Monthly Archives: August, 2011

Week 33 – Now behave, Michael, but first…

This Week’s Weigh In: 175 lbs

Weight Loss to Date:  61 lbs

To goal: 5 lbs

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

It feels great to have crossed the threshold of another milestone as I begin my second vacation.  Already I am feeling the challenges.  I am spending a couple of days in Fredericton before leaving for Cape Breton until Labour Day.  While I left enough supplies with my parents in the Cape to eat healthy while I’m there, the Fredericton pit stop presents a separate set of challenges.

Simply, ol’ Mother Hubbard’s cupboards are bare. Buying groceries seems rather futile.  I’m only here until Sunday or Monday, depending on what Irene does.

(For those living under a rock, Irene is a hurricane.  It’ll be a tropical storm by the time it reaches my neck of the woods, but it won’t be a good idea to do a six hour drive in it.  Current forecast suggests it will hit the Maritimes around midnight Sunday and continue raining until Monday.  Will decide when I’m leaving when I wake up Sunday.)

In Fredericton, temptation abounds.  It is the home of my favourite microbrew, Picaroons.  Saturday morning at the Boyce Farmer’s Market is the scene of many a crime.

Instead of pretending these temptations do not exist, however, I’m going to indulge them.  I’m giving myself a 36 hr window starting tonight and lasting until I hit the road on Sunday to feed my temptations.  There will still be restrictions.  The only indulgences will be old indulgences and I have to fit them into my five meal a day pattern.

From Sunday onward, it’s back to the nutrition plan.  I also intend to run and exercise regularly while I’m away.  My next weigh-in won’t be until September 7th, so I’ll have ten days to recover from my 36 hr indulgence period.  I’m also going to cut out beer, even light beer, this time.  Stick with the gin and sodas and scotch.

I’m going to relax, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not going to take a complete vacation from my nutrition plan and exercise regimen.  I’ve figured out that a vacation from that means more work when I get back to Ottawa.  As I’m getting close to the end of sessions I bought with my trainer, not achieving my goal means either going it alone to the final stretch or buying more sessions.  If I behave over the next week, I can prevent either outcome.

As much as I enjoy the training sessions, it’s time to start spending my money on other things, like replacing the wardrobe that has been utterly decimated in this journey.  Before I left Ottawa, I took four pairs of casual pants I purchased in late April back to Moores for their clothing drive.  They were a 36 waist.  I replaced them with size 32.  I also picked up a couple of shirts that were size 15 1/2.

Once more for the cheap seats:  size 32 pants, size 15 1/2 shirt.  That’s four sizes since I started in January.  The first adult dress shirts I bought in high school were 16.  I haven’t had size 32 pants since I hit puberty.

I committed another crime of opportunity in the wardrobe department.  While having lunch at the Old Garrison District Ale House, I found out local clothier Robert Simmons was having 50% off sale, with the third suit free.  They traffic is some high-end items so the temptation of getting a black label Hugo Boss suit for the price of something of lesser quality that I would buy at Moores was too much to resist.

The suits I bought are, like the Mad Men suit, a size 40.  It’s a little safer to start replacing the suits now.  I’m probably not going to go down another size.  Size 40 fits pretty snug around the shoulders and over my Scottish barrel-chest.  Even if the waist shrinks another inch or two, the chest will be the same.

Getting them back to Ottawa shouldn’t be a problem.  My plan to brink some of my casual fat clothes back to New Brunswick for Dad and my brother-in-law to fight over means there will be plenty of room left  in my luggage for new stuff.  Since I left for the airport from the office, I only packed one suit for my cousin’s wedding and brought the one I wore to work on the plane as a spare.  I have to go directly to the office for a meeting when I get back, so I’ll throw a suit on before I hit the plane.  Long and short of it is there’ll be enough room in the wardrobe bag for the purchases.

One of the great things about being back in Fredericton is running into friends who I haven’t seen in a while.  The reaction on their faces is enough reminder of how important it is to follow through and reach this finish line.



Week 32 – two out of three ain’t bad

This week’s weigh-in:  179 lbs

Weight loss to date: 57 lbs

To Goal: 9 lbs

I want to thank everyone for their support and kind remarks.  Despite the disappointing overall result this week, it’s been pretty eventful since my last entry.  There’s been some good, some bad.  I have you to thank for the former and only myself to blame for the latter.

