Tag Archives: nutrition plan


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.


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.


My new normal

When I started this journal of my weight loss journal, I argued with rising obesity rates that obese was the new normal. It’s been almost two years since that entry, but the Globe and Mail caught up last weekend.

As this week passed, I reached a new milestone. It’s been a year since I reached my goal weight. This year, I celebrated, but nowhere near as bad as the two week food bender I went on during my downtime between finishing with my trainer and joining Greco. Since I had just completed my second half marathon and was in recovery mode, I had a few indulgences. Well, not really. Kalin and I did splurge at St. Louis a couple of hours after our race, but we had just run 21.1 km. I think we can handle it. Might have had some junk last weekend, but other than that I’ve kept to my usual good habits.

I’ve had a number of questions about how disciplined I am in my eating habits and exercise routine. The truth is, I’m not. I don’t feel disciplined. I pretty much eat what I want. The difference is what I wanted then and what I want now are two different things.

When I started this last year, I truly needed discipline.

The biggest change to my eating habits was the no starchy carbs. In fairness, it was the only change. The nutrition plan I was on didn’t keep me from eating meat and most of the vegetables I like, but gone was the baked potato with the steak, the spaghetti carbonara with my chicken, the pizza crust with my pizza.

I needed the shock therapy. Starting from scratch with new eating habits helped me build a new routine that would not just get me out of the fat suit I was living in, but keep me out once I got to my goal weight. I was also working in a relatively fast paced environment in the Senate of Canada (I know most Canadians reading that last sentence are probably gobsmacked to see the word “fast” in any sentence referring to our Senate) which forced me to adapt my routine to the workplace. I was lucky to have a kitchen with a fridge and microwave where I could store and re-heat meals. There was also a cafeteria on the fifth floor and the Parliamentary Dinning Room (but staff rarely go there without their Member/Senator).

The main thing I learned very quickly if I was going to be successful: bring dinner, too. Some days were harder to judge to when it’s going to be long day so be prepared to have dinner at the office. A routine sitting day can become a long sitting very quickly. I might have to fill in for my boss at an event or represent him at a reception. Stuff like that. While the cafeteria stays open until the House rises, anything remotely healthy would be gone after the supper hour rush. If you have your own dinner on hand, the worst that can happen is that you don’t need to use it. In that case, it’s there for lunch the next day and you have a slightly less heavy bag to lug. Some days, I would eat before I left just so I wouldn’t have to cook when I got home. There were also days where I was hanging around the office between the end of the workday and when I would go to my Running Room clinic so I would eat then. 

As some carbs and fats were added back in, I found the ones I used to eat frequently I no longer craved. I like my whole grain pasta, particularly on the Friday before  a long run on Sunday, but I don’t covet it. For all the talk of bacon in the news these days, I’ve bought all of 1lb since January 2011. Don’t blame me for the impending shortage.

Exercise was another routine I had to start from scratch. I wasn’t a total coach potato when I was fat, but I couldn’t/wouldn’t sustain a commitment to an exercise routine to save my life. When I started with my trainer at Free Form Fitness, I started with two sessions a week for six weeks and then went to three. I also needed to find a time that wouldn’t get continuously pre-empted by my professional duties. For me, the sweet spot was the morning. I was not a morning person, but I realized that I was only going to make it to my sessions if I scheduled them for the times when I knew I didn’t have to be at the office, prior to 8 am. Paying for the service also helps. I can be rather spendthrift, but I want to get my money’s worth. Showing up to my appointments was the only way to do that. Having started this new routine in January, it meant beginning and ending my days in darkness.

Today, I’m working out at Greco LeanandFit four times a week (and may ratchet it up to five) and running three times a week. I’ve completed two half-marathons, both with sub-two hour finishes.  

Speaking of running, I’m instructing again. I’m leading the 5k clinic at the Slater St. Running Room. Kalin is helping me as a pace leader. One of the big challenges with instructing the 5k is it’s the gateway drug to running. Some are using it get back into the sport after years off or recovering from an injury while some are new to running altogether. As such the groups spread out rather quickly on the runs and it’s difficult to effectively supervise everyone. The faster may get out of earshot rather quickly and may run longer their body is ready for. I’m glad she’s going to help where she can. Wednesdays can be long days for work, but I’m thankful for the help.

Going back to shorter distances and slower speeds is going to mean some modifications of the routine. Probably going to have to work out a little bit more to earn that Mello’s breakfast on Saturday, but at this point it’s more “Been there. Done that. Bought the T-Shirt.”

With Thanksgiving upon us, I’m hitting the road for the weekend. No, there’s subterfuge this year. Mom knows I’m coming home for the weekend. It’s a testament to the fact that I’ve so altered my routine that I can go to the old haunts and not succumb to the temptation to indulge … or at least space out the indulgences to fit the routine.

