buy two more to take their place (in partial defence, I always bought them during a 2 for 1 sale).  I had every excuse:  well some are for winter, some are for summer, some are separates for casual days … yadda, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah.

It’s time to get the stuff out of my apartment.  As I’m slimming down, I’ve been thinking about economizing  in general.  Definitely going to keep the suit count down to a more realistic number.  Need to start saving the dough for when student loans come calling for that PhD money in December.  Yep, at 34, I’ll start repaying my first ever student loan. As Dad said to me once, “Hope you having fun while you’re studying, because you’ll be paying for it longer than you were studying.”

No worries. Like the Cylons, I have a plan.  The plan is:  lottery tickets.  And lots of them.



Week 27 – No Flowers for Algernon

July 15, 2011

This week’s weigh-in: 183 lbs

Weight loss to date:  53 lbs 

To goal:  13lbs 

I was a bad boy last weekend.  A very bad boy.

Bachelor party in Montreal.  Great time, lots of beer, little sleep, and whenever I had an opportunity to make the right food choice, I almost always made the wrong one.  I made some interesting ones, too.  Rudolph burgers (Caribou with gruyere, bacon and caramelized onions) anyone?  The result was four more pounds on Monday. Through hard work, some extra workouts in the pool on my “off” days and sticking with my nutrition plan, I was able to shed it all and get back to my pre-Montreal weight.

I think the Bachelor intentionally planned this.  One of the running jokes of the wedding planning is when I go in to get fitted for the tux.  The answer:  the last possible day to get fitted before they charge the rush service fee.  Didn’t want to get fitted so early that the suit would arrive too big of course.  The folks at Moore’s downtown Bank St. location were smart.  Since I haven’t been the same size in any two visits this year, they actually ordered me two jackets – the one I was measured for and the next size down.  Sure enough, the smaller one fit best.  I’m going to look good tomorrow.

I knew this would happen and I have only myself to blame.  Like Commencement weekend, I planned ahead but failed to execute those plans. Again, I brought protein bars to snack on, but didn’t bring them with me when I went out.  They’re pretty useless when you leave them in a hotel room.

Weeks like this make me realize how fragile and reversible my progress still is.  It reminds me of the short story Flowers for Algernon.  Its the story of a mentally challenged man, Charlie, selected for an operation that will make him smart.  It’s told through the point of view of his progress reports, or journals.

Sound familiar?  Yeah, thought so too.

And before you ask, yes, this was inspiration for the episode of the Simpsons where they remove a crayon from Homer’s brain and he becomes a genius.

For those that like movie adaptions over books and satirical cartoons, the 1969 film Charly with Cliff Robertson is absolutely heartbreaking to watch (unrelated fact:  Cliff Robertson owns a summer home in Cape Breton.  I met him in the Sydney airport when I was 14.  Besides being “Uncle Ben” in the Sam Raimi-directed Spiderman movies, he co-starred with William Holden in one of my favourite WWII films, the Devil’s Brigade. Anyone besides me catch the reference in Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards?).

You see Robertson’s Charlie go from a mentally challenged student working hard at night school to “be like the normal people” to becoming a genius with an IQ of 185.  Of course, if it was all good news, it would probably be a Lifetime movie of the week and not an Oscar winning film.  His co-workers at the bakery become scared of him and conspire to have him fired.  He finds it impossible to connect with people of average intelligence and maintain a meaningful relationship.  He becomes so intelligent he joins the researchers on his case and discovers a flaw in the same procedure that made him smart and realizes he will eventually regress to his former state.   It is made all the more real when he observes the regression of the lab rat the procedure was perfected on, Algernon.  Algernon’s behaviour becomes erratic, his test scores decline, and he eventually dies.  As he declines, he becomes frustrated with the memories of what he briefly was and checks into a hospital for the mentally challenged where no one knows him.  His last journal asks the scientists to put flowers on Algernon’s grave.

I was thinking about Algernon recently.  I first read it in a grade school English reader. Pretty sure it was ninth grade.  One of the few stories worth remembering from those books.  I’m seeing it in a different light these days.  It speaks to one of my fears with this journey:  relapsing.