First, the race report.  I ran my second 5K race last Sunday, the Fresenius Alive to Strive.  It was a different course than the Ottawa Race Weekend 5K and a much smaller event.  I would be surprised if there were a hundred people registered for the three events (1k, 5K, 10K).  In some ways, I enjoyed it a bit more because it wasn’t such a crowded event and I could concentrate on running forward instead of dodging pokey people who positioned themselves closer to the start line than they had any business being.  No backpackers or urban polers at this one!

I started my day with my 5K clinic practice run.  The 1o minute run, 1 minute walk x 2 intervals gave me a good 3.5K warm up with several hours to recover before my 2 pm start.  Plenty of time to have a nice, healthy brunch with a friend before heading out to the Terry Fox Athletic Facility.  I got there around 1 pm, did some stretching, a warm up, and even the athletic cliche of visualizing my race while listening to my playlist before heading to the start line on Hogs Back Rd.  It was scheduled to start at 2, but we were a few minutes behind.  Technical difficulties or something.

Gun goes off and so do I.  My iPod was set to my “Run 2” playlist.   I kept to my game plan of running a little under 6 minutes per kilometre with 10 and 1 intervals.  As I entered the stadium for the last 300m, the Green Hornet theme came on the iPod.  This is the last fast song on the playlist, so I knew it was time to hard charge to the finish line.  And hard charge it, I did.  According to my iPod, my pace was under 5 min/km the last few measurements it took.  My friends Chris and Brittany met me at the finish line and we enjoyed some free food while we waited for my results.  I also ran into another Chris, this one was in the 5k/10K combined clinic I just finished as a group leader.  He ran the 10k and seemed a little disappointed in his result, around 63 minutes, but admitted he slacked off on training since the clinic ended two weeks.  I also ran into a neighbour from my building, Sabrina, who I met just Wednesday.  I told her about the event when we met in the elevator.  She registered a result 2 minutes longer than mine.  Not bad for someone who didn’t even know about the event until 5 days before.

My result?  I clocked in at 28 minutes  and 44.5 seconds.  Ranked 43rd out of 121 participants and 11th out of 19 in my category (Male 30-39).  It was ten seconds short of beating my personal best (32:35 in the Ottawa 5K) by four whole minutes.  Placing at the edge of the upper third of all participants was pretty exciting, too.  If you read earlier posts, you’ll know the goal I set for myself was to be just over 30 minutes. Goal set, goal crushed.

Second, the weigh-in.  As I mentioned, there was some free food at the run. As the beneficiaries of the fundraising for the race included the Kidney Society and the Diabetics Association, it was all healthy food and quite tasty.  I indulged in some of the healthy food that wasn’t on the nutrition plan, some pasta salad and a pita wrap.  They were delicious.  There was also a beer stop at Quinn’s.  And this was before dinner (which was all nutrition plan compliant).  Eating at odd times Friday, again after a run, and Saturday probably didn’t help.  No one to blame but me on that those.  The result was three pounds added between Friday and Monday mornings.

I should have behaved through the week, but Tuesday was the Prime Minister’s Garden Party. I mostly watched what I ate (probably should have passed on that one piece of beer-battered cod, though), but not what I drank.  I started with white wine but then had a couple of beer.  The PM likes to have a different local microbrew each year.  Last year it was Beau’s.  This year it was Hog’s Back.

The beer at 24 Sussex was followed by a keg master split amongst friends at the Highlander. Another pound on Wednesday. Doom on me.

I ate properly on the rest of the week, but I only managed to shed two pounds in 48 hours to get the results above.  Granted, it’s probably not healthy to lose any more than that in a given week, so my misbehaviour in the first half of the week set me up for failure. 

Goal set. Goal … not so crushed.  My penance will be abstinence:  no booze until I reach 176lbs.

Third,  ending the week on a positive note, I bought a suit.  I was going to wait until September when I finished my training, but it was from the new Mad Men collection at Banana Republic.  It’s a limited edition collection, so once it’s gone from the store, it’s gone.  It’s been out a little more than a week and already the BR at the Rideau Centre is down to just a few suits remaining.  In fact, they only had three suit jackets remaining.  The overcoat is sold out in all sizes but XL nationwide.   This suit just isn’tt going to be there in September.  I’ll probably go down one more size by the time this is done, so I went with a tight fitting size 40.  That’s six sizes smaller than I was one year ago (dutiful readers will note that its a size up from the rented wedding tux, but the style of this suit is a slim fit like the suits of the era the show is set in).