I’m a creature of  habit and my habits sucked. Only by starting from scratch and building new habits, could I succeed. Succeed I did. Succeed I continue to do.


Once more unto the breach

Best rally speech ever. If plays were rap battles, Henry V is the one where Shakespeare drops the mike afterwards.

Speaking of Shakespeare and rap battles:

It’s time for the Army Run. I really enjoyed the 5K last year. It’s a great event for a great cause, our wounded troops. Proceeds go to Soldier On and the Military Families Fund. If you would like to donate, you can click here.

I’ve always admired our soldiers. My grandfathers had both served in World War II. I didn’t know Tom Read Sr.; he succumbed to cancer when I was just a couple of months old. He served in the home guard and remained on base in Sydney. My mother’s father, Donald MacEachern, was a combat engineer and served in Europe. I’ve mentioned before that he didn’t talk much about the war. None of his generation did. At least in front of the kids and, later, grandkids. Their wives forbade it. Fittingly, the only story he ever told us was the day he was wounded. That story he even saved until years after Grammie Ellen had passed away. He would carry a physical reminder of the war for the rest of his life.

Growing up minutes from CFB Gagetown, you get to know a lot of people in the Canadian Forces.   When I volunteered with St. John Ambulance, I got to work with many of the base’s medics. I always admired their dedication to their brothers-in-arms and their community. My cousin, Read Coleman, also served in the CF and did a tour in Afghanistan. I’ve had a number of friends who did tours in Afghanistan. I thank God on a routine basis that they made it back alive and unharmed. Unfortunately, I can’t say that for that for their brothers-in-arms.

It’s for them I’ll be running.

I decided years ago that I couldn’t do what they do. Part of that was my size and overall lack of fitness. My public service would be through politics.

Before you can run the race, though, you have to train. It was the last week of our clinic which means the runs were at race pace.  Race pace runs can be a real confidence booster the week before the run. They can also provide a moment of reckoning. Thankfully, my runs were more confidence boosting than reckoning.

Sunday was nice and cool for a quick 6 km up and down the canal. The group was a little fast. With the faster short runs, it’s tough to keep the group together. The clinic gathered for an end of clinic brunch afterwards. It was nice to chill out and relax with the gang. It was even better when the clock struck 11 and we could order beer. It gave me a chance to buy one of my runners a beer to pay him back for one he paid for at Mill St. back in August.

Tuesday went long. The clinic topic was race day preparation. There’s always a lot of questions from people who are running the race for the first time. A lot could be answered by simply going to the website, but it was pretty obvious that there were a lot of nervous runners in the room. Just wait until they have to jump over the pit of starving velociraptors! We didn’t get out for the run until 7:15 pm. This time of year, it’s dark rather early and we had 10k to run. We banged it out like champs, but it made for a long-ass day.

Wednesday was another 6K at race pace and our last run night before race day. It was a larger group than usual. I even got to run with a friend from NB who was in town for business. Like Sunday, it was fast. Most of my group kept up. The few that fell behind were well within the normal range for a 2H finish. I know they’ll well on race day.

As we ramp up for race day, I got a lesson in the need for proper nutrition. One of my runners told me she wasn’t feeling well since we hit the 20K mark in distance two Sundays earlier. She was feeling sluggish and tired like she was running out of gas. I asked what she was eating and it seemed like okay food. Then I asked how much and how often. That’s when we hit the target. Her portions seemed rather small (I can never really tell though when it comes to vegetarian meals how many legumes equals a proper protein serving) and she was only eating three times day. On run nights, her last meal might be at lunch. I suggested she eat five times, with little mini-meals as snacks. Hopefully we caught that in time she can enjoy the race and get a result she trained for.

I’m also tapering this week which means cutting out the cross training. Translation: no Greco this week. I’m also taking next week off to recover. I’ll be hitting my anniversary during my recovery period. Not sure what I’m going to do. Maybe I’ll catch a movie … on cheap night. Haven’t had a Tuesday night free since February.

Looks like it’s going to be mostly sunny with slight chance of showers for race day. All I can say now is: bring it. I’m going to have a good run on Sunday and hope the folks I trained with these last few do so as well.



I was going to leave the Olympics behind and write about something else this week.

This morning, though, I read this article and had another idea.  It’s actually a recurring theme of mine: personal responsibility. For those that don’t want bother to click the link, it’s an interview with Jared Connaugthon, the Canadian Olympian who inadvertantly left his lane for a few steps in the 4×100 relay and turned a bronze medal finish into a disqualification.  My own thoughts watching that race was something akin to “Here we ago again. Another rule that was barely enforced in qualification heats is suddenly Gospel in the finals.”