The reason why I’m afraid of relapsing is that I know it can happen because I did it before.  You’ll remember from earlier entries that starting in September 2004, when I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, I went on an exercise jag until I left Washington, DC, and went from 244 lbs to around 180.  Then I went off to grad school in the land of milk and honey … and soul rolls … and Five Guys. The PhD student life is a rather sedentary one.  Coupled with bad eating habits from irregular class schedules, and you have pretty good chance of packing on the pounds.  In the five years between when I started and when I finished, every pound I lost returned.

Temptation, like death, stalks us all. One of my stalkers from DC, Five Guys, is coming to Ottawa.  Their website lists a Greenback Rd in Nepean location and another in Kanata as “coming soon”.  So glad I don’t have a car.  For those who don’t know the geography of Ottawa, I live downtown.  Nepean and Kanata are the suburbs.  For my DC readers, think Rockville and Glenmont.  If I want to go to Ikea and Home Depot, I go to Nepean and Kanata.  I ask friends with cars to take me (and promise the Ikea breakfast or the Home Depot hotdog) so I don’t lose half a day on the bus.  Five Guys might as well be in Timbuktu.  They’ll make it downtown eventually.  They’re like a Doctor Who villian stalking me across time and space.

It would be a tragedy not unlike Charie’s to get to my goal only to regress back to a fatty.  I’ve been enjoying the benefits of my increased fitness for some time and I can’t wait to reach my goal.  The reason I’m looking forward to reaching my goal is so I can start weight maintenance and learn how to keep this off before I my current sessions with my personal trainer are used up.  I won’t be going back to old habits this time.  Though it will be nice to sleep in … until 6.

In the end, I’m probably worrying too much.  I won’t relapse for the same reason I don’t have to worry about Charlie’s other problem:  alienating himself from those around him or, in colloquial parlance, becoming a jerk.  Some might argue I was already there when I was a fatty.

The real reason I don’t have to worry is because I have you.  The same way you call me on my bullshit and keep me down to earth, I know you’ll keep me in line on the post-training food choices.  You are a great support and I wouldn’t be here without you.


PS – After the weekend wedding festivities have concluded, I’m on a plane to New Brunswick and then on to Cape Breton.  The only wifi hotspot at the campground across the street is rather tenuous, so no update next week.

Week 26 – No Ordinary Loser

July 8, 2011

This week’s weigh-in: 183 lbs

Weight loss to date:  53 lbs

To Goal:  13 lbs

Another great week.  Inching ever closer to my goal.

Yes, I intended that pun.  My family on Facebook will tell you I come by the odd sense of humour naturally.  It seems to run on the Read side of the family.

Thanks for all the comments and advice over the past week.  I am constantly reminded that I have the greatest friends.  I have no idea what I did to deserve you, but  I hope to remain worthy of your friendship.

This week was another milestone.  I am now the biggest loser at Free Form Fitness’ Dalhousie St. location.

The reward for this achievement:  more exercise.  I used to subscribe to this daily e-mail joke list.  At least once a week the joke would be Top 10 things that Suck about …  Work, Academia, etc. Whatever the subject, they seemed to include some of the same ones over and over again.  The perennial thing that sucked about everything is pertinent:  success brings more work, not less.  When your day begins with lunges with a 30lbs dumbbell in each hand and finishes with a run, that becomes gospel not humour. (BTW, if you’re wondering who were the lazy writers that recycled jokes like pop cans, the list was a product of Salter St. Productions, the makers of This Hour has 22 Minutes.  Just sayin’)

Really, how does one celebrate losing weight?  When I moved into second place, the fellow I had just surpassed was arriving for his session and when our trainer told him of my accomplishment he said, “let’s go for beer and poutine.  I’ll buy and you’ll eat.”

Needless to say, I passed on his offer.

I am, however, easing into the final stages of the nutrition plan.  We’ll be alternating between my current one and the final stage one by using the final stage every three days to start.  There’s a lot of changes.  Back are oatmeal, brown rice, and sweet potatoes.  Portions are a little larger, too.  Twelve shrimp with salad is now 20.  Two stuffed pepers is now three.

