Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I am the Biggest Loser.

     You have my word that this will be the final update on our 12 week family weight loss contest.  I know it may have been annoying to hear the constant chiding of my siblings, the endless updates, and other complete blogs dedicated to it, so after this one, I promise, no more.  Thanks for bearing with it. 

     I want to start by thanking my family for all the support during these 12 weeks.  My wife and kids were a great support network for me, always agreeing to eat the diet food we made or exercise with me, when I wanted to do something.  It always helps when you have a weight loss partner, and in fact the top 3 winners in the contest had spouses that lost double digits too. My wife, although not in the competition, dropped a solid
Sunday morning's actual weigh in
 12 lbs which put her back to her high school weight.  Congratulations dear! The end result of the contest of the 15 of us, is that there are a couple of hundred fewer lbs that we are toting around.  That's incredible.  We also motivated several other friends and neighbors to start dieting and or exercising, so the true loss in incalculable.  Since it was a challenge or a competition, there had to be a winner, and one was declared on Sunday.  This individual lost 19.33% of his body mass, a total of 35 lbs in 12 weeks.  With a starting weight of 181 lbs, he weighed in on the last morning at 146.4 lbs, oh and that person was the writer of this blog, The Ongion.  I lost a couple of inches off of my neck, my waist went from 39.5" to 33.5" and my chest also went down about 4". My family was gracious in congratulating me on my weight loss, and handed over the $300 wager promptly.  I also had a side bet for $20 with my brother Ace, and for some reason, that was a little sweeter to win than the $300.  So, I lost 35 lbs in 12 weeks, so the question begs, how did I do it?

     I gave you my game plan in the original blog that I posted (see Its-time-to-lose-some-weight-again), and I pretty much followed it.  I did give up alcohol until I had lost the first 20 lbs, and it was a good motivator for me to lose them.  While I was not imbibing, I also started drinking club soda straight to condition me to the
Ta-Da Last day of the diet
taste of it.  When I did go back to being able to have a cocktail, I swapped the tonic that I usually mixed my gin with, with club soda and saved 78 calories per drink.  That was just one habit I changed that will continue to benefit me now that my goal is to maintain the new weight.  There were countless others that I can't even think of, but now do.  I mentioned that I was going to track my calories daily and this was a brand new thing for me.  I never had done this at any point in my life, and for a guy that spent his whole life in the food industry, I was surprised at how much I learned doing this.   The biggest shock was my overuse of oils, even the good ones, as it relates to calories.  I found no oil or fat that didn't have at least 100 calories per tablespoon and my Glug-Glug method of distributing oil into frying pans likely added hundreds of additional uncounted calories to my previous dieting efforts, but now, never again.  I really like the Livestrong diet tracker and I downloaded the mobile app, although I still tended to track in the evenings on my laptop.  After you set your goal, it will tell you how many calories that you can consume each day to meet this goal.  I started at 1650 calories per day and because of the weight loss, finished near 1400.  I invested a few minutes each day to make sure that I was staying on my caloric goal, or that I was doing enough exercise to make up for my bad days.  Yes, exercise.  For those of you looking for a way to lose 35 lbs in 12 weeks without this, you can stop reading now, because this blog doesn't have that answer. 

     So how much did I exercise?  I had proposed an hour a day in my initial blog, but I have to admit now, that figure was part propaganda to lull my siblings into doing no more exercise than that.  I actually set an increasing schedule of exercise each month and even exceeded that.  In January, I committed to exercising a
I never did find those Ab things
full hour each day, and I never missed a single day, not one.  For February, I moved this number to an hour and 15 minutes, and I started taking Sundays off, but after 2, I went back to exercising on Sundays too.  I never missed a day, except for those 2 planned Sundays.  For March I went to an hour and a half, and I never missed a day. By mid month I found myself exceeding the time by as much as a hour some days.  Yes, I was fanatic about it, but I knew that I would have to be.  As my body started to realize what I was doing and tried desperately to hold onto the weight, I would actually increase my calories and then just do more exercise to work off those calories.  I'm not saying it wasn't difficult to exercise that much, as a matter of fact, I rose most weekday mornings by 4:30 am and by 6:30 am most weekends.  I say most because some days I had to get up earlier.  I started going to my gym at the local high school 15 minutes earlier than my exercise group usually got there, and I stayed an hour after they left. I did a variety of exercises and weight lifting, to once again, keep my body guessing, but I did mostly elliptical training as it burns almost twice the number of calories.  At home I have an exercise bike with decent resistance and it has elliptical type arms to increase the burn.  All the way through I gradually increased the resistance on the machines that I used and now have some of them at their top limits. I have exercised for a few years, but I have never sweat like this before.  When I was traveling I would have to hang my exercise clothes over chairs at night after my workout and place them in front of the heater vent as that was the only way that they would
Pre-diet this summer. 
dry prior to my needing them for my morning workout.  At home, I created a lot more laundry for my wife.  A few work days required me to be more creative, as I had early flights and late dinners, so I'd walk fast in the airport terminals and use my luggage as weights, but again, I never once missed a day or exercised less than the plan.  I plan on keeping up the exercise with much shorter time but with heavy resistance.  I did a half an hour yesterday and it's pretty easy to go back to that once I've done 3 times that some days.  