Say what you will about that night, but you have to admire that Jared’s first instinct wasn’t to moan or bellyache about the uneven application of the rules but to man up and take ownershio and responsibility for his mistake. Perhaps it’s telling of our modern society without shame or guilt that the simple act of saying, “I made a mistake”, has become a testament to character.

Lord knows uneven judging seemed like it was going on like mad in London. I tried to re-find an article I read on some of the more egregrious facepalms in officiating over the last couple of weeks, but gave up when “london 2012 officiating mistakes” garnered 10,800 hits.  Who would have thought that boxing would be the new figure skating? Any large, global event is going to seem to have a disproportionate amount of lousy refs and officials. Whether they are actually worse than usual or not  is almost irrelevant. With the magnifying glass of the worldwide media at every event, one mistake will inevietably be blown up. That said, they probably should be. A lousy official on the world stage, is probably a lousy official back home. A sport is only as good as the fair application of its rules.  The more lousy officials exposed and sent home in disgrace, the better.

I doubt London was worse than any previous Olympics. The Salt Lake City games brought us the scandal of fixed figure skating competitions, something that was well known in the sport for years. Any sport that is based on subjective judging is a prime candidate for corruption. That same games, in the women’s hockey final with the US, our  team faced such a disproportionate amount of penalty calls from an American ref that even the Americans in the arena began booing. In a scored sport, there’s a simple, yet not necessarily easy, solution to overcome one-sided officiating: score more than the other team.

As we saw our athletes not make it to the podium, or in some cases even the finish line, we often saw them take to post-event interviews, social media, etc., and apologize. It’s not that they actually did something wrong, but their own sense of disappointment is magnified a thousand fold by the feeling they had let down the hopes of their country. At  the root of their apology is taking responsibilty.

One of the reasons I find the trolls so nauseating is that I know as bad as the insults the armchair quarterbacks are tossing out, the atheletes are beating themselves up even more.   Making fun of pro athletes one thing. They’re paid by very rich companies to win games. Don’t like them, they probably didn’t hear you over the sound of their bling. Trolling our Olympians, though, has about as much class as making fun of the disabled. They’ll spend the next four years replaying those moments in their head and figuring out what do next time to get that medal around their neck. Trolls hit “post” on their 140 characters of mental masturbation and move on. With blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, we’ve become a society of theFat Comic Shop Owners from the Simpsons.

Brain to mouth filter? In the age of social media, it’s the brain to keyboard filter.

When I decided to take responsibilty for my own situation and start this journey last year, there were several times I missed a personal goal. Whenever a weigh-in didn’t go as hoped, the light at the end of the tunnel moved back just ever so much. When my ref, the scale at the gym, gave me a lousy call, I didn’t call it out. I doubled down. I worked harder, ran faster, ate better. It took longer than planned, but I got there.

I’m still there and staying there. I like it there. As I’ve pretty much gone all in with running and moved into half-marathons, I still can’t slack off on the food now that I’m at a healthy weight. It’s not like I won’t burn off the occasional junk food with my training schedule, but I won’t have the adequate fuel to get through it. At this part of the  schedule, it’s pretty typical for me to burn about 1200+ calories on a Sunday long run. My breakfast will be a bowl of steel cut oatmeal, almonds and some berries. I’ll have some electrolytes in my water and take some energy gels starting around the 8k mark.  If that bowl of oatmeal is going to get me to the 8k mark, I’m going to need to eat properly the night before, too. That’s not to say I’m not going to have fun on a Saturday night, but I’m not going to be an idiot, either. One of the reasons I took on pace leading in my Running Room clinics is the additional responsibility to show up because others are depending on me to help them reach their goals.

My body isn’t a temple. It’s supercar. I need the high test gas, not regular.


The hills are alive…

… with the sounds of runners.

What? You were expecting this:

While that might may be one of my mother’s favourite songs (seriously, she would break out into that song almost randomly growing up), it’s not on my iPod.

It’s been a crazy busy week.

Probably going to have some positive news on the job front soon. Don’t want to jinx anything, so I’m going to exercise custody of the tonque or, in this case, keyboard for now.

Whatever may come in the weeks ahead, I will be adapting my exercise routine to compensate for certain things … like the fact I’ll have somewhere to be at 9 o’clock, so no more lollygagging at Greco. Probably going to have to go to the earlier 7 am classes. I will probably still be able to go to the extreme lean and fit classes, but will play it by ear.

It’s always good to change up the routine, but the running routine will stay the same for now. We’re into week 7 of my half marathon clinic. That means hill training has begun and will continue for six weeks. We started with three repeats and will work up to 8.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about this part of the training. On the one hand, it’s great strength training on the legs. There’s a few hills on the typical race course even here in Ottawa and it helps to be over prepared than under prepared. The intensity of the workout also gives you a bit more of a rush than the average tempo run.