The 5K clinic is going great.  I’ll be skipping the next two sessions due to …. travel.  This past Wednesday I squeezed a ten minute interval in before I got to the store.  The clinic itself was to two sets of ten and 1 with a five minute third interval.  Since we were tackling hills for the first time, I gave my group a longer break at the end of the second ten minutes to allow the rest of the group to catch up. I then added a minute to the runtime of that third interval.  A total distance for anyone who didn’t see Wednesday’s post of 6.4K  The average pace timing from the Nike+ chip is a little off due to the extended break, but when I tracked the run on the website my pace is getting closer to the 6 min/k mark.

I’m registered for the Fresenius Alive to Strive race August 14th.  I’m treating it as my warm-up for the Army Run in September.  I would like to be around 30 minutes for Fresenius and under it for the Army Run.  I think they’re reasonable goals.  Since the Fresenius uses a different route than the Ottawa and it’s mostly a flat route along Colonel By Dr., I’m not sure if my run in August will be a predictor of success in September.

Who would have thought I would be worrying about the effects of run routes on performance this time last year?

I know one person who wouldn’t have thought it.



Week 25 – I’m a loser, baby.

June 30, 2011

This week: 185 lbs

Total lost: 51 lbs

To goal:  15 lbs

What a week.  It feels like the home stretch has begun.  I can only thank you for supporting me thus far and hope to see you at this finish line.

As of today, another fiscal quarter ends which means another contract extension and security badge.

You guessed it.  Time to compare ID photos again:

Before: September 2009, when I returned to Ottawa after a back in year in DC.

March 30th, 2011. 2 1/2 months into program.

June 30th, 2011. 15 lbs to go.

 Never has being a loser felt so good.  My trainer told me this week that when, we stopped using conditional words like “if”a long time ago,  I reach my goal, I will be the biggest loser at the downtown location of Free Form Fitness.  I have to say it’s weird to be called a “loser” in complimentary way, but i’m getting used to it. Since FFF, like most personal training companies, wants to use my success to promote their business,  I’ve been going though old photos of events at my office for the “before” photo.  There’s a couple that I’m considering that I will show once I reach my goals.

Don’t worry, no shirtless pictures of man-boobs akimbo running on a beach like David Hasselhoff.

I’ll save that for the “after” photo 😉

One thing that hasn’t gotten old yet is the reaction of friends and family who see the difference in me.  I’ll say to someone I know and they’ll look at me like I’m a stranger.  When I say, “It’s me, Michael,” they’re floored.  Number one question:  “Where’s the rest of you?”  It never gets old.

They’re have been a couple of little victories the past couple of weeks.  I won a golf shirt at the Speaker’s BBQ a couple of weeks ago.  It’s a men’s size small.  It fits.  It actually fits.  A size small fits.  Mind you, it doesn’t fit well, but a few more pounds off and I’ll probably where it in public.  I need more casual clothes.  My new pledge to not launder clothes, piling them for charity instead, more than one size too big is taking a toll on my summer casual wardrobe.    Depending on the style of the shirt, I’m either a large or medium. There’s a few larges I bought recently that after wearing them I realized I should have bought medium.

The other victory was just today.  A friend of mine is getting married, I’m a groomsman, and we went together to get fitted for the tuxes after work today.  We waited until today, because it was the last day before an additional $20 rush order charge would be applied.  Actually, I waited until the last minute to make sure the measurements would be accurate.  He can come up with his own excuse.

Highlight reel:

Waist: 34 inches.  When I started:  40 inches

Suit coat: 38 When I started: 52

Shirt: 16 When I started: 17.5   

I’m not sure if this is the summer you will see me mugging for cameras on the beach like some wannabe cast member of Jersey Shore, though.  One of the consequence of weight loss is something that most of friends who have had children are all too familiar with:  stretch marks.  I’ve been slathering Vitamin E cream on a couple of times a day, but I’m not sure much will help until after my weight stabilizes when I meet my target goal.  More than happy to take suggestions from those who have dealt with this before.  Until then, despite being the smallest I’ve been since entering adolescence, I’ll be looking like the old man from Metallica’s Unforgiven video under my shirt for a bit.  Like everything else, short term pain for long term gain.

That last paragraph might have been a bit TMI, but it actually leads to an answer for one of the most frequent questions I get, “What’s the hardest part?”  It’s actually writing this journal.  While I won’t hide the fact that I have the gift of gab, I’ve never been comfortable talking about myself.  It’s probably why I jaw on incessantly, to talk about anything BUT myself.

