Monthly Archives: January, 2012

Comeback trail

Now this was a week. So much better than last week.

You know you’re having an off week when the highlight is waking up at 6 am to join thousands of women looking for a deal on yoga pants. As much as I did have fun with the Lululemon sale, it was the high point of a pretty mediocre week. The bruised muscles from the fall meant I couldn’t do much of anything until Wednesday when I went to Greco in the morning and run club in the evening. Total overkill. Thursday was pretty much back to the couch.


Of course you know about Friday. I’m sure a lot of us who were there Friday morning probably had some morning after regrets as we saw the Twitter updates on Saturday and Sunday. No buyers remorse with anything I had purchased, but had I waited a day, the lines were much quicker on day 2 and 3 and by mid-morning Saturday, they were additional deals on men’s stuff. Like I said, not a lot of dudes in those lines.

… okay the maybe six guys there who weren’t dragged  there by their significant other


…it was just me?


Early bird gets the worm? My ass.

At the same time, it’s not like I had anything better to do Friday morning.

This week was so much better.

It started Sunday with run club.

The 5K instructor was out of town, so I was asked to lead her clinic’s run. While I was looking forward to a good 6K with the 10K group, duty called. Have to say, I’m jealous. The new clinic is easily the size of my last two combined. The run, of course, was followed by coffee at Bridgehead.

Monday and Tuesday it was back to Greco. They’ve started their Extreme Lean and Fit program on Tuesdays, Thursdays,  and Saturdays, so I figured I would give it a shot. It’s a more intense workout, with a longer time at each station, but fewer stations and only two sets. I really enjoyed Tuesday and Thursday, but I think I’ll probably do one of their regular workouts on Friday and keep Saturday as my routine recovery day. The 8 am time might get complicated once the job situation is rectified, too.

Wednesday, swam in the morning and got my 6K in with a great run from the front of Parliament Hill, across to Gatineau and back to the store. It was a great evening. Since it was only -5, -10 with the windchill, it was actually the warmest run this year. I like doing the longer distances with the 10K as a warm-up to the half-marathon clinic as it pushes me out of my 5k comfort zone, yet eases me into half-marathon.

It being January 25th, it was only fitting for this half-Scottish Maritimer to get his haggis on at the Highlander. While they normally do it over a couple of nights, they just did it on Wednesday this year. I guess they figure with the All-Star game in town, they don’t need specials to pack the place. Unfortunately, I also got there too late for the formal ceremony of the piping of the haggis and the free stuff, so no pictures in the centurion helmet this year. Will try to correct this when it’s their mascot’s birthday next month.

Thursday, I got back to Greco for another Extreme Lean and Fit in the morning and then, in the afternoon, I got my skate on.

That’s right, I hit the Rideau Canal for the first time this year. I had promised a friend I would teach her how to skate and we both wanted to do it before the tourists hit town for Winterlude. It was closed due to warm weather earlier this week and, from the look of the forecast, there was the possibility of another such closure today (and it is).

If we wanted to avoid a crowd, it was the wrong day. Someone, me, should have looked at what was going on around town. When we got there, there were hundreds, if not thousands of people gathered on the canal. The RCAF brass band was playing the hockey theme (the music that used to be the theme to Hockey Night in Canada). There was a parade of TimBit hockey players pushing the NHL Award trophies along the canal. Then the trophy of trophies arrived…

Hopefully the first of many Stanley Cup parades in Ottawa.

If you haven’t guessed yet, Ottawa is the host city of this year’s National Hockey League’s All-Star Game. There’s a ton of events downtown and the game, itself, is out at Scotiabank in Kanata. As we in Ottawa like to say, Scotiabank isn’t in the ass end of nowhere, but you can see it from there. I was so spoiled living in DC. A five minute walk to the Twinbrook metro station and the train would take me right to the Verizon Center in Chinatown. Here, you get on a bus and unless you get on at the Rideau Centre, you will be lucky to make it in time for the puck to drop. They also leave immediately after the game or event is over, so you have to beat it to the bus stop in order to get home or be stranded at the stadium. Don’t stop at the merch table.

Once the buzz of the Cup had passed, it was time to get skating. The crowd on the canal stayed with the cup towards the Wellington St. end of the canal and we set off in the opposite direction.

Michael C. Read, PhD., Professor of Skating Sciences

We skated as far as the Bank St. Bridge and made it back within  two hours. My student fell a few times, but was a total trooper. After shedding the skates, it was time for me to chase some tail.

Beavertails, that is!

Don't judge!

Not exactly on any meal plan anywhere, but I figure I can take the hit for this once in a blue moon treat. In my defence, it just had cinnamon and lemon juice. There were much worse options available.

