Category Archives: travel

Hello 2013. Prepare to be conquered.

So this happened on Thursday.

Globe and Mail, January 10, 2013, P. L6

Globe and Mail, January 10, 2013, P. L6

It’s been an interesting journey for my story. It started as a private journal to my friends and family and a way to keep myself accountable as I went on my journey. Now it’s a public tale on this blog that has been highlighted in the Running Room Magazine and now the Globe and Mail. It’s enough to give one a swelled head.

Nature keeps me humble, though. More accurately, nature keeps humbling me. It’s winter in Ottawa where most days just leaving my apartment seems like an act of defiance to spite the ancient gods. Even a mild day will make for a slippery morning as the thaw refreezes overnight. If I get a swelled head, it’s probably a concussion from slipping on that ice. In fact, after somehow managing to go fall free on a nice 6K run Wednesday night, I did a pretty epic assplant (or, as I like to call it, a “reverse burpee”) on Sparks St. on my walk to Greco the following morning. Not only did I not bang my head, miraculously, I somehow managed to not spill my coffee.

Winning.

Nature was particularly humbling the last few weeks. While I was home for Christmas, we had three snowstorms averaging 30-40 cm a dumping. I managed to get out with the Fredericton Running Room for a 14k LSD. It was supposed to be 16K that week, but windchill brought the perceived temperature down past -20 so the run leader planned a slightly shorter route. Despite having warm clothes to change into afterwards, plenty of hot liquids, and a bite to eat, I don’t think I got warm again until I wrapped myself up in bed that night.

Mother Nature also threw our New Year’s Eve plans in the scrap heap. The original plan was to fly back to Ottawa on the 30th so we could make it back in time for the Resolution Run on New Year’s Eve and attend the Hogmanay at City Hall after the run.

Neither was to be. We woke up that Sunday to a snowstorm. Our flight out of Fredericton was delayed and eventually cancelled. Since the delay already meant I would miss my Montreal connection, I attempted to rebook. As you can guess, Air Canada’s toll free number was busy. I selected the call back option and tried to do it online. The rebooking tools on the website were seemingly turned off when Kalin tried to use the website. Since my father bought my ticket using AMEX points, I had to go through them to make any changes.  That was fine by me. They could stay on hold with Air Canada.

This is what we woke up to in the Fredericton area on the 30th. When I went to bed the night before, the pile of snow on the table was half that size.

This is what we woke up to in the Fredericton area on the 30th. When I went to bed the night before, the pile of snow on the table was half that size.

After a couple of hours, we managed to get re-booked on the same flights to Montreal and on to Ottawa the next day. Unfortunately, it meant we would not be on the ground in Ottawa until 11:30 … pm. Yep, no Resolution Run. No Hogmanay. I called the Bank St. store to let them know and get them to set aside our kits so we could pick them up when we got home. Even if we couldn’t run the race, we’d collect the swag (in this case, jackets).

The evening after ... digging out.

The evening after … digging out.

On the plus side, an extra day in Fredericton meant I got to spend more time with my nephews and play their favourite game: beat the crap out of Uncle Michael.

Don't let the cuteness fool you.  They're ruthless little animals.

Don’t let the cuteness fool you. They’re ruthless little animals.

They usually lose, but this Christmas was more challenging. My sister enrolled her kids in Tae Kwon Do. When they got super excited, they had to be reminded to keep the kicks and punches stay in the dojo or Santa would repossess their gifts. Some day they may actually land a hit, until then we’ll just keep playing.

See, I told you so.

See, I told you so.

Kalin and I made it to Montreal to have a New Year’s Eve dinner at Moe’s, home of the most expensive Creemore beer ever, $11.

$11 for friggin' Creemore? And I thought Labatt's selling Keith's as "premium" beer west of New Brunswick was a joke.

$11 for friggin’ Creemore? And I thought Labatt’s selling Keith’s as “premium” beer west of New Brunswick was a joke.

Pretty much everything in the airport closed early because of New Year’s Eve. The worst was that both Starbucks and Tim’s closed at 8:30. We even watched them pour perfectly sellable coffee out as they informed us they wouldn’t sell us said product.  The Air Canada-run cafe by our gate was open until 9, and I managed to get a cup of coffee for $3. That’s $3 for regular drip coffee, not some fancy drink ending with the syllable “-cinno”. Regular coffee. We hunkered down by our gate and watched some Netflix over the airport WiFi.

Our plane to Ottawa arrived and everyone was overjoyed to hear our pilot say to the gate agent, “I want to be ready to board in three minutes!” as he went for a quick trip to the men’s room.

We made it back to town around 11:30. We rang in the new year in the back of our cab on our way to the downtown. We even saw a lone firework as we drove down Greenfields Dr. It’s not where you are, it’s who you’re with. So long as I with Kalin, that evening would be special.