Luckily, the smaller I get the more proportionate my chest and waist get with my arms and legs.  I can now buy off the rack without having to get the legs and arms tailored.  This means if I somehow fall short of my goal and don’t shrink into that suit in 60 days, I can take it back for a refund.

Down six sizes in seven months?  I think we can call that:  Goal set.  Goal crushed.

Some lessons from the past week:

Training matters.  If you haven’t guessed already, I’m a 33 year old recovering fatty mcfat fat.  My neighbour Sabrina is almost the exact opposite. She’s 19, petite, and athletic.  According to conventional wisdom, she should have crossed the line a hell of a lot sooner than I did.  The difference was I trained and she ran a few times on the treadmill.  Lest you think I’m picking on a girl, Chris should have known better, too.  He was the fastest 10K runners in the 5K/10K clinic.  In fact, he started in the 5K clinic and moved into the 10K after a few weeks for a greater challenge.  Same lectures, different runs.  In the downtime between the end of the clinic and the race, he went on his summer vacation and didn’t run once in two weeks.  He also ignored the ten weeks of training he paid for by running flat out instead of sticking to 10 and 1 intervals.  His time was much longer than he anticipated because he didn’t keep up with his training and didn’t stick with his plan.  By not taking his one minute breaks, he didn’t allow his body to recover mid-run and his pace continually deteriorated.  He can take solace in the fact that since it was his first race it was by definition his personal best.

Behave on the weekend.  This lesson never seems to stick.  I like to have at least one cheat meal on the weekend.  Besides rewarding myself for good behaviour, there’s a body of science that says a cheat every now and then helps keep the metabolism going fast because the cheat meal tricks the body into thinking it needs to burn more calories than it is actually going to get.  I figure Friday is safe because it’s the end of the day that starts with a personal training workout and ends with a run.  I ate dinner so late Saturday, it might as well have been a cheat.  Frankly, I should have just had some almonds to settle my stomach and then went to bed.  Pasta, sandwich and beer, however small in quantity, on Sunday was not helpful, either.  Again, I should have remembered the lesson from May:  carbs are for before the race, not after.  I could have survived the beer on Tuesday had I behaved on the weekend.

I did a lot of things right this weekend when it came to nutrition this weekend, but the few things I did wrong obviously outweighed the good.  I would be a lot closer to my goal weight if I didn’t have to spend the first half of a week shedding the weekend excess.  In fact, I would likely be crossing the proverbial finish line next week had I not been such an idiot these past two weekends.

Like the unfortunately named Meatloaf sang, don’t be sad because two out of three ain’t bad.


Spotlight: Taking off Twenty

One of the benefits of writing about this journey has been the great conversation started between friends about their own struggles and their journeys to lose weight and improve their lives.  One friend who is going through her own journey is my friend Bronwen.  A filmmaker by trade, she’s taken to YouTube to tell her story.  Here is her first entry:

If you want to follow her story, click the subscribe button. I did.

Week 31 – Now what do I wear?

This week’s weigh in: 177 lbs

Weight Loss to date:  59 lbs

To Goal:  7 lbs


Once again, thanks for all the support over the last week .  I have had a lot of great responses since taking this journal public and have also discovered similar bloggers who are sharing their own stories of weight loss.  When I get a rainy day (summer is too short in Canada to spend a sunny day behind the laptop), I’ll add them to the blogroll so you can find them too.

While it’s just a pound this week, it’s a net of one pound.  I actually dropped four.  My misbehaviour on the weekend caused me to gain three pounds by the time I weighed in on Monday.  I had some drinks with the run clinic I just finished being a group leader for at a pub that did not have a very nutrition plan friendly menu.  Dropped two of the weekend sin pounds by Wednesday and two more between Wednesday and Friday. 

If you read my special post from Saturday, you know the charity pile is now in the hands of Moores for their suit drive and whatever charity owns the box on Isabella St.  I’m sure whoever eventually gets my clothes will put them to good use.  As I’ve written before, I owe so many friends and family a debt of gratitude that can never be repayed in full I think the best course of action is to pay it forward and let my success help someone else.  