As you can see the sun was going down at this point and temperature was dropping like a stone. It was time to further reward ourselves with some scotch, MacAllan 12 year, and a bowl of soup at the Highlander.

Woke up this morning to some sloppy weather and decided to workout at my building.  I figure a good 45 minutes in the salt water followed by some sauna time might be good for the muscles after what I put them through this week.



And so it begins … again

As mentioned in last week’s post, the passing of the week marks an end to my year of losing weight and the beginning of my year of not being fat anymore. With so many things accomplished in the previous 52 weeks, the next 52 weeks has a lot to live up and will be difficult to surpass. That’s not to say I’m not going to try. I intend to make this year the Godfather, Part II or Empire Strikes Back, the rare sequels that surpass the original, of years.

One lesson learned in the last week: never put “the end” in the title of blogpost. It’s bad juju. I had my first winter run stumble last Sunday. I’ve been running with the 10K clinic while I’m waiting for my half marathon clinic to start.  We were doing 5K on Sunday morning in -33 degree windchill. We also had a few days of snow that instantly turned to ice with the temperature drop, well below the ability of salt (or whatever supposedly environmentally friendly stuff the NCC uses along the canal) to have any effect.  By running at a substantially slower pace and having a shorter stride, I was pretty good until I rounded a turn coming back onto the pedestrian bridge across the canal. My feet slipped out from under me and, like a Looney Tunes cartoon, for a brief moment, I was airborne before plummeting to the ground. I picked myself up and kept going. Not until later in the day, after the adrenaline and post-run caffeine intake had subsided, did the damage reveal itself. Nothing major, just some bruised muscles in the shin region that made moving miserable enough Monday and Tuesday that I took time off from my workouts at Greco to let it heal. Back in the saddle on Wednesday with a morning workout and evening practice run.

Yes, it was as cold as it looks.

Speaking about post-race caffeine.

Running may be it's own reward, but you know what's also a reward? Latte.

A bunch of us normally go to Bridgehead on the corner of Bank and Albert after our Sunday run. This past Sunday, I absent mindedly left my water belt behind and it had my OHIP card in it. How absent minded? I didn’t notice until Wednesday when I went to pull the bottle out of my running gear bag and it wasn’t there. Thankfully, I didn’t need to make use of the healthcare system over my tumble.

As a brief aside, I know what it’s like to show up at a Canadian emergency room without valid coverage. I sought treatment once for a scratched cornea only to discover my provincial coverage had expired. They were more than willing to see me, but the bill was going to start at $375 just to see the doctor. Remember fellow Canucks, our healthcare is an insurance system. Just because you don’t see a bill, that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. While some provinces charge a discrete premium, the rest gets paid through from general revenue, which is fancy jargon for taxes. We all pay our bills on April 30th. The system is great but it is neither free nor cheap to run. Please stop telling our American friends otherwise.  They have their problems which I would love to explain … at my consulting rate of $200/hr.

Back to our story: I wasn’t quite sure where I left my belt and only went back to Bridgehead shortly before Wednesday’s practice run on a hunch. I asked the staff at the counter and they replied “Oh, the run belt? One second.” and went to the back office to get it. It was even still full of water from Sunday. How’s that for service? To whoever found it and turned it in along with the staff: thank you.

There’s a big event here in Ottawa this weekend. Lululemon is having a warehouse sale here. You have to love a company that can make fun of its own customers.

Lululemon is a great Canadian company. Their founder, Chip Wilson, is a big fan of Ayn Rand and recently had “Who is John Galt?” on their shopping bags. Their CEO, Christine Day, was named CEO of the Year for 2011 by Report on Business Magazine, the first woman to have such a distinction. The stock value is through the roof on the TSX.

Oh year, they make some pretty good products, too. Needless to say, they’re popular.

My magic number

I got there a little before 7 am and there already 400+ people in queue ahead of me. It was pretty well organized. In the few minutes between my arrival and when the venue let us in, at least that many more had arrived. I found some great deals, but I have to admit the variety of items for men was pretty slim.

They probably could have used more space for the women’s change room. There was no wait to get into the guys’ room. Of course, that’s going to happen when girls outnumber guys at an event by a ratio of 100:1.

Yes, my fellow males, of the 600 patrons allowed in the first batch, I was one of maybe 6 men.

With the long wait to try on clothes, many women had taken to just finding a space along the wall, doffing their kits (as my British friends would say) and trying the merchandise on.  They were even doing so in line for the cash, using the chorale bars as hangers for merchandise that didn’t fit.

Usually shows like that charge by the song.

There are times where I decry this generation’s lack of modesty. I can do the grumpy old man bit as well as anybody. That wasn’t me this morning. The staff were pretty enthusiastic and it was rather infectious. They were even were giving out free toques and mitts to customers as they left.

Namaste, muthaf*ckas!