On the other hand, it gets rather mind-numbing as the repeats increase. Up and down. Up and down. Up and down.

I also like to take my pace group for a 2 km cool down after the repeats are done. It helps to work out the lactic acid that can build it in the limbs during strength training.

We have the added challenge doing this doing a heatwave. It’s been so long without any rain in this city that a class 2 drought has been declared. The dirt and dust kicked up by the roadwork being done on Rideau St. Is not helping my lungs at all.

While we may have a target race and goal times in mind, training, in general, and running, in particular, is something we want to do for life after and between races. If you never run another race after our clinic, will you want to and be prepared to run on your own or even come to the Wednesday and Sunday practice clubs? Seems like the answer is yes. I’ve been running into quite a few of my previous clinic’s pace group in the last couple of weeks, as well as alumni of my 5K clinics, and some have come back to the Running Room and are taking other clinics (Andrew at the Slater St. Running Room is experimenting with an advanced 10K program if anyone is interested). Some are running on their own.

They’re all still running.

So am I.


On to the next one

I’m sure by now, you’re tired of me writing about Ottawa Race Weekend (here and here) and that other medal.

Okay, it’s on to the next one.

Just mere days after my first half marathon, I began training for my second, the Canada Army Run. Since, like Race Weekend, I ran their 5K last year, I guess this is another graduation of sorts. Kalin is training for it, too, which makes this half marathon extra special as it will be the first half marathon we run together, but it won’t be our first race together.

First up, is next weekend’s Perth Kilt Run. My friend, Signi, and I signed up for it a while ago and now we’ve found a runner who can’t make it so Kalin is going to buy their kit. Now we just need to find them kilts (I paid the $30 for one of the race organization’s kilts).

Yes, I wrote kilts. The Perth Kilt Run is an annual attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest number of people running in kilts. This year, it’s namesake city, Perth, Scotland, expected to break the Perth, Ontario, record.

They failed.

They put up a good fight, but were 60 finishers short. That’s pretty close. Too close in my books. Now it’s up to us colonials to break our own record and move the bar further out of reach for the motherland. There’s over 1900 registered, so good luck next year, Scotland.

I might actually see you there. I’ve been seeing the photos the organizers have posted on Facebook of their own trip to Scotland to that Perth’s Kilt Run and I have to say, I’m a touch jealous. Being half Scottish, I would like to go someday. I think I’ll add this to my destination run wish list.

Actually, I’m adding it onto my “I need to sample the local booze” wish list.

Looking forward to this run for a whole host of reasons. First, it’s with friends. That alone is reason enough.

Second, it’s a run outside of Ottawa proper. I haven’t left the city since I came back from Christmas holidays. People that don’t have jobs don’t get to travel for fun. As it turns out, the couple trips I’ve made out to Ashton this year were actually within the limits of the City of Ottawa. It didn’t matter if the roads weren’t paved, the city’s logo was still on the street signs. The City of Ottawa is indeed one of the largest cities in North America … by geography. Even mayor and council have tried to curb the growth, by slowing the amalgamation of unincorporated lands, only to be overruled by the provincial municipal board.

Third, while it’s chip-timed, it’s going to be fun. It’s 5 miles, slightly over 8 km. There’s a little under 2,000 people registered, making it a much smaller event than race weekend. There’s beer at the finish line. How can it not be a fun race?

Speaking of Ashton, Kalin and I finally got to meet Odie. Odie is Chris and Brittany’s horse.

Odie and the proud parents

We had a great time. Kalin grew up partly in rural New Brunswick so she loved to help feed and clean the Odie, whose show name is Odiessy (Chris wanted Odie-Wan Kenobi but was overruled), especially when she got to give Odie his post-shower squeegee.

With summer weather upon us, again comes barbecue season. Specifically, it’s hamburger and hot dog barbecue season. We actually went to two last weekend. We did pretty good and concentrated on salads and veggie snacks.  I think Kalin did better than I did at avoiding carbs. I couldn’t help having a bun with my second, third, etc. burgers/hotdog where she passed on them on for any subsequent burgs and dogs.

I need to re-learn the discipline that got me through last summer’s weight loss journey. I relaxed on the starchy white carbs leading up to the half-marathon to get some extra quick hits of energy during my training. Now it’s time to be a good boy again. To paraphrase my favourite war bonds cartoon, I did it before and I’ll do it again. It’s much easier to break a bad habit when it’s only been around a couple of weeks, but at the same time it serves as a constant reminder that in any weight loss, any real progress is fragile and reversible. The teeth are in the jugular and I intend to keep them there.