I know what you’re thinking, for someone in politics, the profession of shameless self-promoters, this is a rather odd confession.  Such self-promotion is, believe it or not, goes against my nature.  I always feel like Tony Soprano when he first attends a therapy session with Dr. Melfi and starts talking about Gary Cooper.  A line describing Tony from the last season is one I’ve embraced for myself, “a relic from a pre-therapeutic society.”  I’ll talk about anything, just not me.

Maybe its my upbringing.  My maternal grandfather, Donald MacEachern, always exuded a quiet strength.  To us grandkids, he was a paragon of Scottish virtue.  When he spoke, we hung on every word. I can remember when he travelled from Sydney to Fredericton, to attend my high school graduation.  It was one of the last times he would leave his beloved Cape Breton Island and it meant a lot to me that he made the trip.  We had a terrible thunderstorm the day before graduation.  The power was out.  Dad was using the barbeque to make the graduation dinner he promised, fish and chips, and trying not to burn the house down in the process.  Donald, “Grampie” to us young’ins, started telling the stories of growing up in East Bay.  We listened to him for hours, even after the power returned.  He probably talked about more about his life that night than I had heard in all the years prior combined.  The funny thing is, he never had to tell us he was great.  He showed us.   He was a carpenter who, like many Canadians, was conscripted into World War II.  He served in an engineering corps, defusing explosives on bridges that were left behind by the German retreat after D-Day.  He was wounded, came home and resumed his carpentry career until chronic asthma forced him to retire.  The entire time keeping quiet on his time at war to assuage our grandmother’s fears their sons and grandsons would be inspired by tales of valour of the last war to join the next one.

So why do I write this? I’d like to invoke my standard explanation, which will probably end up as my epitaph, it seemed like a good idea at the time.  It still does.  I wanted to make sure those whose most regular contact with me is virtual, i.e. through Facebook, that I’m in fact quite healthy and not suddenly losing weight in photos, etc., due to an illness.  Primarily, though, I wanted to create a greater sense of accountability for myself.  By encouraging me, you’ve helped me drag my arse out of bed at 5 am to make a 6 am workout or go for a Sunday run when it was -20 or, like last Friday, a tornado.  A couple of people have told me through private messages or in person my success and frankness has inspired them to be more active.  They’ve, in turn, inspired me.  It’s weird to for someone to tell me I’m “inspirational”.  It’s not like I’m Rick Hansen, one of my personal heroes, or anything.  Don’t get me wrong, if one of you read this and decided to defuse your own personal ticking time bomb of a body, I’m glad to have been of service.   I just hope I don’t take my success for granted.

It’s been really great so far and hope we stay on this journey together until the end.


Week 24 – On the precipice

June 24, 2011

This week’s weigh-in:  187 lbs

Weight loss to date:  49 lbs

To Goal:  17 lbs

Thank you for your continued support.

My loss this week was just a pound.  A tad frustrating, but any week where I weigh less at the end than the beginning is a week I check in the win column.

Considering the week, it’s probably a miracle I eked out a win.  It’s the silly season on Parliament Hill.  The politicians are trying to get certain bills through before they rise for the summer.  It means a lot of late nights. Thankfully, Ribfest is on at Sparks St., so a good meal is only a block from the Hill.  Yes, ribs are not the most diet compliant meal I could have.  The alternative, the Centre Block cafeteria, is way worse.  The Ribfest vendors also sell chicken.  I figure a half rack of ribs or quarter chicken with coleslaw is better than anything available on the 5th floor.

We’ve passed all that we’ve received from the House of Commons, but there’s on bill we’re waiting for – the bill to send postal workers back to work.  Once the House passes it, the Senate will be recalled to pass it before it is given Royal Assent.  All this is to say that this weekend feels a lot like high school.  Remember how in an age before everyone was issued a smartphone at birth you waited by the phone for that special girl or guy to call you?  That’s pretty much my weekend, except I’m waiting for an e-mail on blackberry to find out if I have to go to work tomorrow.  At least I can take my phone with me, but every buzz may mean I have to drop everything and head to the Hill.  It makes it hard to plan anything, particularly exercise and meals.

Luckily, all this is happening towards the end of the journey and not at the beginning. What I have learned throughout this journey is coming in handy in figuring out how to roll with the punches.