There’s another angle as well.  I gave them away as partial punishment for my spendthrift ways.  For new readers who haven’t combed through the old entries yet, I normally spend money on three things:  food, gadgets, and clothes.  Of the three, the latter is the item I’ve been the most foolish with.  I actually had two dozen suits in that pile. 

I’m going to repeat that for the purpose of  emphasis:

I actually had two dozen – twenty-four – suits in that pile.

Barney Stinson has nothing on me.  I couldn’t believe that myself when we counted them at the store.  The reason for the accumulation is a lot simpler than one might think.  Before my weight loss, the only time I get rid of clothes is when they wear out. I may occassionaly give some stuff I really don’t need (like my big winter sweaters when I lived in DC) to charity to clear out closet space, but normally if it’s wearable it stays.  Having spent a few of the last five years in grad school, where the number of times I wore a suit could probably counted on one hand, there hasn’t been a lot of wear and tear.  My summer weight suits and separates also don’t get used much as there are few events once Parliament rises that would require me to wear one.

In many ways, my suit buying reflected my other appetite.  I don’t think I needed a single suit I bought in the last six months.   A couple wore out towards the end of the sitting spring 2010, but I certainly didn’t need to replace it with six suits.  It’s really no different than some of the stupid food choices I made in the past, where I would order a pizza when I could make a smaller, healthier one in half the time at a fraction of the cost.  I justified the suits with plenty of excuses: they were 2 for 1, I wear suits every day it’s like they won’t get used.  Not much different from the pizza order justification:  gotta eat tomorrow, I’ll use the leftover for lunch; it includes wings and pop for under $20, I can’t make that for that amount.  You get the picture.

The real stupid thing, though, was buying the three-pieces in December.  I had dropped enough weight to be down a suit size.  I didn’t know then I would hire a trainer and lose even more weight, but I should have at least held off on buying new clothes until after Christmas.  That was just plain stupid.  I looked damn good in those three-pieces, but it was still a stupid purchase.

New rule:  no clothing purchases over $100 without a friend present.  I trust sales people to make me look good, but, in the end, they’re on commission.  If they can’t convince me to part with my income, they don’t get theirs.  I need a second opinion to make sure there’s someone looking out for my interest, not theirs.

My closet now stands rather empty.  I have three suits I didn’t give away.  All were purchased in the month of May this year.  One is a Zara suit that I bought a couple of weeks after the first two (and a size smaller) and the other two are my Calvin Kleins I bought at Macy’s on my way out of DC after commencement.  Casual shirts outnumber dress shirts at ratio not seen since a mere 300 Spartans held off the Persian army of Xerxes the God King.

Need to make these last for another month or so.  I have a family wedding to go to in three weeks. I hope they still fit.

Starting a new charity pile, too.  This will actually be the charity suitcase.  This is mostly casual stuff and sweaters that are now too big and didn’t fit what Moore’s wanted.  I’m going to bring back to Fredericton on my way to that wedding in Cape Breton and let Dad and my brother-in-law fight over them.  The irony is these clothes are mostly Christmas/birthday/found a deal at Kohl’s in Florida presents from my parents and other family members. 

It’s almost like re-gifting, but without any guilt on my part.  They know they’re getting them for a good reason.  Maybe now they’ll start giving me non-gift card gifts again.  We decided after the disaster of two Christmas’ ago that presents would be mostly gift cards or consumables (booze).  Since I have to travel to get home and you never know what luggage restriction Air Canada is going to place on you until you check in, it’s pretty difficult to give me “stuff” to take home.  If I still owned a car and I was willing to do the drive from Ottawa to Fredericton in late December, it would be one story.  Since neither “if”s apply (the reason behind the latter I will save for my career as a paid humourist), the presents have to stay small.   

Disaster may be too strong a word to describe that Christmas.  My parents gave me some money to put toward some of my debt and a Moores gift card, but the two “items” they gave me – a couple of sweaters – were too big.  One item could be returned, but the other was bought in the US and would cost more to return than it was worth.  I left to return to Ottawa with the monetary gifts that year.