The next morning, I finally unpacked to make sure the spoils of a trip to New Brunswick arrived intact.

Maritimes, you'll never be far from my heart, or my liver.

Maritimes, you’ll never be far from my heart, or my liver.

Lest you think all that was for me, the Sussex was for a friend of ours, Liesa, the waitress at Mello’s who is also from Fredericton; and half the beer was for Christian. He came to pick it up the following Sunday and joined us for the run club that morning, which for the half marathon clinic was supposed to be an 18K LSD run.

It had snowed overnight and was still snowing that morning. With the usual pace leaders not available that morning, I was asked to co-lead the  2 hr pace group. Oh, I led them. I led them barely cleared trails and roads. I led them up slippery hills. It was a herculean effort to keep at slower end of the pace range for a 2 hr pace group, but we made it. It pretty much wiped me out for the day, though.

Winter here is a no-win situation. If it’s mild, it’s either snowing or thawing during the day only to freeze again at night. If there’s wind, a little cold becomes freeze your face off cold.

Yet, somehow, we endure. Nature may humble us, but it doesn’t destroy us. Winter comes every year and we endure its three months of ritual humiliation. Such is life. We train in whatever life throws at us so we can race in whatever life throws at us. The year starts off trying to conquer us, but, in the end, we conquer it.

Allons-y!

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Identity

My friend, Michael Rudderham, posted this video a week ago on Facebook.

Jay McNeil is a radio DJ in my ancestral homeland of Cape Breton who is on a journey of his own and is bravely telling his own story in a public video blog.

I say bravely because I know it’s something I couldn’t do. I tried. When I moved this blog from the privacy of Facebook to public forum of WordPress I tried to incorporate a video blog. I couldn’t get past doing an intro video. It wasn’t a technical issue. I have a good camera that records in full HD. I’m an iMovie ninja. I just couldn’t get through doing a few minutes without flubbing a line or blubbering like an idiot.

Yes, I wrote blubbering. Cried a few man tears. In my defence, even James Bond cried … twice. As I was reading from the script I had written, my mind wandered through the journey I had taken at that point. It was the end of  July 2011 and I was a mere 11 lbs away from my goal. With most of the journey seemingly behind me, memories and emotions kept flooding to the fore. The early morning wake-ups. The walks to Free Form in the dark, cold winter mornings. The low feelings of hitting plateaus. The unmitigated joy of losing a single pound to break that plateau. The workouts and runs with Vicky and Christian. That first 5K race. Chris and Britt’s wedding. It all just came up. Sometimes it was the giggles. Sometimes it was man tears. Maybe it was my subconscious telling me policy advisors should be heard by the employers and not seen by the public. Whatever was going on in that crazy mind of mine, I simply didn’t have the composure to continue.

I came to realize that writing a blog and shooting a video blog are substantially different activities. There’s a bit of intellectual and emotional distance the written creates creates. Everything I’ve written goes through a couple of edits and re-writes. With video, it’s all out there. Heart and soul. Good on Jay for being able to do what I could not.

The video got me thinking about my identity, who I am versus who I was. I would like to think I’m the same guy. I just shed the fat suit. When I did my weight loss the first time to combat sleep apnea, I told one friend it was to make the outer me look like the inner me. I had positive self-esteem, but I was realistic about what my body looked like. The doctor’s diagnosis helped with that.

Maybe because I was never that heavy, I didn’t settle for less. At least that is what I thought. I’ll probably never figure out to what extent my size and lack of abilities constrained my choices and what I consider success. As worlds of possibility open up before me, it’s obvious that even though I aimed as high as I could, my size put me on a direction where certain choices and achievements were available to me.

That’s okay. I don’t intend to spend any significant period of time being retrospective. I’m not going to be haunted by past successes that just aren’t there.

I’m only starting to understand what it must be like for friends who used to be in shape who have lost their fitness. It took a while because everything I’m doing I’m doing it for the first time. When I look at the past, I don’t see great feats of physical accomplishments. I was on the winning team for “sports day” in sixth grade at Coxheath Elementary. That’s pretty much it for the glory days of youth. Hung up the hockey skates after probably a season. I did summer sports like baseball, soccer, and golf. You know the fervour fans of these sports display? That’s pretty much the level of disdain I hold for these sports. The only thing close to an actual athletic team I belonged to was the Air Gun/Archery club at George Street Junior High.

Two future running bloggers are in this photo. Can you spot them? Winner gets the prestigious Attaboy Award.

That’s not to say I hated sports. I enjoyed non-competitive sports where I could just enjoy myself, like skating and skiing in the winter and swimming in the summer. Maybe that’s why I’ve taken to running. I’m only in competition with myself.