The few gripes I have have more to do with the facility than the event, itself. The parking lot could have used someone to direct traffic. I met up with friends and we left in their car. It was probably the only chaotic part of the experience.  The first wave of arrivals was leaving as we were and people were trying to get in. Uplands Drive was backed up in all directions. At one point, they sent out a Twitter update asking people to park at the airport and take a shuttle over. The venue is steel and concrete and, as a result, had terrible cell phone signal and its wifi was useless.  Thankfully, the frequent announcements in the waiting line made up for the Twitter and Facebook updates we couldn’t get.  Believe it or not, the sale is not the only event there this weekend. There’s also a home reno show.

Congress Centre next year? Please?

A tip: if you’re going Saturday or Sunday, go early for when the venue opens at 7 am. This is not the kind of sale you can just drop into. The shortest wait time will be at the beginning. If you make it in that first batch of 600, you can be out of there and back to whatever else you want to do by 10:30ish.

I’m getting ready to start my half-marathon training. I’m already modulating my goals, for the better (I hope). I was planning to be train for a 2:30 target time. After discussing it with my instructor and some of my more experienced running friends, I’ve succumbed to peer pressure and stepped up my game. I’ll be pace leading the 2:15 group instead.

In the meantime, I’m running with some friends in the 10K. The distances right now are long enough that it will ease me into the half marathon clinic.

Looking forward to the challenges ahead.


This is the end …

… of my year.

What? Did you think I was calling it quits on the blog?

You should know by now I like writing too much to let this drop. It’s also a great tool to keep myself accountable.

I also have low self-esteem and am in constant need of affirmation from others.

Okay, go ahead and call bullshit on that last sentence.

Not the last potato I would see in October.

In truth, I have the Doors song stuck in my head. Some techno pile of pablum on the playlist for my Greco classes samples the opening in its chorus. It’s not as bad as the techno cover of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb I heard at Freshii one night

I almost didn’t make it. While I reached my goal weight with Free Form Fitness at the end of  September, I added a few pounds between the end of my time there and the beginning of my time at Greco Lean and Fit.

I worked the extra pounds off and then some at Greco. The indulgences of New Brunswick and a relaxed exercise routine during my trip home for Christmas holidays added a few back. Renewed food discipline and increased exercise, four Greco sessions to make up for the loss of a run night, beat it back the weight to below 170.

By the numbers

                       Worst (Sept 2010)     January 13 2011    January 13 2012

Weight (lbs)          250ish                                   234                              165

Body Fat %              ?                                           36%                           21.9%

BMI                            38                                          35.6                           25.1

Neck (In)                17.5                                         17.5                            15

Chest                         52                                           50                               38

Waist                         42                                          42                               32

I’ve gone from looking like

Don Corleone


Don Draper

While most of my friends wished 2011 goodbye and good riddance, I was kind of sad to see the old girl go. While it did end on a low note professionally, the preceding 52 weeks taken in total simply constitute the best year of my life. I accepted the challenge of getting to 170 lbs and I exceeded it. On a dare, I took up running, committing to do a 5K race. I not only survived that race, but a found a new passion. I did four more 5K races since then and went from 32:35 in May to a personal best of 27:25 in September. I’ve deepened my existing friendships and made a lot of new ones.  Becoming an instructor at the Running Room reignited my passion for teaching.

How much have my looks changed? The facial recognition feature of iPhoto hasn’t recognized me since July. I have to manually

That’s how I did this, but why did I do this?

To protect my side gig as a Ricky Gervais impersonator. Ricky lost weight, so did I.

Well, not really. Seeing some high profile celebs that I’m a fan of, like Ricky Gervais and Jonah Hill, get fit this year helped strengthen my resolve to succeed, but the resolve was already there.

I knew I would have to do this eventually. In 2004, I clocked in at 244 lbs and was diagnosed with sleep apnea. I had the choice of the CPAP machine or lose weight, so I hit the gym and got my weight down to 180 lbs by the time I left New Brunswick for my PhD studies in Washington, DC.  I had no idea my weight had crept back on me over the next five years. The sedentary lifestyle of the graduate student combined with the penchant for stupid food choices lead to it all coming back and then some.

In many ways, this last year has felt like the Doctor’s regeneration sequence. I look different. (I’m sure you’re getting sick of the Doctor Who references, but I’m not.) I feel different. More energy. More stamina. I go to bed earlier, but I also get up around 5 am almost every day.  Farmers and fishermen don’t get up this early (at least this time of year).

I am still the same, though. Think of it as the 2nd Michael.

The next year has a lot to live up to. The blog will continue while I actually go an entire year not fat. What you’ve read up until today was just the prologue.

There are challenges ahead. Some, like the half-marathon, I’ve set for myself.