      To close out this blog I'll talk about motivation.  For me the competition created a lot of motivation, I'm just wired like that.  The money was secondary.  I also allowed myself an occasional "break" from the diet part of the competition, a planned vacation and some date nights with my wife, but even then, didn't go fully back to my old, bad habits.  As the months rolled on, I had to motivate my metabolism a little higher too, and I used several tricks to do this.  I used hot spices and peppers at almost every meal to boost my metabolism.  I drank more caffeine during the day and made sure to drink at least 8 glasses of water each day.  The last month, I tried to do 10 minutes of vigorous exercise, every 3-4 hours including running stairs or finding something to do, even mid-work day.  I walked a lot more and found a convenient 1, 2 and 5 mile route around my house and used them as needed.  One of the oddest things I did was turn down the thermostat in my office a full 5 degrees. Your body burns more calories to bring it back to temperature, so I suffered in a colder room, in order to gain a small advantage over the rest of the field.  When home, I used heavily iced water to do the same thing. I used cinnamon on some foods to keep my blood sugars down, especially on the cookie diet week (See Let them eat cake, err I mean cookies. ) I had stalled out at that point in the diet and this radical diet put me back into weight loss mode.  The last thing that motivated me was not knowing how close the other dieters were to me.  They did a good job of keeping me in the dark on this, and indeed if a couple of them had lost just a couple more lbs, this blog would have had a different title.  I won't single those folks out, as I think everyone who participated dropped weight, and learned some healthier habits and all deserve kudos for their efforts.    I think the most fitting way to close this blog is with a picture of the group of participants that was able to gather for the celebration brunch,  In case you have trouble finding me, I'm the skinny one in the middle. 
9 of the 15 dieters

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

It was a family kind of weekend....

     I'll write on just about anything, and this blog will prove it.  This weekend, it was all about family, and not necessarily mine either.....

     The schedule was daunting to look at, especially for Saturday.  Friday night we had plans to join the Whitman Drama family for that evening's performance of Beauty and the Beast.  We rolled into Saturday am with a commitment with our extended Boy Scout family, and then on to a celebration of life for an adult son of a family we met a few years ago.  That evening we had an invite to a beer tasting with friends that were close enough to be family, and all the while thought of a family in Cdga who were spending the last night that they would have with their daughter who was finally free of the pain of cancer. Did I mention that all my kids were home this weekend too, and that my siblings and I are entering the last week of a 12 week diet challenge?  So, yes, it was all about family this weekend.

     All my kids have performed in plays at Marcus Whitman, so yes the Drama club there is like a little family.  Last weekend they put on "Beauty and the Beast" and I hear that it was fantastic.   I had to hear it, because I
didn't attend, but should have.  Friday night we had tickets and the rest of the family packed up to go, but I'd had a long week, a longer weekend loomed ahead, and my foot was swollen with arthritis, so I sat this one out.   It was a nice mental reset for me to have a few hours of solitude to ponder the things in life that truly matter, but as I sat there, I realized I should have rallied and gone, but I didn't and I let my Drama Club family down.  Family is like that sometimes, they have the best of intentions, but not the best follow through.

     Saturday started out even busier than usual.  As I was entering into the last week of a 12 week diet challenge, I made sure I hit the elliptical for an hour first thing and then started doing some things around the house.  My college son and one of his roommates were home all week, but we really didn't see a lot of them in the mornings, that's the nature of kids in college.  I was grateful for all the time we did get to spend together last week, eating dinners, working out together, and just hanging out
Some scouts from Pack 44
some nights.  His roommate is a real nice guy from Brooklyn and we got to learn a lot about his life there. They just signed on to be roommates again next year, and we couldn't be happier.  Mid-morning I suited up and headed out to pick up our Senior Patrol Leader of our Boy Scout Troop.  The two of us participated in a Crossover ceremony in Penn Yan and welcomed a new Webelos from that Pack into our Troop.  This was a first for us, we normally don't pull from the surrounding packs, but this year there was interest, and this Scout decide to join our Scouting family here in Hall.  The ceremony was well planned and although I wasn't much of a Scout growing up, I've gotten great value from it as a Scoutmaster for the last 8 years.  I got to judge (not eat) some fantastic handmade cakes while I was there but couldn't stay to purchase one in the cake auction.  Kudos to those parents who participate in Scouting, if the kids I saw on Saturday are any indication, your investment is paying off.