The run training got interesting on Sunday. I hate this route. All the problems with it I mentioned about it on the previous post were once again manifest. Too many traffic lights which are seemingly longer on the Gatineau side. The pace groups bunch up on each other on the left at the end of the Portage Bridge, which you have to cross the intersection twice to be on the right side of the street to be on course to make the next turn, and the route isn’t long enough for the groups to spread out again. I have to run the group a little faster after the lights to separate them from the pace group that catches up. It always seems like the happy folks are in the minority at the end of this route. On the one hand, I have the people who thought I ran the group too fast. They actually have a justifiable complaint. On the other hand, you have some people complaining the group is too slow. These are the “7K heroes”. My limited experience shows that as the distance increases, they will be cowed into compliance.

Gripes aside, there was a big adventure involving some ducklings. On the Gatineau side of the Alexandra St. bridge, we came upon some baby ducklings crossing the sidewalk to the road to find their mother.  Some of the runners in the back of my 2 hour group dropped back to help them along, going to the extent of stopping traffic at one of the busiest intersections in the national capital region.

As the little duckies crossed the road, the unthinkable happened.  One of the ducklings fell into a sewer grate. By this time, the 2:15 group had come to assist. One of the runners is pretty strong and lifted that grate so another could scoop out the duckling and send it on the way to its mother.

Another animal rescue brought to you by the Running Room.


In Praise of Food Porn (Reader Discretion Advised)

Soft focus.

Sensuous music.

Camera slowly pans along a woman’s toned arm as it strokes up and down. Flesh meets tempered German steel as it rhythmically slices a long … firm … carrot.

Did you think I was moonlighting as a Harlequin Romance novelist?

No, I haven’t gone all Fifty Shades of Grey and started writing suburban mommy porn. I am, however, writing about another form of pornography: food porn or, as the smart people who read Harper’s may know it as, gastroporn.

The main purveyor of food porn is, of course, the Food Network and it’s contemporaries. I first discovered pornography for fatties, as I called it when I was in the early stages of my weight loss last year, when I was living in Washington while at grad school.

More specifically, I discovered Giada:

When I came back to Canada and watched the Canadian version, I also discovered Laura, who happens to be from my home province of New Brunswick:

Besides the dishiness of the show hosts (NB: Kalin crushes on Mike Smith and Chuck Hughes), the real objects of desire in these programmes are the dishes they serve.

I love to cook. Robert Rodriguez likes to say, “Cooking is like fucking. You’re going to be doing it for the rest of your life, so you better be good at it.” My relationship with food was not always so … intimate.

In my previous (read: failed) attempts to lose weight, I saw food as the enemy to be conquered. My most successful attempt was the Slim Fast plan. I was never a sit down for breakfast type and the time zone differences between my office and my employer’s meant last minute stuff would often come up during my lunchtime. Replacing a couple of meals a day with pre-made shakes made sense (along with walking to work, 60-90 min in the gym, walk home, 60 min swim per day, 5 days a week).

Like many of my ideas, it was a good one at the time.

In the end, it was an awful one.

Unlike most dieters, I knew that a return to pre-diet form of eating would mean a return of my body’s pre-diet form. The adversarial mentality I had towards food would not necessarily wane, but complacency certainly set in during my grad school years. My sins have been detailed in previous posts and you can feel free to read those confessionals. Like the Romans of the ancient world, I let the barbarian hordes of bad-for-you food batter the gates of the city until they crashed in.

When it was time to get my life back under control, I was given a meal plan that was basically “3/7oz chicken/pork/fish/beef and veggies/salad” with minimal direction as to how to prepare these meals.

So right away I’m going to be eating more often and I have to figure out how I’m going to do this without getting bored. Boredom leads to complacency. Complacency leads to failure.

Enter food porn.

Bow chicka wow wow.

I would watch these temptresses prepare meals for their imaginary guests and wonder how I could stick my square peg in their round holes.


I meant to write: how I could make their dishes comply to my meal plan.

Yeah. That’s it.

Could I switch the white rice for brown? Sweet potato instead of white? Can I replace whole milk with skim? It stimulated the part of the brain that goes wild when faced with a complex scenario that I knew I, and only I, could figure out.

There were a few devils in the harem of angels. Paula Deen’s high calorie, fat-laden food is so beyond redemption, it gave her diabetes. In a perverse twist, she’s now being paid a mint to hawk her diabetes meds.

Brief aside: I grew up in the era of competing basketball shoes endorsed by pro-basketball players. I can understand people wanting to be like Mike. Who wouldn’t want to be like me? Competing endorsements of diabetes medication? Are diabetics going to start one upping each other as to whose brand of insulin is better: Paula Deen’s or Wilfrid Brimley’s? It’s like hockey players talking about erectile dysfunction drugs.