It was an honest mistake.  They felt miserable for it.  I felt like a shit for not liking either of their gifts, but there was no point in faking it.  They looked nice until I actually put them on.  I would have never worn them. 

The other side is, if my own parents are thinking I’m XXXL, maybe I should have taken that as a sign that I was too big and started this journey a year earlier.

In other news, my new run clinic is going well.  Since it’s a small group, I feel a little more comfortable with it being my first clinic as an instructor.  Actually have a metric assload of running this weekend.  Clinic night tonight.  The topic is running gear and the store manager covers it followed by the run.  Practice run Sunday morning. 

My next 5K race is then the same Sunday afternoon, the Fesenius Alive to Strive.  It’s at the Terry Fox athletic facility on Riverside Dr. here in Ottawa.  Hoping to get close to the 30 minute mark with this one.  Start time is at 2 pm.  I’ll probably be there around 1.  Anyone who wants to come to cheer me on is more than welcome.


Special Edition – Getting Rid of the Fat Suits

As mentioned in my last journal entry, this weekend I was planning to do something special.  I was getting rid of my suits and business wear that no longer fit, what I affectionately refer to as “the fat suits”.  Moores is having its annual clothing drive for menswear.  I’ve been waiting for this because their charities will give the clothes to low-income men who are going on job interviews, training, etc.  Many clothing drives sell the clothes and use the money to fund their programs.  There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but I prefer the direct assistance approach.

Someone asked me why I didn’t just sell them on Kijjijji or some website.  As you’ll see in the photos below, there’s so much stuff managing the sales would be a full time job.  I did offer them to any of Facebook friends who wanted to sell them in the Glebe Yard Sale, but there were no takers.

Mostly, I wouldn’t sell them because it seems wrong.  I’ve been blessed with success.  My success would not be possible without the support of friends and family.  I can never repay that debt of gratitude, it’s just too deep. Since I cannot repay my debts, I will pay them forward so that my success will benefit someone who needs the kind of support I have been so generously given.

This is pretty much every item of business wear I had purchased prior to the beginning of May 2011.    Some of those suits date back to before I left for Washington, DC in 2005 to start my PhD.  There’s also some old (and not so old) winter coats a few pairs of shorts, including the plaid ones I compared to a kilt in an earlier post.  There’s a lot of memories in that pile.  The suit I wore for my first visit to Washington, DC, in 2004 is in that pile.  The suit I wore when I first met Stephen Harper a few days later is in there, too.  As are the suits I wore when I met Brian Mulroney (even the tuxedo for the dinner when we dedicated the building in his honour at St. Thomas University), the GG, countless other luminaries and, most importantly, friends.  Even the suit I wore for my PhD commencement less than two months ago made it in there.

The first task was to get them out of my apartment.  I had arranged with building security to have an elevator put on service.  Avril, one of the friendliest security guards you will ever meet, was worried I was leaving. “No, not leaving,” I replied, “It’s just going to look like it.”

My friend Christian Maillett, he of Bald Guy Running fame, offered to help with his car.  His first reaction to the size of the charity pile could be summed up with the letters “W”, “T” and “F”.  We first loaded everything in the elevator and brought it down to the service entrance from which we would load the car.

As you can see, we loaded it to the gunwales and, Wu Tang blasting from the car stereo, headed the Bank St. location for Moores, the scene of the crime.





We arrived at peak time at the store, but my regular sales lady, Liz, stopped everything to help us.  Pretty much everyone was agog at the amount of clothes coming in.  I brought so much in, they couldn’t count it all before Christian had to go pick up his wife from Yoga.  It’s not like we didn’t have another stop to make, too.  Back in the car and crank up the Wu Tang.  Ah, memories of the STU years.

I had a bag of clothes that didn’t fall into what Moore’s was looking for.  I actually bagged this stuff up before I began losing weight because it was stuff I just wasn’t wearing.  I looked around for a charity box to deposit the stuff in for months.  Finally found one on Isabella St. when I had to make a stop with cousin, Glen, a few weeks back.


















And thus marks another milestone on this journey.  Big thanks to Christian for the help.


Week 30 – Not an Addict, Just an Idiot

This week’s weigh-in:  178 lbs

Loss to date:  58 lbs

To goal:  8 lbs

What a week.  Down another three pounds.  I wouldn’t be this close to the finish without your support.