When I look back, though, I see the geeky kid above.  I don’t see provincial championships. I don’t see podiums and medals. Now, to use the vernacular of my generation’s preferred entertainment medium, video games, I’ve levelled up and unlocked new achievements. My greatest successes are in the present. That is where I choose to live.

Allons-y!

PS – Speaking of that annual ritual of youthful sadism “sports day”, for any readers in Cape Breton, the Cape Breton Post took a photo of me humiliating myself, at the skipping station one year. For some reason, 1985 comes to mind, but it could have been as early 1982. If anyone were to find said picture and send it to me, I’d be eternally grateful.

The Folly of Shame

Brace yourself, I’m going to say something nice about Air Canada. Travelling to the Maritimes, we’re pretty much held hostage to Air Canada’s schedule. Yes, there are other domestic carries, but unless you live in Moncton or Halifax, you’re stuck with Air Canada to get to your destination.

I’m not going to recount the nightmare after nightmare flying with them during the winter months have been over the years. My most recent flight was my 6 am return to Ottawa from New Brunswick on Tuesday. I shared my row with a rather obese passenger, large enough they took up almost a quarter of my seat. As the passenger curled up to sleep through the flight and took up even more room, I spent the subsequent two hours thanking God that even at my peak weight I was never large enough to exceed the seat dimensions of an air plane. In fact, one of the lies I would tell myself was, “I fit in one of those tiny airplane seats. I can’t be too overweight.”

Around a year before I started my weight loss, one of my favourite directors, Kevin Smith, was kicked off a flight for being too big for his seat. Sparing myself this public humiliation and the logistical nightmare of rescheduling travel with the one airline that travels to my hometown may have crystallized my decision to lose weight.

I didn’t complain to my passenger or even ask the flight attendant to be reseated. It was a fully booked Dash-8 with all of 17 seats available to passengers (for some reason that remains a mystery to this day, row 2AC is reserved for the flight crew even though the one attendant on the plane has a seat at the front of the plane) and there was simply no seat to move to. I was also partially sympathetic. While I was never in that situation, it was only when I was travelling last year that I realized how big I was. Suddenly the seats on that little plane were … reasonably comfortable.

After the flight in my tired-ass wandering mind on the bus back to downtown , I started thinking. In 2009, the Canadian Transportation Agency recognized obesity as a disability and imposed a “one passenger, one fare” policy on the national airlines. Previously, if you exceeded the width of the seat (defined as seated with the armrest in the down position) you had to purchase the seat next to you. I don’t blame obese people for complaining. Buying two seats is a pretty expensive proposition, up to $3000. It would actually be cheaper to buy a larger executive class seat. Unfortunately, there’s no executive class seating going to and from Fredericton. None on the direct flight from Ottawa. None on the flights from Toronto and Montreal. Certainly none on the plane from Halifax. That plane barely has a luggage hold.

So, if out of the cause of reasonable accommodation, the airlines are forced to only charge a passenger a single fare regardless of the number of seats they use, is it also reasonable to make the partial seat that remains available for the 100% of the advertised fare?

I decided to investigate. I sent the following to Air Canada’s customer complaint e-mail (with personal identifiers removed):

On the above referenced flight, I was seated in 5D, an aisle seat next to an obese passenger who was large enough that the passenger would not safely fit into the seat with the armrest down. For the duration of the flight, the passenger took up about 25% of my seat. I didn’t want to cause trouble for the flight and, frankly, there didn’t look to be another seat available to move to other than 2A and C which are reserved for the flight attendant. I understand several years ago, the Canadian Human Rights Commission [Author’s note: further research revealed it was the Canadian Transport Agency] imposed a “one passenger, one fare” rule on Canada’s airline. With that understood, is it fair to make the seat available next to a passenger so obese he/she cannot fit in a single seat? Given that the Dash-8 aircraft only has two seats per row, there may be occasions where a passenger would need to be reseated. If an obese passenger is going to take up 25% of the adjacent seat, why should the passenger who has paid 100% of a fare for a seat not be entitled to an entire seat? Since there is the aforementioned row reserved for the attendant, who already has a seat at the front of the front of the plane, should not one of the passengers be reseated? It was just over two years ago that I was at my heaviest. While I was never so obese that I could not fit in a single seat with the armrest lowered, I did require come rather close to that size. Had I been at my previous weight on this morning’s flight, I would not have been able to sit in my assigned seat.

That was Tuesday morning. You know what happened? By Wednesday morning, Air Canada e-mailed me with a $150 credit for future travel as a gesture of goodwill. They explained their policy of “encouraging” obese passengers to buy a second seat when in economy class. The issue of the available row 2 which could be used to reseat a passenger remained unaddressed.

It might have helped that I selected the prefix “Dr.” from the drop down menu.