Others have been thrust upon me. My old flames, my most psychotic stalker ex-lovers have found me. First, Covered Bridge Potato Chips found its way to the Organic Food Store near Vicky’s.

Now ….

My greatest enemy has found me. Five Guys. The Daleks to my Doctor. They stalked me all the way from Washington. Time and space meant nothing for them in their dogged pursuit of me.  They crossed a border. This litter was at the foot of the stairs to my apartment building when I came home from a movie Monday night.

They’re here. There’s one in Riverside, a mere 3.5 km away.

The Doctor ended the Time War between the Time Lords and the Daleks by placing the whole conflict in a time lock, literally locking them away from existence.

I don’t quite have that capability. I’m just not going to go  to Riverside.

The answer is that simple: just don’t go. If Tron: Legacy taught us anything, sometimes the only way to win is to withdraw from the game.

To quote a great admiral:


So You Say You Want A Resolution III – Give Back

You called in the pros.

You surrounded yourself with friends that are good for you.

Now it’s time to JFDI.





Take the plans others have tailored to your goals and execute them. Follow your exercise plan. Do not deviate from the nutrition plan.

You’ll se some pretty dramatic results at first. The lifestyle changes you’ve made will be such a sudden shock to the system, don’t be surprised if you drop 5 lbs. that first week.

Word of caution, early results are atypical. As your body adjusts, you week to week loss will be an average of 1-2 lbs. Some weeks you may not lose a pound. Some weeks will be setbacks. (NB: I’ve found it helpful to buy my own scale that also does the body fat percentage. Declining BFP in a week where weight increased will show some of those setbacks are due to muscle gain outstripping fat loss).

As the good weeks outnumber the bad, soon the clothes won’t fit and tailoring will have gone from a rear guard action to an exercise in futility.

It’s time to replace the wardrobe.

I actually had to do this twice. I did a mini-replacement in the spring to get through my university commencement and spring sitting of Parliament. By the time fall came, actually by the time summer arrived, that stuff was too big. I did the wholesale replacement of the business wear in the fall and then went on my casual shopping spree in late November.

As you buy new clothes, you’ll have to make room in the closet for the new stuff. What to do with old stuff?

In the age of EBay, Craigslist, and the like, there will be the temptation to sell off your stuff.

Take my advice: don’t.

First, you have so much to sell and so many of the potential buyers are looking for something for nothing, it’s more trouble than its worth.

Second, there will be so many people invested in your success, you will never be able to pay them back directly. Sure, the professional you hire to come up with a plan will be rewarded and they will have earned every nickel, but what of the Christians and Vickys? They helped you because they’re your friends and they saw you for what you could be even if you didn’t. How are you going to pay them back?

The simple answer is: you can’t. The debt you owe them makes Chewbacca’s Wookie life debt seem like a bummed cigarette in comparison. It is because of these people that your immediate life is better. When people ask how are you doing, you’ll sound like a Charlie Sheen interview from spring 2011. You’ve added years to your lifespan. You more than look awesome. You are awesome.

That’s not a debt one easily quantifies. Go ahead, try.

You can start by trying to help them realize their own goals. Vicky and I are about to embark on new challenge together. We’ll be training together for the half-marathon for the Tamarack Homes Ottawa Race Weekend.  We’ve already registered for race day and the Running Room’s Half Marathon clinic. We also workout together at GrecoLeanandFit. I hope to be the positive force in her life in the next year that she has been in mine this past year.

BTW, if you’re interested in any Ottawa Race weekend events, register soon. There’s 9000 places per event and they all sell out months in advance. The reason why Vicky was cheering me on for last year’s 5K was by the time she found out she was going to be in town that weekend, the race had sold out. That was almost two months before race day.

My friend Christian is a more difficult kettle of fish. He’s already the accomplished runner and is in great shape.

For that matter, in these recent posts I’ve thus far failed to mention my friends Chris and Brittany, whose wedding this summer gave me the added goal of looking good in a tuxedo?

Or of my parents and grandparents who inculcated the character in me to tackle this challenge?

You start to see the point.

Since I can never repay the debts I owe, I pay them forward.

Yes, it sounds corny, but it’s pretty straightforward.

When it came to what to do with those fat clothes, I waited for Moore’s annual suit drive to donate my business wear and tossed most of my spring and summer casual wear into a charity bin.

the Charity Pile

As that great villain, the Canadian winter, began to rear its ugly head again in Ottawa, I bagged up my winter wear and called the Shepard’s of Good Hope here in Ottawa. They’re in constant need of winter clothes of all sizes to help the homeless survive winter and will come to pick up your stuff. A little known fact, Ottawa is the coldest national capital on earth.

There are many worthy charities in your area that can make good use of your soon to be oversized stuff.

Google them.

Contact them.

