Why We Fail

Predestination and the Fat Guy, Rated PG-13

I’ve lost a lot of me in my lifetime – in the past, I’ve lost over 200 pounds, going from over 450 to 250, which is the lowest I’ve ever weighed as an adult. In the last 6 years, I’ve yo-yoed the same 30 pounds up and down, growing complacent in every aspect of my life. I’ve decided to change that for good, but in the back of my mind, there was an inkling fear that I would relapse, start binge-eating again, and gain even more weight back, a situation I’m sure you may have found yourself in at one point or another.

Maybe you felt that fear seep into your body and freeze you, and everything you told myself about exercise, eating healthy for good, etc – all of that felt like a lie. You, like I, might say these things with the best intentions, but if you believe deep down that there’s some capacity for failure within you, then failing is simply an eventuality.

This made me think of why I might consider these thoughts and ambitions to be falsehoods. or rather that I might not “be able” to maintain them in the long run. I threw quotes around “be able” here because let’s be honest, when we’re talking about our ability to do something like “not eat a cheesecake in one sitting”, it’s all on us. Sure you might, like me, have a weak will, but you still have the will, and ultimately your decisions are up to you. You either want something badly enough to give up terrible food and sitting instead of exercising, or you don’t. If your end goal isn’t important to you, and I mean TRULY important, you will eventually fail.

Which is why I considered all the past-mes who have come and gone – all the people I was in my twenties, before I had kids, when I was drastically overweight, etc. Those Tonys have come and gone, replaced by wiser, fitter Tonys, and I don’t have regrets or laments that I am no longer those people.

If you truly want to get healthy, you have to commit to it, and part of that is understanding that this is a fundamental change. Your big-person insecurities cannot follow you into this new life, or you’ll conjure up the demons and weaknesses of your past self and screw everything up. If you want to pursue goals, you need to pursue them with gusto, fully prepared to give up food, comfort, and complacency in order to achieve them and hang onto them.

In short: Even a very minor tendency to believe that you will return to your old ways will make you return to your old ways.

 

Adaptation vs Constant Change

If you grew up in Snowman, Alaska, and your company decides they need you in good ol’ Humid Like Ogre Ass, Mississippi, then you’re likely going to pick up your life and move there. This will suck on multiple levels, but you will eventually adapt, and in that adaptation, you might even convince yourself you’re happy. You might lower your expectations of what you want out of life, or yourself, and get comfortable swatting mosquitoes and sweating through your teeth. Going from Snowman to Ogre Ass and convincing yourself that you like it is a pretty good analogy for being an adult, but it doesn’t have to be.

Everyone is on a diet, or trying to lose weight, or apologizing at Thanksgiving for eating the family dog as proteins weren’t defined beforehand (that might just be me). A vast majority of people’s New Year’s resolution will be something about weight loss, and inevitably they will fail, not because they’re weak, but because they’re comfortable. It’s like finally settling into a relationship – you might gain a bit of weight but you’re no longer on the hunt for someone to put up with you, so you let yourself go a bit.

 

If you’re happy being overweight and complacent, and you’re certain you’re not convincing yourself of that, then this advice isn’t likely for you. If you’re like me, however, and you aren’t truly happy with how you are, where you’re at, how you feel, etc, then no amount of convincing is going to change that. The good news is that you can get out of your complacency and into a mode of constant change. Have you ever wondered why/how people scale Everest or other tall mountain-type things? It’s because they are constantly setting new goals, and then taking those goals, wadding them up and stuffing them into a bear’s mouth, at which point they create new goals. They never get complacent but instead constantly strive to achieve more and better for themselves. They don’t believe they can fail, or if they do, they recognize that they cannot control every aspect of climbing up a mountain. In the case of those who do understand the possibility of failure is there, though, they approach that mountain knowing “failure” likely means they die. If you approached your weight or other goals like that, knowing what failure meant, you would likely treat it significantly more seriously, accepting failure is only a result of outside factors you cannot control.

If you lose 30 pounds, and then you’re happy and can live with yourself, you will probably gain that weight back. If the totality of the goal is “drop some weight”, that can be done with shakes or pills, crash diets, or hell even cigarettes.