I started to think about some of the recent commentary on fat shaming. It’s basically the idea if you make fat people ashamed of being fat, they’ll lose weight. It made the news recently when this reporter responded to a viewer’s letter over her weight. Local Ottawa doctor Yoni Freedhoff even accused Disney of doing it earlier this year. There was even talk of it in the presidential race when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was being coaxed into running for the Republican nominaton. It resurfaced when he was among the politicos shortlist for Romney’s running mate and again when he addressed the Republican convention. Not all of us are lucky enough to be consoled by Sofia Vergara when someone makes fun of us, but he seems like he can take it. He did, after all, paraphrase Machiavelli and then attribute it to … his mother.

The logic of shaming is ridiculous. If you tease and troll a human being enough, they’ll make a radical life change. As a guy with unusually high self-esteem, when I was called fat I usually retorted with “Just like how your mom likes it.” Guys aren’t bombarded with images of male perfection and forced to conform. In fact, it’s the opposite. My usual nemesis, KFC, now has an advertisement where their overweight, unkempt character walks around with a bucket of the new chicken product and eventually is surrounded by a harem of bikini-clad women. Unless rufies are the 11th herb and spice, there is no way this will happen in reality. Gluttony is increasingly becoming acceptable behaviour for generation of arrested developed males. 

It’s a lot different for girls. I remember one of my feminist sociology profs complaining about the objectification of women in men’s magazines, which had exploded in number in the late 1990s (a number of which no longer exist). At some point, I snorted, “Have you been to the magazine rack at Chapters lately? Seems like women are giving men a run for their money on the objectification of their gender.”  In our exchange, which included me asking my classmates who had men’s and women’s magazines with them (interesting moment, none of the men admitted to having a men’s magazine on hand, but 2/3 of the women had Cosmo), I argued that for all the barflegarp about empowerment in women’s magazines like Cosmo most teenage girls are seeing a stick thin waif on the model on the cover. Regardless of whether the title was “Maxim” or “Cosmopolitan”, in the heyday of Kate Moss, thin was in and being presented as the ideal.

With all that cultural pressure already on women to fit into a particular ideal, those that try their whole lives and can’t get there are already pretty miserable. If you call sending young girls to the bathroom after dinner to puke their guts out a success story, give yourself a pat on the back, asshole. All you’re doing is just giving people with already low self-esteem another pummelling. I bet you make fun of the disabled, too.

For all your smug, self-appointed, self-righteousness, here’s the truth: you’re a bloody failure. You shame, society has gotten fatter. Unless there’s some immediate health concern (diabetes, high blood pressure, etc), most fatties don’t think they’re unhealthy. As I wrote at the beginning of this journal and reiterated last week, as obesity rates go up, most fat people think they’re normal and thin people are starving themselves. The truth is both extremes are full of stuff and malarkey (I wrote this after watching the VP debate).

There’s no magic bullet to get someone to lose weight. I didn’t think I was unhealthy when I was 250 lbs. The first time I was that heavy, I certainly knew it and had the sleep apnea diagnosis to prove it. It was overloaded public buses that started me losing weight and the encouragement of good friends to find ways to make a little loss into lifestyle change. Just because what I did worked for me, doesn’t mean it will work for someone else.

Don’t let the potential for failure deter you from attempting success. Even shedding a few pounds or a few inches in size will add years to your life. They might be Denis Leary’s “adult diaper, kidney dialysis years”, but you’ll enjoy your time here and now so much more.

Taunting and teasing won’t help. Shaming just leads to a persecution/victim complex which just reinforces negative behaviour, like stress eating or starvation.

You’re just another bully. You don’t even have the guts to say it to someone’s face. Having a Twitter account doesn’t elevate your thoughts to genius, it just exposes you as a coward and a buffoon 140 characters at time.

I honestly hope the passenger who sat beside me on Tuesday finds it within to start their own journey. Their life will be better for it.

Allons-y!

PS – you may notice that I’ve changed part of the title of this blog. It is no longer my year of not being fat anymore. That year ended last week. I’m going to keep writing about this journey because I’m still learning and I think I still have things in this noggin worth sharing. It’s now my life of not being fat. Hope you still enjoy the ride. I am.

Once again,

Allons-y!

So now what’s you’re excuse?

HT @RyRobbins.

“There have been about 514 Leap Years since Caesar created in 45BC.

Without the extra day every 4 years, today would be July 28, 2013.

Also, the Mayan calendar did not account for leap year …. so technically the world should have ended 7 months ago.

Mind=blown”

If your excuse for not getting off the couch was “let’s wait and see if there is a next year”, guess what? There is.

It’s already half over.

The world will move on.

You have one less excuse.

Week 51 – Home I’ll be, Part 2

Fredericton

(expletive)

I’m still in Fredericton.