Hopefully, we’ll get through this by Sunday.  I’ll shed a pound or two and next week we’ll celebrate crossing that 50 lbs mark.


Week 23 – What was that I wrote last week about goalposts?

June 17, 2011

This week’s weigh-in: 188 lbs 

Weight loss to date:  48 lbs

To Goal:  18 lbs

Holy crap what a week!!  Thank you.  Thank you. Thank you.

Anyone who read my status update on Monday was probably as surprised as I was to see that I had dropped five pounds between last Thursday’s weigh-in and Monday’s accountability session.  With the CPC convention in town, I had crashed a few hospitality suites and indulged in some drinking.  Kept the snacking to a minimum, but probably drank as much on Friday night as I had probably drank in the previous month.  I also drank white wine which is far less bad for me than beer.

I paid for my sins on Saturday when I went running with my personal trainer in 30+ degree heat.  It was little cooler on Sunday morning for my Running Room run and we did a nice route around Parliament Hill. My group was pretty divided between people whose average pace is around my own and those far slower.  Unfortunately, neither group had a watch to time the intervals, so I found myself running in circles bewteen them so I could be in whistle/shouting range.  No worries, extra distance for me.

Had a few beers on Wednesday at the Speaker’s BBQ.  I had secured a sizeable donation from Moosehead, 16 flats of product, for the event so it would be bad form to not have one, or two, or three. I wasn’t totally bad.   I did pass on the buns for my burger and hotdog, the potato salad in favour coleslaw, and the potato chips.

I posted the photo above from the event from the event on Facebook. You should know that the blue dress shirt I was wearing with my suit has seen its last public performance as part of my wardrobe.  Beginning last weekend, I started the second charity bag.  Like my government’s plan to find efficiencies in government, it will start with attrition.  Anything I wear more than one size too big will go to the charity bag instead of the laundry bag.  Some of the casual shirts I own are as big XXXL.  Depending on the size and style now, I could be a large or … wait for it … medium.  It just doesn’t make sense to a) pay to launder this stuff after I get another wear out of it or b) have it take up space in my closet.

Since it’s Father’s Day this weekend, there are men’s clothing sales everywhere.  I’m starting to think the only person happier at my weight loss than me is the CEO of Visa.  My folks are pretty proud of me, by my credit card company thinks I’m the gift that keeps on giving.  Oh well, such is life.


Week 22 – Goal post moved back, but feeling okay

June 11, 2011

This week’s weigh-in: 193 lbs

Weight loss to date:  43 lbs

To goal:  23 lbs

Thanks for all the great comments from last week’s post and apologies for the delay in this week’s post.  Work was a little hectic with the Conservative Convention in town.

As you can see from the weigh-in, I ended the week two pounds heavier than last week. Aside from a few snacks at the Throne Speech reception, my nutrition was good and I exercised everyday so I’m chalking it to increased muscle mass.

A month or two ago, a gain week would have been a major letdown.  Now, I just see it as the goal posts of this journey being moved back a week or two.  I’m going to get there, it’s just going to take a little longer.  I think this how David Jensen must have felt when he would get the script for the latest episode of the Fugitive and find out he wasn’t going to find the one-armed man this episode.

The reason I can see the forest for the trees now is that I’m so close to the finish line it doesn’t seem like as a big a setback  as it would earlier in this journey.  Some of my new clothes are smaller than stuff I wore in high school.  How can I complain?

The other reason is you.  Knowing I have so many friends rooting for me keeps me in perspective. When I’m tempted by junk, I just think of you and have the courage to pass.

As I mentioned at the outset, this weekend was the Conservative Party’s Policy Convention.  I’m sure all my friends in politics, regardless of party, can agree the best thing, after the free booze in hospitality suites, is getting to reconnect with your friends from across the country.  In my case, my New Brunswick friends have come to me instead of me going to them.  Many haven’t seen me in months, some in years.  All have been shocked to see my new level of fitness.  The shock on everyone’s face is pretty motivating.

Looking forward to the week ahead.


Week 21 – A 5K Done, A Marathon Continues

June 2, 2011

This Week’s Weigh-in: 191 lbs

Weight loss to date: 45 lbs

To goal: 21 lbs

What an incredible weekend!  I completed my first 5K in 32:35.  A lot of people helped get me to that finish line, too many single out individually without sounding like a really bad Oscar acceptance speech (are there any good ones?).  I hope I’ve showed the appropriate amount of gratitude in person.  If I haven’t, I will.