Oh wait. That happened.

I learned quite a bit through these experiments and have detailed some of the lessons learned in previous posts. Vicky and Kalin have been my unwitting test subjects. Since they’re still talking to me, I’m guessing I’ve succeeded more than I’ve failed.

There’s a couple extra lessons learned I can share. You can make a dairy-based sauce with skim, 1%, or 2% milk instead of whole milk. I did this with a carbonara using whole wheat pasta, but it’s not going to hold up well as leftovers. The pasta will soak up the reduced dairy fat liquid overnight. Since my I started dating Kalin, the almond-crusted chicken has been taken out of the rotation. She’s allergic to nuts. Instead of going back to panko bread crumbs, we discovered whole wheat cracker crumbs made a better substitute. We got that from the Eat, Shrink and be Merry show.

As I get ready for my half marathon just a little over a week from now, nutrition will be the fuel that powers me along the route. I’ve trained hard to refine the machine that is my body, but without gas in the tank it will be all for naught.

I know I can do this. Last Sunday’s run was 20K LSD. At this point in the clinic, all the Running Room half marathon clinics run with the Slater St. clinic. There were a couple hundred people running from Slater St. on Sunday morning and it was, frankly, a bit of a gong show.  There were signs set up for the pace groups to line up in order, but there was no organization within the pace groups. Larger clinics had pace groups within pace groups, like a sizeable 2:07 pace group that managed to get to the front of the pack . There was also competition among pace leaders as to who was on first. This got complicated when walk breaks were being called early because the guy with the loudest voice and was upfront didn’t pause his Garmin while at traffic signals and others did. When the largest group stops running and starts walking everyone behind them starts walking too. This was a two and a half minute difference between the first walk breaks of the non-pausers and pausers.

This got old fast. I figured since most were running with their pace leaders, my group should have the option to run with theirs. I worked the line, pulling out members of my clinic, got us to the front and started running our run not someone else’s. Picked up a few gazelles from other clinics, too. We were a little fast for LSD pace, but were amongst the first 2 hour pacers to get back to the store. We’re going to have to run faster  on race day, but my group all still had fuel in their tanks to get that extra kilometre.

If Wednesday’s speed drills are any indication, my group will have no problem. They did their 1 mile repeats well faster than the prescribed 5:15 pace. Thankfully the weather for Wednesday was much better than last week. We’ll find out if they can keep it up as we move on to training at race pace on Tuesday.

With the training and nutrition balance seemingly struck, I’m sure I’ll reach my goals on Sunday. I wouldn’t have gotten here without the support of a lot of friends … and the occasional indulgence.


Warming Up

This weekend was an exercise in JFDI. A northern cold front blew into town and dropped the base temperature to -18 Celsius.  It was the coldest base temperature of the season. With a bit of wind, it dropped to -24 with the windchill on Sunday. While not as bad as my first Sunday run of the year, even for us Canucks, it’s the kind of weather that makes you want to stay inside.

Instead: JFDI (c)





And did I ever JFDI.

The low temperature and high wind made for some interesting runs this weekend.

That’s right, runs. Two run weekend.

Saturday was the Second Annual Beaver Tail Run. This was a social run organized by one of the runners from the Slater St. Running Room. Pretty simple premise: run 6 or 8K on the Rideau Canal, be back at the Rideau Locks end in time for the Beavertails huts to be open, have a beavertail.

Sounds simple enough. It was a fun little challenge. It was my first time actually running on the Canal. Yes, I wrote “on” the Canal. http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/148754922

Running on a sheet of ice is it’s own special challenge. I don’t have Yak Trax or anything like that for ice running. The shoes are also nearing the end of their life expectancy and the treads are pretty flat. Amazingly, I did the 6K route without falling on my arse, although there were a few close calls. We got back to the locks as the Beavertails hut was opening. I went for chocolate hazelnut and promptly made a mess of myself.

Nom, nom, nom.

Seriously, is there anyway to eat one of those damn things without looking like a total slob afterwards?

Not so delicious was the brown water they sold me as hot chocolate. I guess there are some drawbacks to being the first customer int he morning.

The next morning was the regular Sunday practice run, a 7K LSD run. http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/149090662

It was probably the first time I may have underdressed for a run. I used the Bank St. Sport 4’s Renovation Sale as the excuse to invest in some Suogi running gear. With 20% off the lowest marked price, meaning it was 20% off stuff already marked down for seasonal clearance, they had some really great deals. The weak link, however, is the outer shell. It’s a little thin for -24 and I could feel the cold penetrate it as I ran. Even though I could feel myself sweat under my gear, I never felt warmed up .