Forgive the Captain Willard moment.  I’m actually enjoying my vacation back home.  It’s a much needed break from the pressure cooker that is Parliament in the weeks leading up to the Christmas break. I usually take off within a few hours of Parliament rising.  This year I waited until Monday so I could get in another Running Room clinic night and Sunday practice run with my 5K clinic. Even with a couple of days to get ready, it’s still like the scene in Spaceballs where the ship comes to an emergency stop while travelling at ludicrous speed.

My Christmas vacation usually takes three distinct phases:

Phase 1 – Prepare for Christmas. This is the aforementioned Christmas shopping.  Luggage restrictions make it impossible to get my shopping done in Ottawa.  I also like to coordinate with my sister and parents what was already purchased for the nephews.  I also knew what Santa Claus was giving them.  For the wee ones who may be reading this, I am an Agent of S.A.N.T.A. I am part of an intricate network, like Uatu the Watcher, who observes and reports to inform  the man up north’s naughty and nice list.  For all the hype I made of my dread of the mall this time of year, I ended up spending more on supplements to get me through 2 weeks at home than I did at the mall on presents. For the nephews, I actually used the Claus’ suggestion of an art set for Wes and a chemistry set for Andrew, both of which I found at a pair of stores owned by my friend, Luke Randall, Endeavours and ThinkPlay. I don’t know why I bother going to the mall as I usually end up buying the boys’ presents at Luke’s than anywhere else.

Did they like their presents? You decide:

 

There’s also the health aspect in preparing for Christmas.  As I mentioned, I have to stock up on supplies to keep nutrition plan compliant. While mom is more than happy to offer to pick some things up at the grocery store for me so it’s here when I get home, I’m loathe to give her the full list of what I need.  The good son, I am, I don’t want her running around town looking for brand X supplement when I know where to go to get the brand I want at a reasonable price. So I have her get the simple stuff that she was going to buy for the house anyway like frozen berries and yogurt and I’ll get the rest.  I still have half a jug of whey protein at home from my summer trip, but I didn’t want to brave the holiday hordes at Costco for the rest, so I went to GNC for the veggie greens, fish oil and protein bars. I spent about $150 after tax for two weeks of supplies. The leftovers will be stashed until my next visit.


Of course, no visit to Fredericton is complete without the return to the old haunts.  I made more than one stop at the Garrison District Ale House. The food there is great and they have the biggest beer menu in town. Of course, the only beer I care about this time of year is Picaroons Winter Warmer, from our local microbrewery which won the award for best brewery in Canada this year.  I lucked out this year that the Boyce Farmer’s Market is actually open twice this year during my vacation. Last year, Christmas and New Year’s both landed on Saturdays. There was a special Christmas Eve market on the Friday and then it was closed until January 7th. I flew back to Ottawa on January 2nd.

Phase 2 – Survive Christmas.  Christmas at the Read household is a three day affair.  Since my sister has a young family, we go to the early Christmas Eve mass at her parish on Fredericton’s north side, St. Theresa’s.  The competition for seats can be quite fierce, so we go early for the early mass. The tradition at St. Theresa’s is that the children bring bells  and ring them every time they say “Amen” during the mass. My ears rang for hours afterward.

After mass, we gather at my parent’s place for dinner and give my nephews their Christmas presents from us. When we got back to the house, we discovered Santa had come early for myself and my parents.  This stressed my nephews to no end. Suddenly they were scared Santa had passed over their house because they were not home in bed.  I had to download the NORAD Santa app for my iPhone to show them that he was still on his way.  I guess he delivers to employees first ;).

On the food front, I was mostly responsible.  Our Christmas Eve dinner is a smorgasbord of meat. It consists Mom’s sweet and sour meatballs, cabbage rolls, and meat pie. Dessert is a five layer blueberry tart.  I kept my portions reasonable.

I made my parents post-run Christmas morning brunch of whole wheat French toast with organic hot Italian sausage and hash browns.  The hash browns were an indulgence, but I added onions I threw in some onions that were leftover from when we barbecued steaks earlier in the week so there were veggies.

Hey, I ran 5K in -20 windchill.  I earned that brunch. http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/136307218

Christmas dinner was the traditional turkey and all the fixings. Mom cooked me some sweet potatoes along with the rest of the veggies so I was spared the simple starches of their white cousins.  My brother-in-law’s mother made the turkey. His grandmother made the stuffing, of which I had only a spoonful. My sister made dessert, a gingerbread cake with lemon sauce. I would like to say I had a only little bit of dessert, but my sister’s definition of small portion and mine are two different things.  She was the natural athlete in the family, so she can get away with it.