It was a great weekend filled with fun and surprises.  The first one was that my friend Clements came up for the run.  Not cheer us on, but to run himself.  It was a total surprise for me.  Unbeknownst to me, Clem and Christian had been planning this since March.  They even had a goofy codename for the whole affair, Operation: Capital Strike.  Why the whole cloak and dagger routine was beyond me, but the surprise was certainly appreciated.

Clements has been going through his own weight loss routine and it was great to see the results.  It’s always encouraging to see others succeed.  It powers you on to achieve your own results.

The run itself was an amazing experience.  The 5K for Ottawa Race Weekend had a little over 9000 registered.  You can train all you want, but until you coral with that many people, you have no idea what you’re getting into.  It was a relatively cool yet humid afternoon, having rained in the morning.  When the sun came out shortly before the start time, the temperature instantly rose 10 degrees (Celsius for my friends stuck in imperial weights and measures).  I spent more time dodging and weaving the slower runners ahead of me and the folks that thought walking in the middle of the road was somehow acceptable.  A pedestrian trying to cut across the street early on the course almost got knocked on his arse.  No apologies to that idiot.  You run with the bulls, you get gored.

Just two gripes:  people who registered for the shorter time corals who had no intention of actually running the course and the polers.  Each is a hazard in its own way.  Back of the pack, folks.

What a rush.  I stuck to my gameplan and kept to my 10/1 run/walk intervals.  Kept my pace around 6:20/km for the first two intervals and then hard charged it for that last one.  Even with picking up the pace, I had to be especially cautious in the last 250m. As my clinic instructor warned us, there are some runners who leave everything on the course, including their last meal.  That’s something you can give warnings about, but it doesn’t compute until you see it.  One fellow doubled over in front of me just a mere 50m short of the finish.  As I made it through the recovery area, there were many such puddles to dodge.

As I crossed the finish line, the horn section from Ray LaMontagne’s “You are the best thing” blared.  I knew from my practice runs that meant a time between 32 and 33 minutes.  When they posted the time, I was over the moon.

After the run, it was time to engage in a post run ritual: gin and tonic.  This started when Christian began his running career.  His wife, Ramona, and I are both big fans of Gordon Ramsey’s shows.  Ramsey is also a marathon runner.  He was being interviewed on George Strombolopolous (sp?) at some point that winter and was asked in the rapid-fire segment, “What’s the best thing to drink after a marathon?” His answer, “gin and tonic”.  So at Christian’s first half marathon, I became the keeper of the post-run gin.  This year it was three of us partaking in the ritual.

The Running Bandits enjoying the spoils of victory.

Now for some lessons learned:  carb up before the run, do not replace carbs after the run. Christian and Ramona hosted a wonderful post-run barbecue.   I indulged.  I didn’t have that much beer.  Just two, but that was two more than I had since March.  I figured I could have a burger with a bun, and then proceeded to have a few burgers with a bun … and a hotdog … and pasta salad.  A couple of beers the next day and some garlic bread at brunch with the gang before Clements hit the road didn’t help either.  The end result was despite the run of my life, I put on three pounds by Monday.  Thankfully, I shed that plus some throughout the week to still end on with a net reduction.

Frankly, I needed a cheat weekend at some point and this was as good as any.  Every now and then, you have to be reminded of what you’re sacrificing so you can strive forward.

On a side note, with summer weather here, I thought it would be a good idea to try on the summer suits I haven’t worn since August.  It was a pretty quick run through. In short, they’re too big.  Every suit I’ve owned since before December is now too big.  I’m afraid to try on the two three piece suits I bought at the end of the year for fear of sending them to the charity pile.  Between what I bought at Zara here in Ottawa and Macy’s in DC, I should be good for the spring sitting of Parliament.  I even bought at nice light summer tan suit. Believe it or not, the waist of the pants on the first two Zara suits I bought are getting a little big on me.  The slim fit throughout is keeping them from looking big on me, though.

If I behave, I will get below 190 by the first of next week.  That means the next stage of the meal plan.  Looking forward to it.  Haven’t had problems sticking to the current one, so I’m curious what’s next in store for me.