If your goal is “get healthy”, though, one of the small goals might be “lose 30 pounds”. If you then try your hand at a 5k, or a marathon, or enter a weight lifting competition, or even just try to beat your own pace at walking, you won’t get complacent. Resting on your laurels is a good way to undo everything you’ve accomplished.

In short: Allowing yourself to get comfortable is a sure-fire way to slide back into old habits and undo your success.

 

The Takeaway

If you have consistently failed at your goals, or you can’t quite break the ceiling or upper limit on your progress, it’s likely that there’s a wrench in the works. Psychological forces act profoundly on our ability to succeed. If you believe, even in a small way, that you can fail through your own fault or weakness, then you’re dooming yourself from the outset.

Similarly, if you believe that hitting your most basic goals is “good enough”, then you won’t ever truly be happy with success. Reaching a level of comfort that allows you to get through days and be at least 51% happy versus 49% unfulfilled is not lasting success. As my wife always tells me, “you have to think past the first step”, which translates to “always have your next target in mind”. If you exercise but eat like garbage you won’t find yourself on the winning end of losing weight.

You have to believe that your future is up to you – that each step you take backwards or even lateral to your goal, is a bad choice. Believe that you cannot and will not undermine yourself, and then you can fight any outward opposition that springs up. Likewise with moving forward with the rush of success – don’t stop when you’ve conquered a small goal. Instead, use that momentum to move towards crushing another one, and then another.

The new year is coming up and with it there will be millions if not billions of resolutions made. If you decide to make one this year, stop first and consider your own psychological perspective on goal-setting. You can succeed, and to let anyone – especially yourself – stop you is a shame.

 

 

Going Sugar-Free, Part 2: Changing Your Diet

Sugar, Sugar Everywhere

As I spoke about in my previous entry, there’s sugar in nearly all processed food. I’m not certain as to WHY you’d want pork rinds with sugar, or high fructose corn syrup in your ranch dressing, but it’s there. In fact, sugar is so ubiquitous that most basic recipes of food WITHOUT sugar are considered “specialty foods”.

Really? I have to go out of my way to find and spend more on something that doesn’t have sugar, when it shouldn’t have sugar to begin with? How can you justify charging me more to leave something out?

Ok, rant over. Because this sugar is in processed foods pretty universally, I hope that it’s becoming clearer why it’s so common for people to exceed – by a large amount – a healthy amount of added glucose in their diet. When measurable blood sugar comes from anything with carbohydrate, you need to pay attention to more than just “sugar” on a nutritional label, because for the most part, your body doesn’t care where the carbs come from. With that in mind, a little numeric guide:

Carb Levels and Expected Outcomes:

151 or more grams a day: This is where most people start to slowly gain weight. Significantly more than 151 grams a day and you might find the weight gain isn’t even that slow!

100-150g/day: This is a great amount of daily carbs for someone who is at or near their ideal weight, is active, and/or who doesn’t have much to worry about in terms of metabolic dysfunction. A person with this level of daily carb intake could probably eat whatever vegetables they wanted to, fruit, dairy, and a reasonable amount of oats, quinoa, beans, or other starches. You could even lose weight with this amount of carb intake, but you’d need to focus more on energy balance (calories in vs calories out), and keep a daily deficit. It is possible, though!

50-100g/day: Carb restriction at this level will make weight loss fairly easy, and eventually your body will enter ketosis, the state of burning fat for fuel instead of sugar. Eating this level of carbs for a prolonged period will provide better insulin sensitivity, reduced inflammation, and a host of other positive effects. You likely wouldn’t be able to eat processed sugar at all in order to keep this level of carb intake, or at least very sparingly, but you’d be able to indulge in fruits periodically and nearly any non-starchy vegetables (and occasional sweet potatoes). Virtually no grain here, though.

25-5og/day: This is a more traditionally ketogenic level of carb restriction. Mostly meat, leafy vegetables, eggs, some dairy (hard cheeses, for instance) nuts, seeds, and fats. Keeping your carb intake to this level will make weight loss truly easy, as a constant state of ketosis will provide mental clarity, appetite reduction, blood sugar stability (further preventing extreme swings in hunger and energy levels) and shedding of excess body water.