     I dropped the SPL off and headed back home to pack up for the next event.  A family that we had met a
John Grabski III of Teeth
half dozen years ago had lost an adult son to cancer the week before and were holding a "Celebration of Life" for him at their sprawling property down near Branchport.  They are great folks and truthfully these events are tough to pull off.  Instead of a normal, somber, stiff wake, it's a potluck gathering to remember the good times that everyone shared with the deceased.  This one abounded with love and affection and my wife and I both agreed that if possible, we'd like to have the same type event when we pass.  It seems more fitting to us.  Their son's story is one of a heroic battle against 5 types of cancer, and at the end he was able to leave the world his debut album called "The Strain" which includes 7 songs which chronicle his battle.  His slogan "Rock versus Cancer: Rock Wins" will stay with me for a long time, as will my memories of John Grabski III.  Kudos to the family for being able to put this last fitting send off together for their son.  While I didn't know him well, I knew him enough to know how much he would have enjoyed the event.  I
I look like a "Where's Waldo" in this picture
got to catch up with some buds that I don't see often enough that day too, and I'll post the picture here.  They are all strapping farmer- type guys, and well, I am not.  I didn't know a single one of these guys before moving out to Hall, so I guess you could say that they are part of my Hall family.  That's a good family to be part of too, and from out first year out here (it's been 20 now), we were treated like family by the whole community.  I hope we've done the same for the newbies to town that came after us. 

My daughter Molly, her boyfriend Jon, and my pretty little wife

We left that event and headed back home to pick up our dish to pass and our college aged daughter and boyfriend for the next event.  We were invited to an intimate St. Paddy's day beer and food tasting at a 
friend's house. As St. Paddy's days go, this was a quiet one for me.  I've done my share of tearing up some large cities and hanging out in bars for countless hours, but this was a perfect way to spend the day, once again surrounded by great families.  Our hosts had half of their children home for the event, and I'd gotten to see their 2 others over the past few weeks while traveling, and I think they set a great example of how children in families should interact.  I hope ours stay as close when they go off to start their careers and families. The food and beer at this party was fantastic and our grilled Reuben paninis on ancient grain tortillas took a solid second in the contest.  After we got home, we all sat around in the living room and chatted and reconnected. I went to bed just a little after my son Nolan and we all made plans for brunch the next am.

     Getting college kids up and out the door by 10 is a challenge, but I have to admit that it was me running late by a few minutes that morning.  Once again I worked out a little too long on the elliptical and a shower afterwards was a necessity. I'll freely admit that we skipped church that am and instead chose to go to brunch in Cdga and then walk the lakeshore together.  My mind was occupied with thoughts of another family in Cdga who were saying goodbye to their daughter that morning.  She lost her 8 year battle with cancer and while it could have defined her life (she was diagnosed prior to her 3rd birthday) she instead was the picture of a happy, loving kid who faced her battle with courage and a smile.  I graduated high school with her aunt and that family has shown me how this kind of adversity can be faced with love and support.  I never had met her personally, but kept up on her progress on Facebook.  I'm glad that she no longer suffers, but I'll admit to hugging my kids a little tighter that afternoon before they got back into their cars and headed back to their lives.  The whole weekend seemed to be a reminder of how fragile life can be and a reminder to not waste your family time as it can be fleeting.  Before we headed out of town, I visited a sister at her house quickly. She's looking great and is giving me a good run for my money on our diet challenge.  It ends next week and I suspect my blog next Tuesday will be titled " I am the Biggest Loser" or "I am (not) the Biggest Loser".  We plan to get the group together at brunch that day too, and after this weekend, I'll probably appreciate the gathering with my family just a little more. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Trip I took last week.....

     Hardly a shocking or provocative title for a guy who travels almost every week, but what if this blog wasn't about travel but about a trip down a long set of stairs and an unplanned ride in a medical helicopter?  OK, then maybe......

     They want to blame the cookies.   You see, people who are dieting hate cookie eaters more than anything else.  They are jealous.  I'll go on record saying that I don't believe it was my cookie diet that caused my tumble down the stairs but I'll agree that it may have been contributory.  I'm probably getting ahead of myself since we haven't talked about me falling down the stairs, but let's leave that until the end and I'll give you the lead-in to the fall and you can decide what happened.....