One lesson learned this weekend: bring a change of clothes to winter runs. Even if you don’t feel warmed up, your heart rate has accelerated, you have warmed up, you have sweat in your clothes. Once that heart rate gets back to its normal resting rate and your core body temperature drops, you will notice just how wet your inner layers are. With wet layers in severe cold, it will take forever for your body to properly regulate your core temperature back to normal.

I learned this lesson the hard way on Saturday. Between the winter coat and pants, headband, face guard, sunglasses and inner layers, I had dressed adequately for the run conditions.  I worked up a pretty good sweat and those inner layers got quite wet. I went for post-run coffee at Bridgehead and then walked home in the cold. Between the weather and wet inner layers, I was chilled to the bone by the time I got home. I stood in the shower for what seemed like forever on Saturday before I filled up the tub and allowed myself to soak. The pool at the building was closed for repairs, so soaking there and using the sauna was not an available option.

Apparently people who didn’t grow up near an ocean like their salt water swimming pools warm.


(Apparently there’s actually city rules at what temperature swimming pools in apartment buildings and hotels must be kept at. As if the city doesn’t have enough to do, like kicking smokers off patios and out of parks.)

Sunday, I packed a change of clothes. Pretty much shed every piece of gear for street clothes except my socks and sneakers. I even brought a spare jacket. I found the inside of  my winter running jacket gets quite damp and sometimes doesn’t fully dry the time I’m leaving for home. Not much point in dry inner layers if I’m going to toss on a wet shell. Just more clothes for the hamper when I get back to the apartment. Made for a much better post-run coffee and walk home.

Despite the frigid temperatures of the weekend, it was actually unseasonably warm this week.   A slight breeze on Tuesday meant it was a mere -3 for our clinic night run. http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/149674315

Wednesday, despite some morning flurries, it was +2 by the time we had our practice run. http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/149896518 It felt fantastic to run in warm weather again.

Yes, after last weekend, two degrees above zero is considered warm.

I actually saw a guy in shorts and a t-shirt walking down Bank St. That was a little much.

Maybe the Canadian groundhogs were right and spring is just around the corner?

Yeah, right.

The weekend forecast has some great mild temperatures in store for us here in Ottawa before going to back to seasonal temperatures. This week’s warmth will likely prove to be like the proverbial last dance at a strip club before last call. As soon as you let yourself think it can last, the song ends, the lights come on, you empty the last twenties from your wallet, and you’re thrown out into the night cold and alone.

Not that I know from experience. I only go to those places with friends.


… Mmmm Fooood

I hear there’s a big football (No, non-North Amers, not soccer, the other one with pads and stuff) game this weekend. I’m told that this game is often used as an excuse to gather together drink and eat copious amounts of food. Seems like as good an excuse as any to write about one of my favourite subjects.

Let’s start with a hard, maybe uncomfortable, truth.

Fat people like food.

That’s it.

Pretty simple.


The reasons may be conscious or subconscious, but the point is their brain signals to them food=good. It’s not a bad thing to enjoy food, the problem is when you enjoy too much of the wrong things and don’t compensate on your activity level, you’re going to run into trouble. It’s not even that fat people don’t like exercise. I know a lot of overweight people who are quite active. Some wish they could be more active, but the extra pounds they are carrying have ruined their joints.

Of course, the opposite is true, too. When people who don’t like food refuse to eat or eat and then purge, they’re setting themselves up for big health trouble.

The relationship you have with both food and exercise is just like any relationship you have with human beings. You need to maximize the healthy ones and end the unhealthy ones.

Like all relationships, it will be a work in progress. Unlike the toxic girlfriend/boyfriend you broke up with, you can’t kick food out of your life. You can’t change your locks on food. You can’t change your phone number on food. You can’t send your new boyfriend to explain how the world works to your old boyfriend. Sorry, you’re going to have to stay together for the kids’ sake.

You may be stuck with your relationship with food, but at least it’s an open one.

Newt Gingrich’s favourite.

To reach your fitness goals, you’re going to have to say to a few lovers, “It’s not you, it’s me,” when it really is you. It’s not that you don’t like them; you don’t like what they do to you. They’re the friends that are good to you but not for you. You want something they just can’t provide: nutrition.

Unfortunately, it won’t be a clean break up. Your favourite bad-for-you foods are the proverbial stage 5 clinger. They’re waiting for you to break up with that skanky ho you dumped them for so they can swoop back in. They’re never going to grow up and meet Mr. or Mrs. Right.

I know. Some of the former flames I thought I left in other provinces and even other countries have found me here in Ottawa. One has now formed an unholy alliance with one of my new loves. Covered Bridge Potato Chips are now being sold at Freshii, my favourite spot to grab a quick, healthy post-run meal.