 

While I practice and advocate a ketogenic lifestyle (I keep my carbs around 30g a day most days), you can still achieve results and get healthy eating more, as long as you keep it somewhere around 100 or less, assuming you still actively need to lose body fat for health. You could go higher if you’re active and already fit. The key is cutting out all the added sugar, and then reducing from there. White bread isn’t your friend. Pasta (sorry nonna) isn’t your friend. Sugar definitely isn’t your friend, nor are any of it’s differently-named-but-still-the-same friends.

 

With that in mind, it should be time to start looking at alternatives to your current way of eating. You can simply strip out the sugar but following a meal plan and a specific way of eating that has traction and a community will help you quite a bit in both knowing what to eat, how to eat, and staying on track. I have listed a few great eating disciplines below, a few of which I followed or follow myself, but of course you can adapt any desired way of eating to a lower sugar principle. These are by no means the only ways to improve your diet, but the overall inter-related practice of cutting down processed food and sugar are the key to healthy eating for the rest of your life.

 

Whole30

There’s a LOT out there about this way of eating, but the intent is taking you back to cooking at home, using whole ingredients and cutting out processed sugar. Pinterest is FULL of recipes dedicated to this lifestyle, and it’s pretty easy to stick to. The focus is on eating healthy, whole, self-prepared foods, rather than on tracking calories and macros. Like a lot of the other examples I will provide, this relies on your hunger self-regulating as your blood sugar evens out when you’re not bombarding it with glucose constantly. In addition, removing processed flavors and certain other chemical additives will help you eat less as your cravings for certain foods (McDonald’s fries, for instance) will diminish or extinguish without the input of the addictive substances added to them. Whole30 is so-named because it is initially a challenge of sorts; eat like this for 30 days, with no cheats, no slips, nothing. After a few weeks, it definitely becomes easier.

Paleo

Like Whole30, paleo or primal eating focuses on whole foods. The divergence however is that primal focuses on WHOLE foods entirely – no breads, not even homemade ones. It also is a little fast and loose with “added sugar”. A lot of paleo recipes I see use honey and agave nectar because they’re “natural” but honestly they’re still sugar. That said, paleo emphasizes healthy proteins, vegetables, fruits, and no grains. Lots of eggs, nuts, and very little dairy, so if you’re a cheese fan, this might not be the way of eating for you, or at least not in its strictest form.

Atkins

The low carb diet that started me down this path, Atkins is pretty simple: keep your carbs under 25g a day, and you’ll lose weight. This is pretty spot-on, because when your carb intake is that low, your body stops craving food. High levels of insulin, driven by out-of-control sugar intake, cause extreme swings of hunger and mood, but without those insulin levels – and the resulting increased levels of leptin – your hunger is quelled. Atkins is great because it’s simple – the only variable you really track is carb intake. That said, it can stall you if you just eat and eat and eat and never heed energy balance (calories in vs calories out). The various Atkins diet products are rough, too, as they’re technically “sugar free”, but they use maltitol as a non-sugar sweetener, which has a pretty high glycemic impact.

Keto/Low Carb High Fat

This is the diet I personally follow. I keep my carbs low, only getting them from dairy or non-starchy vegetables for the most part. I aim for at least 100g of protein a day on sedentary days, and more on days I lift weights, and I eat fat when I’m hungry. Ketogenic eating has the benefit of keeping blood sugar stable, allowing for a natural reduction in hunger and calorie intake. In addition, because fat and protein are so filling and slow to digest, keto provides another layer of hunger reduction through the main foods you’ll be eating.

 

 

 

 

 

Low Carb Crepes

 

Little Blueberry Thief!

Breakfast with keto or when you’re sugar-free doesn’t need to be only bacon and eggs, or butter coffee, or … nothing… if you’re into intermittent fasting. There’s a billion things you could eat for breakfast, but sometimes you want something that is delicious and seems indulgent, and crepes are maybe not reminiscent of the latter, but on low carb they certainly feel that way.