Ironically, this is the 30th week of my program and journal, but the first journal entry I’ve written specifically for the WordPress blog.  It’s a little more daunting writing a public blog than the one I wrote on Facebook  for my family and friends only, but since I didn’t write anything there I couldn’t defend to the media I should be okay.  I’ll still be my frank, self-deprecating, cheeky self.

I want to begin with a thank you to my friend Christian at Bald Guy Running for featuring my blog on his own.  Christian and I have been friends so long, I remember when was the not bald guy running.  He’s the one that got me drunk and convinced me to run the 5K on the Ottawa Race Weekend.

Okay, alright, I got me drunk, but he’s still the one who convinced to the run the 5K.  So all the photos of me in compression shirts, man boobs flopping like I was Pam Anderson in Baywatch are his fault.

Actually, I shouldn’t blame him.  I’m the one that got me into that shape.  He’s the one who gave me an idea as to how to get out of it. Or in it.  You know what I mean.

Speaking of running, I’m now an instructor for a 5K clinic at the Slater St. Running Room.  They guy who bought his first pair of running shoes in February is now an instructor.  I’d boast that it’s because of my steely determination to be the best runner I can be, but we know that’s steaming pile of merde.

The truth is they were desperate.  I was asked on a Wednesday for a clinic that started Friday, two days later.  It’s a clinic that starts in August so it’s rather small.  Not many people want to take a clinic that runs in the summer because it will probably interfere with vacation plans.  The same is true for those who instruct the clinics.  Clinics that start in January and March are quite popular because of New Year’s resolutions for the former and race weekend for the latter.   Also the higher turnout means more money for the instructor.

By the way, tonight is “Bring a Buddy” night, so if anyone wants to come, it starts at 6 at the Slater St. Running Room.

I’ve been thinking a lot about addiction lately.   I’ve often compared this journey to rehab, but I’m wondering if that’s too trite an analogy.  It’s probably because Amy Winehouse died.  I saw her perform when she was first hitting it big on this side of the Atlantic while I lived in Washington, DC.  An amazing talent. Watching her downward spiral in the glare of the public eye has been a tragedy that I’m not sure Shakespeare could imagine.  It was certainly disgusting enough that the guilty pleasure of watching tabloid entertainment shows just made me feel guilty and I stopped watching.

Sure, like those addicted to drugs and alcohol, I have had to change my lifestyle to get this close to my goal and I will have to maintain those changes forever to succeed and remain successful.

The other side, though, is the consequences of failure seem far fewer.  Sure, fatty me was at risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, etc., (which run in my family so I always felt genetically cursed anyway) but the onset would probably be decades away if ever.  Other than the disappointment of those that have followed me and having to buy fat clothes again, the consequences seem pretty light compared to those who are physically addicted to drugs and alcohol.  We have to remember the dangers of addiction are not just from drugs and alcohol, themselves, but also the behaviours the addict engages in service of their habits.  There have been early morning walks to my training session this summer where I’m pretty sure I was the only non-addict on the streets at that hour. When you live downtown and are up as early as I have been, you see things you wish could be unseen.  Today felt especially like a scene from the opening of Watchmen.   If Ottawa is like this, I shudder to think what I would see in larger centres.

I am sure overeating – the cause of my obesity – is compulsive behaviour, but “addiction” when it applies to food seems like it trivializes those most in need of help.  Addiction is medical, compulsion is behavioural. People who actually know about this stuff can feel free to educate me if I’m wrong.  When it came to food, though, I never felt I was addicted to food.  I just made lousy choices.  The “got home late for work and ordered a pizza that took 40 minutes to deliver and could have made a better one from ingredients in fridge in half the time” kind of choices.

Compulsive behaviour has to be dealt with in a similar manner as addiction, but they’re just not the same.  The compulsive must learn new habits, but won’t die if they don’t get poutine.Poutine (something I can honestly say I wouldn’t eat even when I was a fatty) may be bad for you but it doesn’t rewire your physiology to make every fibre of your physical being crave it the way heroin or methamphetamines do, even if it seems this way.

I was never an addict.  I’m not sure I could even be called compulsive.  I was just an idiot.  Plain and simple.

Thanks to a few friends who, though I doubt any of them realized it at the time, said the right things and the right place at the right time, I’m less of one now.