Week 20 – the Race is On

May 27, 2011

This Week’s Weigh in:  192 lbs

Weight loss to date:  44 lbs

To goal: 22 lbs

Another great week.  Thanks for your continued support.

Tomorrow I’m running my first 5K as part of Ottawa Race Weekend.  It’s hard to believe that it’s finally here.  My decision to add the 5K to weight loss training was at the suggestion of my friend Christian.  He and his wife, Ramona, have being running for years.  One night back in January over drinks at the Highlander, he suggested I join them for this year’s race.

Some people get drunk and join the army or get a tattoo, I enter a 5K race.

I’m glad I did.  Running has been the icing on the cake of my weight loss.  It has given me something to strive for beyond just the pounds shed.  It has been surprisingly addictive. I trained with a Running Room clinic, so it added a social aspect to my journey that isn’t there with personal training.  I can also bring my friends to their run clubs.  Since I was running quite far ahead of my clinic members, it was great to have someone to keep pace with me on those Sunday morning runs.

Most of my training runs have been in utterly miserable weather, the downside of training in the spring.  We took it all in stride (pun intended). I wrote previously that the race is going to happen in whatever weather God throws at me so I would train in whatever weather God throws at me.  I did.  Rain. Some snow.  More rain.  It’s only been in the last few weeks that there’s been any sunshine, heat and humidity to train in.  I know from the experience of going to the race in previous years to cheer on Christian and Ramona that hot and humid is the typical weather on race day.

Blood, sweat and tears?  If you’ve been reading previous entries, you already know there’s been a little of the first and a lot of the second.  So far, none of the third.

How much am I enjoying running?  I haven’t even run this 5K yet, and I’m looking forward to my next one, the Army Run 5K in September.

As I get closer to my goal, I can see the goal posts coming into view.  Feels great.  With the reception circuit about to heat up again, I’m going to to have to steel my resolve against temptation … again.  I pretty much quit doing the ones the Speaker doesn’t host prior to the election, but with Parliament resuming, we’re hosting a number of functions in the coming weeks.  Thankfully, I have a little influence on our food choices for our events so I know there will always be some veggies and lean meats.

On the work front, with Parliament about to resume, the tempo is picking up again.  MPs and Senators have been trickling back to work.  A lot of friends who haven’t seen me since the campaign began hardly recognize me now.  More than one simply didn’t recognize me at all.  One of the funnier ones was when someone noticed “something different” about me and wondered if I had given up wearing glasses.  I joked, “Yeah, about four years before we first met.”  I even had the opportunity to meet the Governor General this week.  When I re-introduced myself, he said “You’re quite a bit smaller than I remember.”

It’s fitting I look like a new man.  I feel like one.


Week 19 – A Critical Test Passed

May 20, 2011

This week’s weigh-in: 195 lbs

Weight loss to date: 41 lbs

To goal:  25 lbs

I ended last week on a humorous note, analogizing my food choices from my DC days to a romantic affair.  God knows the stalker analogy I keep using on Five Guys gets more apt.  They opened a location on Rockville Pike across from Barnes and Noble.  After it was obvious I wasn’t there anymore, they moved into Canada.  Behind the humour, there was a serious matter me:  this was the first time I would be travelling since I began my journey.  On top that, I was travelling to another country.  This would be a critical test.

This presented certain challenges.  Not sure what I could or could not bring with me, I didn’t bring much other than a couple of Elevate bars.  Since you’re not allowed to bring fruit across the border and they’re mostly fruit and berry content, I wasn’t even sure about those. Given recent events, I harboured no illusions about bringing some whey protein to make my shakes, lest some customs agent detect a mysterious white powder and scuttle my whole trip.

We had booked into a Hampton Inn in Silver Spring.  It was a good deal, close to the Metro, which could get us to campus in about 10 minutes, and included hot breakfast.  Lesson #1, when your hotel includes breakfast, find out what’s in the breakfast, first.  For the Hampton Inn, I have coined a new term to describe their breakfast bar:  carbeteria.  Every kind of bread, bagel, muffin imaginable.  The only hot items were scrambled eggs and waffles.  The latter is a no-no and the former I find disgusting.  The eggs was the sole protein offered, too.  Thankfully Whole Foods had a location nearby where I could pick up some whey sold in single-serve packets and a shaker bottle.  Their hot bar amongst their salad bars also had hot breakfast items, so I could pick up some sausages.