Phase 3 – Recover from Christmas.  The nephews can be pretty rambunctious.  They’re 9 and 6 and love to wrestle with their Uncle Michael. Andrew even brought boxing gloves to our house this morning. Since my parents thought it was a good idea for the boys to sleep over Christmas night, I was under pretty much constant assault from mid-afternoon Christmas Day until lunchtime Boxing Day. They are savage and relentless. Needless to say, I was battered and bruised and needed time to heal up. I thought the mall was going to be killer.

Andrew has developed the Read sense of humour. He drew a picture this morning of small person wearing big, red gloves hitting a larger person a little below the waistline. He handed it to me and said, “This is what I’m going to do to you.”

My response, “If you ever want to have a cousin, aim higher.”

Part of the recovery means getting back into the exercise routine that I allowed to lapse over the holiday weekend. It’s a little difficult to keep the routine of waking up at 5:00 am and walk to the gym when the gym is now 5k away along a highway with no sidewalk. I’ve gotten my usual runs in.  After posting last week’s blog on Friday, I went for a run in a snowstorm and enjoyed it immensely. http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/135991133 Sunday, Christmas Day, I went for the aforementioned morning run in -20. There is something oddly invigorating about a cold weather run.

On Wednesday, I ran with the local 5K Running Room clinic. They were MIA last week because they had the opportunity to drill with the track coach at University of New Brunswick. In a funny twist, it turns  out the instructor for the local clinic is the wife of a classmate of mine from high school. Fredericton is a very small town.  It was a cold, rainy night and  didn’t know the route, so I kept this one slow and paced myself with the group. http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/137213530

Both Mom and my sister got me guest passes to Goodlife so I could go the gym while I was home.  These were actually my first solo non-run, non-swim workouts since I started this journey and, Good Lord, working out alone is capital B Boring. I clocked some time on the elliptical to warm up and then did a couple rounds of the circuit machines. It was a good workout, but just dull. There were a lot of little things that made me miss the gang at Grecoleanandfit. They gave me a shower towel out of courtesy, but it was going to be $5 if I took out a membership. I guess Loblaws, the owners of Goodlife, take their marketing cues from crack dealers. The water fountains were on the municipal system.  If I wanted filtered water, there were plenty of Aquafina bottles for sale. There were also no spare toiletries or comb in the change room.  The water and toiletries I can understand, but paying for towels? Really? Fail. It’s not like I’m the big city guy coming to Palookaville telling the yokels how to run their business. I’m the local guy coming home and using a national chain, yet it feels like I’m slumming it.  I guess the locals at Free Form Fitness and Greco have spoiled me this year into thinking little things like towels included in your fees or can of body spray if you forget your deodorant is the way it’s supposed to be. In the end, they were free workouts and unlike the last time I was given a free pass to Goodlife, I didn’t have to go through a sales pitch every time I showed up for a workout.

Unrelated note: if your parents named you after a totalitarian dictator, it’s not shameful to have your name legally changed as an adult. It’s smart. You’ll find life a lot easier, especially if you’re in sales. Just saying.

Haven’t decided on New Year’s Eve yet. I know. It’s tomorrow. As Dave Attell would say, “There’s people who have a problem with drinking and driving. I call them cops.” New Maryland’s geographic location vis-a-vis Fredericton makes it a perfect location for the Fredericton City police to stage a New Years Eve checkpoint at the city limits and they do. Every year. This means if I want to drink the car stays home I and I cab it.  There’s a few events in town that I wouldn’t mind going to, but between tickets and cabs it’s going to be $100 before I have a drink. Oh, if I go out, there will be drinking. Given the situation that’s waiting for me back in Ottawa, that money might best be saved for other purposes like the necessities of life or my registration for my half-marathon clinic.

I’ve actually gotten out of the habit of going out on New Year’s Eve. The last few have been non-events for me.  For some reason, I usually pick up a bug and get sick. Usually it’s whatever my nephews have picked up from school.

Remember, young parents, once they hit school, they bring home more than report cards and art projects.

I figure other years, I picked it up while travelling. Last year, God, himself, struck me down for having the gall to chill out in my parents’ hot tub during a snowstorm. I was out like a light by 10 o’clock. The sound of fireworks on the television coverage of Times Square in New York woke me up and told me it was time to move from the couch to bed.

2010

I have once again tempted fate this year, hopping in almost immediately upon my return home. I event repeated this when we had a second storm. So far, I have not felt His wrath. I even smoked a cigar, a Montecristo Churchill, a going away gift from the office.

Before you ask: yes, I’m wearing a bathing suit. Get your mind out of the gutter.

BTW, how are those for before and after shots?

It seems like any plans I make for the night have had fate intervene and expectations dashed, so I will make none of the former to increase the likelihood of the latter being exceeded. Besides, I have a run in the morning. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve run hungover, but I would really like to PB on this one, even if its unofficial, since it’s the last 5K race I run for a while.