     I lost 5lbs the week prior to my fall, and yes I ate oatmeal raisin cookies for 5 straight days during it.  I knew exactly the calories that I was consuming each day and I ate them in 3 hours intervals to keep my blood sugars and metabolism in check. I also used interval exercise training and cinnamon to help with this too.  The
I was yellow and now am I blue?
irony of the week was that I had run up and down those same 16 stairs, literally hundreds of times that week, as I used this as a mid-morning and mid-afternoon exercise. I never fell once then. In the middle of that week there was a blood drive locally, and I certainly felt healthy enough to donate, so I did. I gave my blood, sat at the table for a minute or two and then headed back to work.   I didn't fall or faint once.  During my initial exam I did notice that my blood pressure had changed dramatically from where it had been in recent years.  I was 110 over 68 or something like that and it wasn't uncommon for me to be in the 130's or pre-hypertensive stage regularly.  This morning as I write this I am 106/61.  I was also slightly anemic (I know you are thinking it's the cookies) but I've been slightly anemic with no cause or issues for a decade now.  The doctor finally agreed to stop looking for a cause when I reminded her that I was one of her most high-energy patients that she had, and that I operate on about 6 hours of sleep each night (It's 4:18 am as I write this). I was kind of proud that I dropped my blood pressure, as the same doctor had told me that high blood pressure was another risk factor for heart disease.  She never thought to warn me of low blood pressure, but why would she have, as mine had always been on the elevated side.  My wife has low blood pressure and she gets woozy in the hot tub sometimes, and I laugh at her.  I don't laugh at her anymore, a few days ago I got up and exited the tub after 15 minutes and when I went into the house, I had to kneel down for a little while to get my bearings. 

     So what happened that night?  To start with, we decided to have an impromptu gathering of a few close
My view for much of the evening
friends in the Garaj-Mahal.  I had actually given up drinking for the majority of the 60 days prior to that night and I decided to drink gin and sodas that evening, oh and play drinking games.  Ok now, that may not sound like the smartest plan, but after I explain, um I'm sure it's still not going to sound like the smartest plan.  Truly, I followed up my 60 days of abstinence with an evening of standing (and winning !) at a beer pong table.  If I order drinks in a bar, I often order a water too, it's one of my tricks for not having hangovers, however, that night, I drank just the gin and sodas and likely after a day of vigorous exercise, dehydrated myself pretty well. I was back on "normal" food at that point so I ate well, but I had exercised a little more that day to make up for the calories in the food and alcohol that I knew I would consume.  I felt fine during the party and around 11 pm the last guests departed and I headed up the stairs, presumably to turn out the lights.  I say presumably because 10 minutes later I lay in a heap, unresponsive but awake, at the bottom of the stairs and the 2 bumps on my head forever robbed me of those previous ten minutes and a couple of hours after too. 

     My wife heard me come down the stairs, hard, and she thinks I fell from about halfway down.  She opened the fire door to find me in a sitting-type position, with my eyes open, but unresponsive to her questions.  I'll say it right out, she panicked a little.  If you ever doubt someone is truly, deeply and madly in
This will get the neighbors talking
love with you, put them in this kind of position where they see your mortality, and it will confirm it one way or another. My rock steady partner was reduced to a scatterbrained wreck, and I'm sorry I put her through that, but it was awfully flattering. I don't ever see her that way, so it was nice to get a peek behind her organized and efficient exterior.  She had the sense to run and grab my brother and sister in law, who had just left to walk home, and they returned, saw me, and called 911.  This particular BIL fixes a lot around my house, and that night, he "fixed" the situation quickly.  The local ambulance crew came, and they gave my wife busy work, so that they could examine me.  They say they had some trouble finding my blood pressure and pulse initially, and I can believe it, because hours later in the hospital, it had only risen to 91/53.  They tell me that I was joking with the crew and I even questioned the need for an air ambulance (that sounds like me), but I don't remember any of it.  I actually met two different protocols they have for calling in the copter, the number of stairs that I may have fallen and the head injury I sustained, so it was unlikely that an inebriated, injured person was going to get them to call it off.  I haven't gotten the bill yet, but I wish I at least remembered the ride.  Oh, and FYI, if you want to set a small town abuzz, lose 25 lbs quickly and then have a medical copter land in your yard late one night.  I'm surprised I'm not awash in good-wishes casseroles, right now. 