Timing was another critical issue.  Commencement weekend activities were never designed around a five-meal-a-day lifestyle.  Commencement Day itself was a nightmare on this front.  We left the hotel that day at 8 am and didn’t get back until 2:15 pm with only some nibbles of reception food available courtesy of the Politics department, on which I passed. The simply weren’t the kind of hors d’ouerves I could get away with.  The President’s Reception the previous day was a little better.  I practiced my well-honed parliamentary reception skills and ate the meat in the finger sandwiches and tossed the bread.

For those who have already clicked through the weekend’s photos, you already know there was some fun times had at Lemay House that involved some alcohol, but I did not imbibe on junk food.  Had a couple of burgers, again sans bun, and vegetables.

So did I pass?  I clocked in back at 196 on Monday, up a pound from Thursday prior to my departure.  A mere pound could have been anything.  Considering the aforementioned, I’m going to give myself of pass on this one.  Other than the complimentary tortilla chips and salsa at Austin Grill, I didn’t indulge in any food that was completely off the meal plan.  What was I supposed to do, eat salsa with my hands?  The erratic schedule played utter havoc on my metabolism.  Yes, the booze didn’t help, but I think the timing factors may have been a more definitive cause.  It could also have even been the cup of coffee in my belly.  The rest of the week was looking rather grim.  I also clocked in at 198 on Wednesday before going back down to 195.

The lessons learned from this are:

1. Bring good snacks.  Since you know when you should eat, but not when you will eat, you have to adapt your habits to their schedule.  When I went to Whole Foods, they were selling Lara Bars by the box.  I should have bought one and brought a couple with me to commencement.  At the very least, I should have remembered one of the bars I brought from home.  As the commencement schedule went, I could have scarfed a bar just before the procession into the main ceremony and one a few hours later after the diploma ceremony.

2.  I have to be as prepared for my return from a trip as the trip itself.  Since I’ve been eating fresh, mostly organic vegetables, I returned on Sunday to a mass grave of rotting veggies.  Like the Walking Dead, they had started to cannibalize each other.  The eggplant was feeding off the cilantro.  The lettuce and the cucumber were hiding on an upper shelf, aghast at the horror of it all.   I had enough to put together my meals for Monday, but would have to get groceries on the way home from work.  Like the stereotypical hungry fat man at the grocery store, I screwed up.  I didn’t want to fuss with dinner when I got home, so I picked up some wings at Loblaws.  That was a bad thing to do and the scale reflected that.  Now that it’s BBQ season, I’m going to keep a couple boxes of freezer meat – burgers, chicken breasts, etc. – so I always have something I can toss on the grill.  Prior to future trips, I’ll also stalk up on frozen vegetables so I have some edible veggies when I return.

Speaking of tests, another test presented itself with this trip: the mom test.  My parents and I had not seen each other in person since I returned to Ottawa in January. We chat a couple of times a week on Skype and they’ve seen my progress via webcam from the neck up, but this would be the first time they would get the full picture of the progress I have made so far.  I found them on the front step of an apartment building next to the hotel as I came from the metro.  Mom had to fight back tears when she saw me.

For all those that have helped me get to this point, know this:  you made my mom cry.  For once, it’s a good thing.  Take a bow.

The week ahead is going to be interesting.  I have my first official 5k run next Saturday here in Ottawa.  I’ll be running with my friends Christian and Ramona, along with the new friends I’ve made through my training clinic at the Running Room.  Its my first race weekend as a participant and I’m really looking forward to it.  Is it weird that I’m hoping at least one day this week is scortching hot and humid?  Since that’s usually the weather on race day, I want to have at least one training run in the weather I’m most likely to run in.  As it stands, I’ve run in everything but that.  There were even some snow flakes one run in March.  I said at the outset the race will happen regardless at what God throws at us on the 28th so I will train in whatever God throws at us, but he really hasn’t thrown us heat and humidity yet.  It was quite humid on Wednesday, but still cool.  I’m averaging a little over 6 min/km, so I think I can do it in around 32 minutes. Wish me luck or, if you’re in Ottawa, feel free to come cheer me on.