I made these by accident one day while trying to make cream cheese pancakes for my wife. I goofed on the recipe and forgot almond flour, and so the batter was runnier than normal. Coupled with the fact that I used a flat griddle pan, when I poured my batter, it spread incredibly thin and cooked very quickly. Not wanting to waste anything, I hurriedly flipped it and then flopped it out onto a pan. The result was a thin, roundish, anemic pancake (by pancake standards) so I thought of how to re-brand it. As if possessed by a supernatural force, I found my mouth moving, words flowing forth from me against my will; “call them crepes”.

I thought quickly about how to best to sell my crepe-nee-pancake to my family and I found blueberries in the fridge. I pulsed them with cream cheese and erythritol in the blender and spread that filling inside, rolling them up and dabbing the tops of each with freshly whipped cream. My wife walked in, probably draw to the sound of the blender (“uh, pancakes?”) and the length of time it was taking me to make breakfast. I whirled around with my best “s’spize!” (how my daughter says “surprise”) and presented these beauties. Her and my little girl ate everything I gave them and then some more. My son even ate some, and to illustrate how impressive that is, my wife is very picky, and my son is even pickier about what he eats.

By contrast, who is 2, will sit on the floor with dad and eat pork rinds from the bag with hot salsa from the jar. Chip off the ol’ tallow-block, that one.

Anyway, crepes. Super easy, delicious, keto, quick, and versatile. Make them with your hands, eat them with your mouth, share them with your friends.

 

Keto Krepes (is that dumb? Crepes, then)

4 large eggs
3.5 oz room-temp cream cheese
1 tbsp erythritol or Swerve sweetener

 

Blend the eggs, sweetener, and cream cheese together until smooth.

Heat a griddle or flat, wide non-stick pan over medium heat and grease with butter. Pour 1/2 cup of batter onto the griddle, cook until it starts to solidify (as with normal pancakes, about 1-2 minutes), and then carefully flip. Continue to cook for about 30 seconds and, without tearing or bunching, transfer to a wide platter for filling. A word of caution – making them TOO big will make them unwieldy. About 4 inches across is perfect.

This recipe makes about 4 crepes, so 2 servings, but honestly you can make them whatever size you want. I’ve made tiny ones before and stacked them, with a layer of sweetened, whipped cream cheese in between each before and yeah, it was as delicious as it sounds.

After they’ve cooled for about 5 minutes, spread whatever filling you want on them, just about an inch from the edge, and roll up. Serve with a garnish of the filling on top, or with whipped cream.

I can’t wait until farmer’s market season. Blueberries are the best.

 

Our Favorite Fillings

We make this one a lot, so we’ve got a good amount of variations in our repertoire. A few favs are:

Berries and Cream

1 cup of whatever berries, fresh or frozen (blueberry and strawberry are perfect)
2-3 ounces of cream cheese, softened
3 tbsp Swerve/erythritol
2 tbsp heavy cream

Blend until smooth.

Cinnamon Roll

1 stick of salted butter
1/4 cup Swerve/erythritol
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

Same as before, soften butter (don’t melt it though) and mix vigorously with sweetener and spices

Lemondrop

Juice of a lemon
Sprinkle of sweetner

One of our favorite non-keto breakfasts is German pancakes, these weird, thin pancake things my wife makes (other people do too, I’m sure, probably some of them actually German). We top them with powdered sugar and lemon juice, so the premise here is derivative of that. It’s delicious!

Tiramisu

1 cup creme fraiche/mascarpone cheese (I’ve not done it, but you could theoretically use plain Greek yogurt as well).
1/3 cup Swerve
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup very strong brewed coffee

Blend everything together – you may need to add a bit more creme/cheese/yogurt to thicken as you see fit. Fill your crepes and then dust with cocoa powder. Eat them, make more, eat those, then call your grandma and tell her you’re finally eating well. She’ll be mega proud.
I’m making these tomorrow actually.

 

Maybe this will inspire some keto breakfasts; I know a lot of people get bogged down by the thought of meat/eggs all the time, or are so bored with the various iterations of meat/eggs that they skip breakfast altogether. These are reasonably healthy, have protein and fat for satiation, and taste really good. Give them a spin sometime.

 

Fatherless Fathering

Yeah, like, I get it Rally’s, thanks. Now I’m conflicted AND hungry.