I wonder if they talk about me? The ex seems determined to get back together with me, so is probably talking smack to the new love as we speak. Dear Freshii, don’t listen to her.

If you’re lucky, you’ll make it to your goal without backsliding. If you keep your fitness regimen as part of your maintenance plan, there may be a temptation to have the occasional quickie with the old flame. After all, you told them it was you and now you’re better, right?

You could always do for your former food flames what your real life, human friends helped you do: make them better.

I love to cook. A person who loves to eat should love to cook. In the Ten Minute Cooking School segments in his DVD extras, film director Robert Rodriguez likes to say cooking is like making love; you’re going to be doing it for the rest of your life so you better be good at it.

When I first went into Free Form Fitness to meet for the information session, the owner, Rob, asked me if I was on a desert island and could ask for one food item what would it be.

My answer: MacGyver. I’d claim to be a cannibal and ask for MacGyver as a meal only to use him to get my ass off that island!

And once MacGyver got me off the island?

Shepard’s pie.

Mmmm. Shepard’s pie.

Since potatoes of any kind were out of bounds on the early stages of the meal plan, I needed a substitute for the topping. A lot of recipes call for the ground beef to be cooked in ketchup or chilli sauce, which is thick ketchup with chilli peppers mixed in. Both are high in added sugar and were also no-nos on the plan. Corn was also a no-no, but I wasn’t much of a corn in shepard’s pie person

My phase 1 substitutes – the ketchup/chilli sauce is easy: salsa, the hotter the better. You only need a couple of dollops. Two tablespoons of salsa is 10 calories. Two tablespoons of ketchup is 50 calories. The meat and whatever veggies you use (I use carrot, celery, and onion) will absorb the excess juices. For the potato substitute, cauliflower puree. Steam the cauliflower, toss in a blender with some yogurt, a clove of garlic, and a pinch of sea salt. You may have to keep adding cauliflower to thicken the mixture to mashed potato consistency.

In phase 3 when complex carbs were back on the menu, roasted sweet potatoes became the topping with a little mozzarella cheese on the top for colour contrast instead of cheddar. Sweet potatoes are so naturally creamy they mash up quite well with adding any dairy. I call this version my cowboy pie, since cowboys are the shepards of the southwest.

Yeah … that’s it.

Pizza craving? I found this recipe for cauliflower crust pizza. One of those packages of pre-chopped cauliflower from the salad section of your grocer should be enough for a full sized pizza. It also holds up well for leftovers.

Fried chicken? This one is work in progress. Toss some almonds into a food chopper and chop to the consistency of crumbs. Throw the crumbs on a plate and season with your favourite herbs and spices. Wrap boneless breasts in plastic wrap and flatten by pounding with a heavy pan (This helps them cook faster and evenly in the pan. If you’re going to try baking the breast, you can skip this step). Dredge breasts in flour, beaten eggs, and then crumb mix. Fry in a pan heated with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Few minutes a side and you’re good to go.

Burger? Have a hamburger. Just don’t have the bun if you are in the early stages or sub a whole wheat/multigrain roll in the later stages. If you’re ordering at a bar, no fries. Get a soup or salad as a side.

Getting the nutrition equation right is going to be key as I train for my first half marathon … and my second.

That’s right, I wrote second. Registration for the Canada Army Run opened up this morning.  Since I was up late last night, I went to the website and registered not long after it opened. It’s September 23rd, a week earlier so it doesn’t conflict with Battle of Britain commemorations and the Terry Fox Run.

Yes, despite just starting the training for my first half marathon, I’ve registered for my second.   The popularity of the race means you need to register early. Ottawa Race Weekend Half Marathon is already 85% sold out and we’re a little less than four months away from race day.  Getting the coveted black jersey to add to the collection this year. I registered the 2:15 time, but am going to train to finish under that. I also indicated a size medium for the jersey. I wonder if that will be too big by September.

We actually had our first training run of the half marathon clinic on Wednesday. A quick 3K tempo run. Since most don’t realize the half marathon training schedule begins on Wednesday with our first clinic night the following Tuesday, there weren’t a lot of people. The two that wanted to run with the 2:15 group quickly fell back to the 2:30.  Since we have over 50 people registered for the clinic, I’ll have more next week.

In fact, I’m thinking of taking up this challenge:

I’ve always been a big Drew Carey fan. I loved his show. Now that he’s on daytime TV, I sort of lost touch of his career until he guest starred on episode of Community.  At first, I only recognized him by his voice. I think of myself as the last person to get starstruck, but when I see people, famous or otherwise, go through what I’ve gone through and have come out the other end the better for it, it powers me onward.

So Drew’s time will be my goal. Not my immediate goal, but my long term goal. I’ll keep doing half marathons until I reach it.


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,