Give them your shit. In the spirit of George Carlin, once it no longer fits, it’s not stuff anymore. It’s shit.

It’s of no use to you, give it to someone who will put it to use.

For runners, it’s actually quite easy. Most of the races out there benefit a charity or two. In the four races I ran this year, 9 charities have benefited. If you agree to raise a certain amount for the charity, they will waive your entrance fee. Some charities sponsor runners that fundraise for them. If you agree to raise a certain amount, Team Diabetes will not only pay your registration fee, but the travel and accommodations for international events.  Raise money for Charity. See the world. Run. Downside? None.

While they are all worthy events, the Run for the Cure was the most personal for me as both of my grandmothers have been afflicted with breast cancer. It was really fun event and a great goal race for my 5K clinic. My paternal grandfather, Thomas Read, also died of cancer. Taking part in a run that raises money for a cause you believe in is but another way to combine your new passion for fitness with your duty to pay it forward.

To recap:

Call in the pros.

Surround yourself with Christians and Vickys.


One foot in front of the other.

Pay it forward.

And …

Wait for it …


Week 52 – Back in the Saddle

What a week.

Before I get started, there’s a lot of new readers to this blog. With the new year upon us, the tradition of the New Year’s Resolution has been much discussed.  Of equal discussion is the unlikelihood that the vast majority of them will be kept. Partly due to the boredom of being in the Moncton airport a full four hours before my flight to Ottawa (Thanks, Dad!), I decided to counter some of the snark with tweets of the link of the photo gallery section of the blog to some of the more famous on my Twitter feed.

As my flight was called for boarding, YouTuber Philip DeFranco sent me a nice reply and retweeted my tweet to his followers … all 248,957 followers.  When I got off the plane in Ottawa and took my phone off airplane mode, it buzzed with incoming messages and push notifications from Twitter seemingly forever. Curious, I checked the blog hits via the iPhone app. In the two hours I had been on the plane, I had over 2000 hits. My previous busiest day was 75. I’ve had more readers this week than the five and a half months this blog has been public.

Thanks, Phil.  Mega thanks.

To get new readers up to speed, I wrote a pair of posts, the cliff notes versions of how I succeeded.

So You Say You Want a Resolution – Part 1

Part 2 – With a little help from your friends

I have a third post on this theme in mind which I’ll probably get to on the weekend, once I find which Beatles tune to play with for the title.

The second half of my visit home for the holidays was pretty non-eventful. It was nice and restful, which was just what I needed. New Year’s Eve was spent at my parents’ house.  It had been freezing rain all day and, as I explained last week, I wasn’t fussy with the idea of spending $100 to go to an event before I bought my first drink. Besides, I had a run in the morning, but more on that later.

Just because I stayed in, doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun. I entertained my parents by reading them the posts I was writing to taunt my sister over Facebook. She had asked who was coming to the polar bear dip by her place. When I signalled my interest, she said I had to wear a “real” bathing suit. NO SPEEDOs. I played around for a bit before relenting. I had her so wound up, though, she called the house the next morning and asked Dad if I was coming and if was going to wear the Speedos. At that point, we knew we had done enough and let her know we were only pulling her leg.


We were contemplating going and pulling some prank, like wearing the offending garment over a larger pair, but decided with the ice still on the majority of city roads the country roads to my sister’s would be too treacherous. Passing a van in the ditch in our neighbourhood sealed our fate.  The men of Durham don’t have to be green with envy until next year.

Race Report – Resolution Run

I, along with a hundred plus fellow Frederictonians, started 2012 off with the Resolution Run.  It’s an annual event that is hosted by the Running Room in cities where they have stores.  Ottawa’s was actually the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. It’s a rather popular event. Ottawa’s actually sold out in late October, hence my decision to stay in Fredericton for NYE so I could do the Resolution Run.  While I would have liked to have run with my clinic participants, the Ottawa run had sold out so quickly, none of them had the chance to register for their target race.

It was a little different than my previous runs. It was winter in every sense of the word. As you might guess from the shine in the photo above, the previous day’s freezing rain had rendered our starting point, the Fredericton Exhibition Grounds, into a sheet of glass.  It made for a slow, cautious start.  It was also the first run I did on city streets where the streets themselves were not closed to traffic.  Thankfully, the combination of the early hour, residential neighbourhood, and it being the morning of  New Years Day, meant we didn’t have to share the road with a lot of traffic.

One big exception:  When I rounded the Inglewood/Harewood corner on my first lap through Sunshine Gardens, the entire street was blocked by a pick-up truck and trailer which was attempting to back out of a driveway as the first wave of runners hit his street. I don’t know what, if anything, the local organizers do to notify residents of the neighbourhood we ran through, but one would think if they new that 200 people were going to be running through their street, they would have left before the appointed hour of the race’s beginning.