My real new year begins at the end of next week. As you can see from the title, I’m starting week 51. For those not up on math,that makes just another week before my year’s journey is complete. That will be more of cause for celebration than the arbitrary passing of a date on a calendar.

Sure, the year is not starting on the best of notes, but I intend for my coming period of unemployment to be like Hobbes’ state of nature: nasty, brutish, and, most importantly, short. I’m sure if I throw the vigour into the job search that I threw into this journey, I will be just as successful.

That written, some cutbacks will be necessary in the short term.  There’s a Beyond the Rack purchase of suits that arrived a week and a half late that will be heading back as soon as I get to the apartment. When I received an email update that it was still pending, I called and tried to cancel it but in the couple of hours between the email going out and my phone call it had arrived at the warehouse, been packed for shipping and was awaiting pick-up.

The operator gave me the good news: I was getting a free upgrade to express shipping so it would be at my apartment in Ottawa before Christmas.

Dude, I’m calling from Fredericton … New Brunswick. I won’t be back until the new year. Oh well, the ten business day return policy will not have expired by the time I get back and three federal, therefore Canada Post, holidays between then and my return will be helpful.

Until the work situation is sorted out, the clothing purchases are on hold.  I bought a little bit more athletic gear with a Running Room gift card that was a gift from my sister and brother-in-law, but that’s the final purchase for a while.  My pre-Christmas shopping trip  and late summer and early fall purchases have me well stocked for winter wear. I was tempted by some items that were 50% off at Robert Simmons, but decided against it. My suit and shirt collection is sufficient until the paycheques start rolling in. I really don’t need to worry about clothes again until summer. Pretty much everything I bought for last summer is now too big. Even the aspirational Speedos are now baggy, and I don’t mean that in a pervy way. I’ll worry about that in May.

Until then ….

Allons-y!

Week 40 – Victory Lap

First, some apologies. I remained relatively silent on the ol’ social networks last week and when I was on, I was lying through my teeth (or fingers since it was in the written word) of my status or whereabouts. The reason last week’s post was in the middle of the week had little to do with reaching my weight goal (though that seemed as good an excuse as any) and more to do with the reason I wouldn’t be around on Friday. I was driving to New Brunswick to surprise my mother for her 60th birthday. A little hard to write and post while driving a Dodge Charger in the middle of Nowheresville, Quebec.

Fellow Whovians will remember the first rule: the Doctor lies.

And lie I did. Especially when I let it slip that I would be in New Brunswick on the weekend. I would recover by saying “New Brunswick? I meant New York. I was going shopping in upstate New York for their Columbus Day sales. You know I don’t have clothes that fit me anymore. I would have to leave New York at 4 to make that appointment. Freudian slip, I guess. You now where I want to be this weekend.” Matt Smith and David Tennant would have been proud.

Mom was none the wiser and genuinely surprised when I showed up at the front door Saturday night. My sister, in on the surprise, sent me a BBM from the party: “Mom’s telling everyone how you’re going to Syracuse.”

Thanks to those that helped keep my cover.

I think I finally learned the lessons from previous trips and did well on the nutrition side of things. Did have a Subway sandwich for the first time this year as lunch, but the lunch options where I stopped at Port Jolie were a Subway, Normadin, or Tim Horton’s. Normadin had a rather long line to be seated and I don’t like the sandwiches at Timmies’ since they stopped serving roast beef. Subway was the least bad option. Just a small steak and cheese on 9 grain bread. Managed to almost get through the whole order in my weak conversational French until a combination of being low on energy and a very fast-talking cashier forced a “Huh?” out of me. “For here or to go, Sir?” It’s time I can go a little easier on my food choices without considering that I have fallen off the wagon.

It was Thanksgiving this weekend in Canada. For any US readers, the celebration of Thanksgiving in October as a commemoration of Martin Frobisher’s 1578 exhibition to the Arctic in search of the Northwest Passage made for a great laugh on How I Met Your Mother, but isn’t exactly true. The voyage is listed in Wikipedia, though, as part of the history of the holiday, so it must be true. I’m told Star Wars is a true story, too. We have a shorter growing season here in the north, so the harvest is earlier and therefore we made our statutory celebration of the harvest earlier. Every few years or so, it lands on my birthday. One year it landed on my 19th birthday. Back then every bar in the city was closed on statutory holidays. No free drinks on my first day of legal drinking for me 😦

Thanksgiving dinner meant a few deviations from the nutrition plan. Since I finished with Free Form Fitness, I’m not following their plan as strictly anymore. Don’t worry, I haven’t fallen off the wagon. Although if you ran into me a the Boyce Farmer’s Market on Saturday you couldn’t be blamed for assuming otherwise. Once again, I indulged in old habits, but in my new ways.