     At the hospital they X-rayed and CAT scanned me, but by then the only thing I really needed was some fluids.  As I became aware, I told my wife to get me some water or I was checking myself out. That was the point that I gained my memory back.  Another brother in law who lives down the street had driven my wife and first BIL to Rochester initially, and I suspect he barely got home before we called
him back to come get us (Thank you!).  While at the hospital, I had an urgent need to go to the bathroom, and I only mention this because I think it's medically relevant, I passed the largest stool of my life while I was there (now you can blame the cookies).  It's my theory that I may have tried to do this while upstairs in the garage and suffered vasovagal syncope right after straining to pass it.  I think I had followed a perfect plan to drop my blood pressure all day, and this may have been the final straw to make me faint.  I suspect it happened halfway down the stairs, and thankfully I fell backwards and hit my head twice, but only got a skinned arm and a small bump on my knee as I slid on my back to the bottom. 

    As I close I want to thank all involved with my care and those who have expressed so much concern for me.  I'm embarrassed that I put my family and everyone through this experience and will try to learn some lessons from it.  Feel free to remind me if you see me engaging in any of these behaviors, except of course, if I'm eating oatmeal raisin cookies. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

A night at the Whalesbone

     This blog recounts a night that my wife and I had in Ottawa recently and the fantastic restaurant that we discovered there, the Whalesbone Oyster House. 

     The place wasn't much to look at but the reviews were fantastic.  It was squeezed in between 2 larger store fronts and we almost passed it, even having the address in our hands, it was that small.  When we went in, we noticed exactly seven 2-top tables that shared a common bench, and then 12 bar seats that went round the bar
We almost missed it.
and even had a few that looked into the kitchen.  The last table was up front and held about 6, and they called that the "Common Table", because if your party didn't fill it, they'd do that for you with some other guests.  We were fortunate enough to score an end 2-top table and a 5:30 reservation.  It looks like they turn the tables 3 times per night, with a 5:30, 7:30, and 9:30 seatings.  As I said, the look of the place from the outside and then the first appearance of the inside did nothing to indicate the fantastic food that we were about to eat.

The 2-tops along the wall
     I'll post the current menu next, so you'll get a feel of what is offered.  I get the impression that it changes frequently with the fresh ingredients that are available and we were warned of the small portions, which I did find to be true, however, we ordered enough items to sate us.  Few of our items are actually on this menu.



My beautiful dining companion that evening


     We started with 3 appetizers, but unfortunately had to change the presentation slightly as it was Ash Wednesday and we were trying not to eat meat.  We had a scallop dish that was supposed to be served on Foie Gras, but we had it without.  The flavor was excellent, but the portion was exactly 2 scallops, not going to fill up a guy like me.  We had a lobster roll, that was full of chunks of lobster and a light mayo-type dressing and a fresh roll.  Char actually liked the coleslaw served with it and heretofore had never like coleslaw.  I ordered a couple of oysters too, after all it was an Oyster House, and we were told that they had the best.  They did not disappoint. We moved on to the Pacific Shrimp (without the Chorizo) and again they were fantastic. Our entrees were coming next and we couldn't have been more excited for them.  Everything was so well done, thus far, that we knew that they would be incredible. 

Me with my back against the wall
     My entree was a fresh piece of Halibut served over a fried square of mashed parsnips.  It had a serving of baby Bok Choy along with it, and the sauce it had with it was understated but perfectly complimentary.   Char ordered the Sockeye Salmon and was very pleased with it, the french fries were homemade and were fried in lard.  Dinner had taken slightly under an hour and a half at this point and I never thought the service was slow,  it all came at a reasonable pace.  Char ordered a beer with her dinner and I had my standard gin and soda.  The wait staff was pleasant, even to a girl that sat 2 feet back from the bar, so she could show off her stockings.  I watched people squeeze by her for an hour, as her bar stool was almost pushed against the back chair of the 2-top adjacent to her.  She seemed oblivious to the havoc she was creating, and truth be told, her legs did not justify her causing all that trouble, they weren't that nice.  I hope she reads this, because I didn't say anything either. 

     We finished the meal with a pear tart served with marscapone cheese and fresh whip cream and I had a black coffee too.  The desert was as good as it sounds, although we got a glimpse of the fresh donut plate that was served next to us, and had a moment of buyer's remorse.  They had a cheese plate option too, which sounded just as good as everything else.  We didn't linger for after dinner drinks, as we were pushing the 7:30 time slot by the time we were done.  I'll finish this blog with an invitation to try out this restaurant if you ever get to or near Ottawa.  It was well worth finding it, the prices were inflated but a value too, and who knows, if you give me advance notice, I'll meet you for a cocktail.  I'll be at the bar, showing off my legs. 
The bar at the Whalesbone Oyster House