If you click the link above, you’ll see I recorded a time of 27:22. This would be a personal best if only the Garmin had recorded a full 5K. I probably started it a little late or stopped it a little early, or both. I figure another .1 km would have been at least 8 seconds, so let’s call this 27:30 … ish. A personal best at home before I graduate to the half-marathon would have been nice. Between the terrain challenges and the effect of cold on the muscles, it’s bloody near impossible, though, to pb in the winter.

Didn’t stop me from trying.

It was warm enough that my parent’s did come out for the run. I have them to thank for the photos in this post. The temperature was in the low negative single digits.  Warm compared to the near -30 after windchill that greeted me on my return to Ottawa.

Yes, my return to Ottawa. Despite no reason to otherwise get up at such an unGodly hour, I woke up at my usual pre-unemployment time of 5:30 to hoof it to Greco. I wanted to get back into my fitness routine as soon as possible. The last thing I want is for my recent “involuntary unpaid leave” (how’s that for an euphemism) to be the the reason I go all Flowers for Algernon and regress into the man I was a year ago. That would elevate a momentary problem into a complete tragedy. I’ve signed up at GrecoLeanandFit for the next twelve months. I figure plunking down the money for the next twelve months in one fell swoop will force me to continue. I’ll sign up of the Running Room’s Half Marathon Clinic on Sunday.  The renovations to my building’s swimming pool are now complete and it re-opened while I was home for Christmas. The fitness routine is well at hand.

Of course, the title of this post suggests not just a return, but an end. This is the 52nd week of my year of not being fat anymore. Detail-oriented readers will note that I always numbered it with the beginnings of week, not the end. The end of this week will mark the end of the year long journey. Since I did have some indulgences over the holidays and did not workout as often, some I began at Greco may have been reversed. What side of 170 am I currently at? Honestly, I don’t know. I haven’t hopped on the scale since I returned to Ottawa. I want to get as much time back in my routine as possible before I report to you the final results of the journey.

I’ll certainly be continuing the blog even after the journey’s over. After all, I technically haven’t had a full year of not being fat, most of the year was spent getting to the not fat point.

That, and I really love writing. I may not be writing the next great novel, but I love writing nonetheless. You can’t complete a PhD dissertation, approximately 300 pages on some esoteric topic that only you and your committee may ultimately care about, if you don’t love to write.

The past year was really prologue.

The real adventure lays ahead.


You Say You Want A Resolution 2 – A Little Help From Your Friends

Have you hit the gym yet?


Probably a good thing. Most people who try to lose weight for the sake of an arbitrary resolution, hit the gym as soon as it re-opens on January 2nd, do a bunch of exercises, wonder what the hell they are doing, and never see the inside of the place again for another 365 days.

If you read my post yesterday, you already know the importance of calling in the professionals to give you the customized information you need so you can build a plan to not just shed a few pounds, but change your life.

In two sentences: Their job: make a plan for you. Your job: JFDI.

Once you have your plan, there’s another thing you’ll need to ensure success: friends.

In my second post, I wrote about the importance of the real, as opposed to virtual, social networks in our lives. It actually came out of my PhD research on the voting patterns of US expatriates. I started to get interested in their chapter arguing that obesity was contagious. I started to wonder if the opposite was true, that weight loss is contagious, too. I looked at how I was now surrounded by people who were all involved in some form of fitness.

Was it emulating their behaviour that got me on this journey? I don’t know, but if it wasn’t for my friends, I wouldn’t have succeeded.

There are two kinds of friends one keeps around: those that are good to you and those that are good for you. I’ve come to learn recently that just because one is the former does not necessarily mean they are the latter. Those that are the latter will likely include characteristics of the former. A friend that is good to you is not necessarily bad for you, but may be more reinforcing of your baser instincts. A friend that is good for you helps you become a better person. They see in you what you cannot see in yourself.

Did I confuse you? The point is the friends that are good to you might be the equivalent of the bag of potato chips. They’re tasty, but too much will kill you. The friends who are good for you are more like sweet potatoes roasted in olive oil. Still delicious, but also low in simple starches and full of vitamins.

I am lucky to have more of the latter than the former. The decision to go on this journey was by no means a natural one for me. I was quite content the way I was. Looking back, I was the proverbial pig living in the mud, content because it was all I knew. That self-deprecating sense of humour I mentioned in previous posts? A mere smokescreen in place of true self-esteem.

While a lot of friends have helped me on this journey, I need to mention two in particular: Christian and Vicky. If you want to succeed, surround yourself with Christians and Vickys. Find your own. These two are mine.

I’ve known Christian since 1997, when he was a first year at St. Thomas and I was in my second year. He was a band geek and I was just a geek. We became fast friends. He even asked me to serve as best man at his wedding, an honour I greatly accepted.