I had a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. For the first time in my adult years, I’m truly fit and healthy. I’m wearing clothes in sizes I haven’t worn since junior high. People I’ve known for years don’t recognize me. It’s fun to see the reactions of people when they clue in. Sometimes its even helpful when an old associate doesn’t recognize me.

I’m mostly thankful to my family and friends for their support during this journey. I certainly wouldn’t be here without them. 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.

I am thankful that I 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.

There’s quite a few I should name, so forgive me if this drones off like an Oscar speech. If I forget to name you before the orchestra plays me out, I’ll make up for it when next we meet in person. Since starting this journey and writing about it on Facebook and now WordPress and Twitter, I have received hundreds, maybe thousands, of comments. Your support has been instrumental in my success. Like the cheering section in the last kilometre of a race, your words of support have kept me going.

There’s a few friends out there who have been great examples as what one can achieve when one puts in the effort. Friends like Christina and Meghann, who I knew in high school or as undergrads, lost touch with only to be reunited over Facebook. Seeing how they transformed themselves made me realize when I started this that I could do it, too.

Very early on in this journey one of my best friends, Christian, he of Bald Guy Running and now Insightfully Bald, 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 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. 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 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. 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 and see him for myself. I like him and can’t wait to see more of him.

I hear the orchestra playing, so I will close by saying I have the best best friends in the world. While I gave thanks to them, all of them, this Thanksgiving, 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.

Allons-y!

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.

Allons-y!

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.

Allons-y!

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.

Allons-y!

Week 18 – Returning to the scene of the crime

May 12, 2011

This Week’s Weigh-in:  195 lbs

Loss to date: 41 lbs

To Goal:  25 lbs

Another milestone reached and exceded.   I wanted to get below 200 in time for my trip to DC for CUA’s commencement (in Canada we call this “convocation” or simply “graduation”) and I have exceeded that goal.  I wouldn’t have been able to do this without your help and encouragement, so feel free to pat yourself on the back.

I had a particular reason for wanting to get below 200 and it relates to a recurring theme in this journal:  clothing size.  When I ordered my gown (university commencement is probably the only time I’ll ever order a gown for myself) I first had to select my height, 5’8″, but there were only two choices for the “other dimension”, under 200 lbs or over 200lbs.  Having just begun the weight loss when I was placing my order, I did some math and figured out getting to the under 200 size was a realistic goal.  Since this will, hopefully for the sake of my finances, be my last commencement ceremony as a student, I want to look my best.

When I was last on campus for my dissertation defence, I was probably at my worst.  Since I dropped a suit size between late September and Decemeber last year, I figure I was 10-15 lbs heavier when I was being sweated by my committee.  Not that the experience was intellectual equivalent of waterboarding, it was 30 degrees in DC that day in a room without air conditioning and I wore a full suit.  In a very strange way, I’m kind of glad I neglected to take any post-defense photos of myself or with my committee.  In fact, most of my pictures from that trip are from my pre-defence trip to JR Cigars.  While I will treasure those moments, I’m glad they won’t be sullied with a permanent reminder (as permanent as anything digital can be) of how my external image did not resemeble my internal image.

This weekend will be different.  Bringing both my good camera and my iPod Touch so I can always have something on me.  I’ll have to give dad a quick tutorial on my panasonic, but he’s a quick study on technology.  Ok, he isn’t, but once he sees my camera is pretty much the same as the old SLR he used in his claims adjustor days, we should be good.  I have the new Zara suits packed and I even picked up some new slim-fitting shirts at Moores.  They’re size 16, three sizes smaller than when I started this.

There well be a lot of temptation from ex-lovers while I’m back in DC.  Despite it’s reputation for stuffiness, I had some pretty passionate affairs in that city.  I know Five Guys Burgers miss me so much they came to Canada.  Like most Americans, they thought Toronto was the capital and went to the wrong city.  I can just bet that Urban BBQ and Chinatown Express are bringing in extra supplies knowing I’m coming.  I figure a large chunk of the weight I put on was during my year back in DC in 2008-2009.  Researching my dissertation involved a lot of sitting and reading.  There were many days I wouldn’t leave the house.  When I did take a break, I would go for a walk to Barnes & Noble or into the city to JRs.

Believe it or not, the cigar store was actually the healthy option.  The worst food I would eat if I went downtown was probably the bowl of chicken soup with udon noodles or the fried noodles with seafood and some dumplings at Chinatown Express.  Even the monthly happy hours with the Canadian expats were at good places with relatively healthy menus.  The walk to B&N along Chapman St., however, had so many temptations it was a veritable red light district.  My food brothel of choice was Urban BBQ and my prostitute was the soul roll.  For those unacustomed to the siren call of the soul roll, I’ll let the photos on this blog do the talking.

Will I cave into temptation and have one last passionate fling?  Will I be re-celebrating getting below 200 lbs next week?

Stay tuned.

Allons-y!