 

 

Fatherless Fathering

Have you ever noticed that when you say or type a word too often, it suddenly becomes foreign? Like the word itself makes no sense and you’re not sure how it ever did in the first place? I’ve typed “father” a lot lately, and the only time it looked more bizarre than it does now was when I saw it on my son’s birth certificate.

There was that line: “father’s name:”  I knew the rules, biologically, and I accepted that I was responsible, but actually being a father? Anyone could technically sign in this space and the county would have all it needed, but for me it was more like signing a job description, embracing my duty.

To put some perspective on the fear I was feeling at this point, I had just gotten my first real job after 3 years at a sandwich shop, had just graduated college, and, at a previous point, had given a puppy back to a friend after 2 hours because the enormity of taking care of it terrified me. In my mind, I was not in a good place to take care of a kid, so when I went to sign that line (“father’s name”), the pen felt a lot heavier than any pen ever had before. Should I sign it? Can I sign it? As a fatherless father, was this ok?

I don’t know who my dad is, not just in the existential sense, or in the “he died fighting overseas before I was born” sense, but in the “I honestly do not know who my biological father is” sense.

My mom was married to a guy when I was younger, but that didn’t work out, and he wasn’t really the patron type, so it was my grandparents, my mom, and me. Don’t get me wrong; my grandfather was one of the greatest goddamned people I’ve ever met, but it’s still different from a dad.

I have all of these expectations of talks I should have had with a dad that never transpired; what if, when I’m supposed to have those talks with my son, I just blank? What if that data was never acquired, and all this time I’ve been doing something critical in my life just completely incorrectly? Am I shaking hands wrong? Would I have been more confident in dating had I a father to talk to about women? How would my life have differed if I grew up with an actual father, even a bad one?

I feared signing that paper because of all the things I don’t know that fathers typically teach their sons. I don’t know much about cars. I abhor most team sports. I’m not particularly handy. My grandfather taught me billiards, taught me how to swim, and instilled me with a love of gardening, and for that I’m thankful, but I feel like I missed out on key “dad” information. How do I know what to pass on to my kids? Is there a GED for dads?

As I put the pen to the paper, one last hesitation existed in the form of fear of the past. My stepdad was a violent drunk, and a physical person to begin with. I was humiliated and beat in front of my friends, given absurd chores to do at a very young age and met with threats of violence if I had trouble with them, and I was privy to torrents of withering verbal abuse from him towards my mother. In times of extreme stress or anger, I could feel his hatred and words pop into my brain and I didn’t want to project that at my wife or kids, knowing that having a baby would be the most stressful, anxiety-inducing thing I’d ever experienced. In my heart of hearts, I didn’t want to be the kind of dad that stuck around but was a horrible influence on his children.

With all of this apprehension in the back of my mind, permeating my soul with regrets and fear, I was, even after meeting my  amazing little son, still terrified of signing that paper; of signing up to be someone’s father when I was so woefully undereducated on the position.

So now here is this blog, one I named Fit2Father, despite STILL being unsure (even over three years later). Obviously I signed the paper, and did so again when my daughter was born. If it had been called “Fit2Abandon”, “AmIFit2Father”, or “GotAllThisExtraChildSupportMoneylol”, we might have a twist here but thankfully I think I’m alright at the most basic aspects of parenting. I keep them fed, I read to them, I play dinosaurs and babies, and most importantly, I have fun doing those things.

I love my children more than anything in existence, but the nagging self-doubt always rears its head.

How embarrassed will I be that I can’t fix the car if it breaks? What will I do if my son loves football? I really don’t know thing one about football. What if my daughter also loves football? Are there girls football teams or will we need to make one? Why is it called football and not “hand-egg”? So many questions…

Truth is, I know if those things come up, I will handle them, because there’s one thing I know that a father does, and that’s support their kids. So if my son or daughter loves sports, I’ll learn sports and throw balls (spastically, I’m sure). I’d do the same thing if they wanted to dance, hunt, or deep-sea fish as well.

Being a fatherless father, I’ve come to realize that my kids will learn about things from me, and even though I didn’t have a template to work off, I will need to teach them regardless.

Besides, a lot of the coolest stuff in the world was done without templates.