It was Christian, he of Bald Guy Running, who convinced me to train for the 5K for Ottawa Race Weekend. He was going to slum it with the 5k (he previously did the half marathon for that event) to support his wife, Ramona. I’ve joked that he got me drunk one night and signed me up to the cult of the runner. The truth of the matter, though, is I thought completing a race would be a good intermediate goal. I was supposed to do cardio on my days I wasn’t working out with my trainer, so why not put that activity in the context of a goal that would serve my ultimate goals? He convinced me. I, in turn, talked our friend Michael Clements into doing it, too. Frequent readers will recall that I didn’t know that I had successfully talked Clements into it until he surprised me by showing up on race day with a bib.

Christian, channelling his inner Fred Durst before the Army Run.
Next year, we’re running the half-marathon together.

The 5k dare lead me to the Running Room for my first clinic, the Learn-to-Run 5K. After I completed that clinic, I was asked to be group leader for a combined 5k/10k clinic and, after that, asked to instruct a 5k clinic. Not bad for a guy who bought his first running shoes in February.

The person who really got the ball rolling, though, is my friend Vicky. Ironically, I met Vicky when I quit my job. In the summer of 2008, I realized that despite my best efforts, the PhD field research wasn’t going to get done by commuting between Ottawa and DC. I had called off three research trips, two because work needed me elsewhere and a third because no one was hanging around DC to be interviewed in August. My looming departure forced my office to find replacements for myself and another co-worker who had left in April. Vicky was hired about a week before I packed the Uhaul for Washington. We really got to know each other when I came back the following fall. She eventually left for another Senator’s office, but we kept hanging out. She’s one of my best friends.

By the way, “best friend” is code word for … best friend. Since readership has spiked recently, I figure I should be proactive and not let anyone jump to conclusions. She’s an amazing person who I am lucky to have in my life.

She was the catalyst, the lynchpin that allowed all the ingredients to come together to make this happen, the lever that pried the immovable boulder to roll down down the mountain. Over dinner last December, just before our Christmas holidays, it was Vicky that suggested Free Form. I had just told her about my drop in suit size. She told me she was planning on trying it and suggested I check it out, too. It would further our friendship. Beginning a pattern that would recur throughout this journey, making life choices over food and drink, I said, “sure”. The rest is history.

Getting ready for the Army Run.

I’ve relied on Vicky a lot in this journey. She’s been there for most of the major milestones. She saw me off at the start line for Ottawa Race Weekend. We ran together for the Army Run. She even took me shopping for my first batch of new clothes to get me through the spring sitting. She was pretty astonished to find out not only pretty much everything I owned came from Moore’s, but I hadn’t even stepped foot in most of the stores in the Rideau Centre that didn’t have the word “apple” or “gamestop” in it’s name. I didn’t even know some of these stores actually sold men’s clothes.

The only time she judged me is when I tried something on that looked truly awful. Yes, I tried on some stuff that was truly awful. Not Herb Tarlek awful, but awful nonetheless. Thankfully, she has laughed with me instead of wretching at the utter ghastliness of my sense of modern fashion. I’ve appreciated her honesty, because this stuff isn’t cheap.

Everyone should find themselves a Christian and a Vicky. The funny thing is neither of them told me I should lose weight. They asked me to join them on their journeys. While I’ve written about my own journey, theirs are no less important to me.

You may have noticed a lot, and I mean a lot, of Doctor Who references in my blog posts. Pretty obvious it’s my favourite science fiction show, isn’t it? For those not familiar with one of the longest running TV show in the history of the medium, the Doctor is a Time Lord, a time traveller, who goes about time and space in ship that looks like a British police box. He frequently has a human companion, our entree into his world. The recurring theme of the show is being “bigger on the inside”. He crashes, always crashing, rarely landing smoothly, takes on a companion or two, makes them better over the course of a season or two and then leaves them behind to seek their own destiny.

I always thought I was the Doctor in my friends’ lives. Seems like I’ve come and gone just as frequently the last few years. Don’t get me wrong, DC is great, but it’s no Gallifrey. As you might have noticed throughout the blog, I can prattle incessantly. Sartorial choices come from a different era. Even have a piece of paper conferring the title of Doctor … just not the kind that actually helps people. Turns out, however, I was the companion. They made me bigger on the inside, or smaller on the outside, or … See what I was saying before about prattle?

They saw in me what I couldn’t see for myself: the man I could be. It just took me 9.5 months to dig that man out of a fat suit and see him for myself. I like him and can’t wait to see more of him.

I will never be able to truly repay this debt of gratitude. I can only hope to be as supportive for them in their journeys as they were in mine.

I’m trying. Where Vicky suggested Free Form Fitness, I suggested we continue our journeys with Greco. It was a special to Parliament Hill staff that came in the form of one those e-mails that comes from someone whose apparent job it is to send a dozen messages a day, so she originally ignored it and deleted it unread. I was always paranoid my Chief of Staff will ask me to look up some obscure e-mail when we’re off-site so I would never delete a message (still not sunk in that I’m unemployed. That sentence was originally in the present tense). After serving as her instructor for the 5K clinic, I coaxed Vicky into doing the half-marathon clinic and race with me in the New Year.

So, the lessons thus far for those embarking on their journeys:

1. Call in the pros

2. Surround yourselves with the friends who are good for you, Christians and Vickys

Once those walls are in place:

Put one foot in front of the other.


And … of course …


You Say You Want A Resolution

I was planning on distilling some final thoughts/year-in-review type stuff on my weight loss journey in next week’s regular blog post.   Of course, waiting for airplanes this time of year gives one time to get ahead.  Also, a retweet from Philip DeFranco has created renewed interest in the blog.  All things considered, I figured a series of quick posts may be in order.

Since many of you made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, you’re probably trying to figure out how you’re going to accomplish it.

This is no place for amateurs.  Call in the professionals. 

I’ve  succeeded on my own but failed on my own more than I succeeded.  You can buy a million books and google a million diets, but you’re probably going to fail.  The books are written for a broad audience, not you and your circumstance. I must have picked up a dozen diet books over the years.  Put most of them back on the shelf when their nutrition plans started breakfast with … eggs.

I hate eggs.



I’d flick through the pages to see what the substitute for eggs was.  Egg whites.

Real genius, guys (and girls).

If I wanted the substitute or additional information, there was a lovely website I could go to get what I was looking for … with a paid subscription.

What is this? Dragon’s Den? Did Kevin O’Leary put you up to this?

I tried NutriSystem, once. I tried it because I liked the idea of a month’s worth of food arriving by mail. I had just recovered from a few days of illness when the cupboards were bare, so this appealed to me.

Good Lord that food was awful. It made me want to get sick so I could go to the hospital to have better food. Despite shedding a few pounds on that plan, when the second month’s supply arrived, I couldn’t bring myself to eat it. I happened to look out my apartment window and saw a homeless person dumpster driving in my building’s parking lot. I left the box outside where he could find it when he climbed out of the bin and called NutriSystem to cancel my service.

Whether you get a personal trainer like I did, a nutritionist, a doctor, Weight Watchers or whatever, get advice tailored to your needs and goals.  You’re going to need to spend money to lose weight. You’ll either need a gym membership, equipment, gear or, like me, all of the above.  I did a trainer. I had a friend in grad school who had great success with Weight Watchers. The point is to get expert advice for you as an individual, not you as one of the teeming masses.

Instead of throwing good money after bad advice, pay for advice for you, not the millions of people that watch Oprah. To use the language of my generation, your professional is narrowcast, their professional is broadcast.

JM and me on my last day at Free Form Fitness

For me, hiring a trainer, JM at Free Form Fitness, created the motivation to succeed.  I like my money. I like spending my money on stuff. Stuff I can see, stuff I can use. If I didn’t show up to my sessions, I would be out money.  I was paid decently at my old job, but the training ate up pretty much all of my disposable income. If I didn’t follow the meal plan, I would be out money.  Ironically, if I did everything right and succeeded, I’d still be out money, but I would see the results for which I paid.  In that case, it would be money well spent.

Big picture: I may not be able to afford a tropical vacation this year to show off a beach body, but I would have a beach body to show off next year.

The best thing about calling in the pros, is that you don’t have to figure things out. That’s what you pay them for.

Their job: come up with a plan for your success.

Your job: JFDI – just fucking do it. (Apologies for the strong language. I try to keep the blog cleaner than my real world language)

Now that I’ve reached my main goal for the year, my target weight of 170 lbs, I’ve switched experts. I’m going to Greco Lean and Fit. As my sessions with JM were expiring, Greco had a special on for Parliament Hill staff and I still was one. It’s not personal training, but it’s still infinitely more effective than going solo.
When I was talked into taking up running by my friend Christian, I went to the experts, my local Running Room. I learned a lot from my Learn to Run instructor, Jen, and the 5K clinic instructor, Maya, and now I have two clinics as an instructor under my belt. Going back to being a student, though, and taking the half-marathon clinic.

The boss, John Stanton, CEO of the Running Room, and myself at the Army Run 3K Friendship Warm Up Run

If you stick with your resolution, you’ll improve your life in ways I can’t begin to describe. The short version is: even if you don’t feel bad now, even if you’re not sick or suffering from some weight-related malady, losing weight will make you not only feel so much better, it will make you be so much better.
I’ll share a few more of these this week.
Until then,