“Dropped 40 pounds in a year, Jeff? How did you do it?”

UPDATE: -47 pounds and counting | The world is my treadmill…

Me: November 2011 Me: November 2011

In the months leading up to my Grissom High School Reunion in July 2012, I knew I wanted to do something to get in shape. When our younger daughter Heather returned home from college for the summer, she suggested juicing: blending fruits and vegetables in a specially-made juicing machine, and drinking the juice as a meal replacement. So we did that juicing “cleanse” for a month before the Reunion.

Two dear lifetime friends were, in my eyes anyway, the hit of the Reunion: Karen Cass Gill and Carol Baldwin Butterworth. Karen is in amazing shape, and you know those long distance runners from Kenya who compete in the summer Olympics? Well, Carol was in better shape than anyone I’ve ever seen other than, pretty much, those runners from Kenya.* Carol is Association Director Of Youth Teen and Families for a network of YMCAs in Virginia, and here’s what she said about it: “If I’m telling everyone to get in shape, how can I be anything less?” Everyone at Reunion marveled at her. A few days later, done marveling (at least for the moment), I asked her what she does to stay in such, um, marvel-ous shape. She told me several things, but the most important one was this: “I try to always get my 10,000 steps a day.”

I’ve worked in my home office for years, and at that point I figured I was probably getting, oh, 400 steps some days. I also knew that…

  • In Fall 2011 I had lost weight, for the first time in decades, doing absolutely no exercise and simply using Herbalife.
  • There was more than enough medical opinion about the negative impacts of carbonated drinks (soda), whether sugared or “diet,” on the body.
  • I walked faster than nearly everyone I had ever known, fueled in part by a job at Hearst Media in New York City early in my career.

Me: late July 2012 at Reunion late July 2012 at Reunion

I think I earned about enough on that Hearst job to cover the cost of commuting from my home in New Jersey to NYC–taking the NJ Transit bus because it was cheaper than the train–and as such, paying for taxis, buses, or subways in the City itself was unthinkable. So every day I speedwalked from the bus station at 42nd Street and 8th Avenue to my Hearst building on 57th Street between 8th and Broadway, a block away from Central Park. Enhancing my walking speed were the multitude of good gentlemen, from all corners of the globe, with various levels of proficiency in both the English language and the rules of the road, who drove taxis in the City. (I would love for you to read about two of them here in one of the best things I have ever read in my life, a comedic tour de force by, in my view, the greatest humor writer who has ever lived, Dave Barry.) Not only do these gentlemen drive at, apparently, the speed of light. No, if you are a commuter always looking to “take the extra base”** to get from the bus station to Central Park in no time flat, crossing streets even when the traffic light is against you because you’re “sure you can make it,” they gleefully drive faster and aim at you.

But we are not here to relive days of glory on the mean, taxi-littered streets of New York. We are here to discuss healthy living today. So…from a standing start, which is an apt metaphor for no exercise, around August 1, 2012, I invented my own nutrition and exercise plan for life. Not a “diet.” A plan for life. Here is that plan.¤

Me: August 2012 late August 2012

||| NUTRITION

  • Breakfast and Lunch: Herbalife shakes. 1 cup Silk or almond milk + 2 scoops Herbalife, blended in the Magic Bullet:
  • – 1 shake for breakfast, usually vanilla or berry flavor, blended with frozen berries.
  • – 1 shake for lunch, usually chocolate, cookies & cream, or cafe latte flavor, with crushed ice.
  • Dinner: just reasonable foods and portions focused mainly on protein and vegetables. No “counting,” just common sense.
  • Salad: sometimes instead of Lunch shake, or with Dinner. By salad, I mean:
  • – A BIG salad using any vegetables I want…
  • – seasoned with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and…
  • – topped with feta cheese
  • No bottled/processed dressing, bacon (even “fakeon”) bits, or other toppings or cheeses. I kind of feel guilty using the feta, but it’s so good…
  • Beverages:
  • – 1 cup of coffee almost every morning, brewed in Keurig coffee maker, with creamer; not sugar free/fat free/taste-free, just sweet, tasty creamer.
  • – Rest of day: I’ve never been great drinking plain water unless it’s right after a workout; in fact, at times it makes my stomach sick. So I drink mostly flavored water, using Crystal Light or a store brand. I use those little 5-calorie packs in a bottle of water, or the bigger packets that make up a pitcher of drink. Or I drink flavored water such as Refreshe.
  • – The JeffDrink: I like a good drink, beer, or glass of wine. Yet I found a simple, healthy, tasty alternative that still looks like I’m “having a drink” when I’m out on the town:
  • Club soda over ice
  • Splash of lime juice (preferably Rose’s)
  • Splash of cranberry juice
  • Snacks: any vegetable. I allow myself to put a bit of EVOO and balsamic vinegar in the bottom of a mug and dip veggies; current favorite: sugar snap peas. Fruit is cool, too, but in limited quantities to keep sugar intake down. For me: 1 apple a day (keeps the doctor away, yeah, yeah), or a few large strawberries.
  • “The DON’T List”: no soda (other than club), and no late-night eating, ever.

I know many people say, “Eat a nice big breakfast and then eat less the rest of the day.” That has never worked for me. “Eat a nice big breakfast” and all that seems to do is open the drawbridge for a conquering army of overeating all day long. So I do this.

Do I ever go off the plan? Sure. I’m human. (Okay, “exceedingly” human.) On a rare day I get a little crazy and eat bad things, do only one Herbalife shake…or no shakes. (Btw: Wheat Thins are the devil.) If I fall short, though, I get back on track fast.

Me: early March 2013 early March 2013

||| EXERCISE

I’ve run a lot in my life playing sports and just having fun, and I used to run to try to get in shape. Problem: every time I did, I’d get a week or two into it, maybe as much as a month, and then I’d hurt a knee, ankle, hip, shin, foot, or some combination of sore body parts. When that happens, what do you do? “I’m kind of hurting, have to lay off a few days/weeks”…and the laziness and inertia HAVE you. You quit running. Last time I was shopping in an athletic footwear store, one of the managers, a lifelong runner and fitness buff who knows all the tricks of the trade, was in a full leg cast because she hurt herself running. So here is what I do instead:

  • Powerwalk nearly every day. For most of us a mile is about 2,000 steps, give or take, depending on the length of our stride. I do at least 10,000-12,000 steps (five to six miles), often more like 14,000-16,000 steps (7-8 eight miles), and my personal best for a single day is more than 23,000 steps, or 11-12 miles. (Those 8-12-mile days are how I treat myself on weekends and holidays.) Sounds like a lot, but those steps add up fast! Walking endlessly on a treadmill in a gym drives me crazy. So I walk outside, starting at my house, on roads and trails, on highways, through parks, wherever is walkable. I’m hovering up around 5mph, so I can do this fast enough to get in a walk at 5am, late afternoon, or even lunchtime.

Me: late March 2013 late March 2013

Equip the dream:
– First I got a great pair of walking shoes; tried several leading brands and the most comfortable ones for me are Nike Pegasus. Made sure they were sized to give me plenty of room for comfort, and for foot expansion after I’m out there awhile “flying.”
– Then I got a Fitbit, something else recommended by Carol, but any step counter would do. I love my Fitbit, and if I ever need another step counter, I’ll get another Fitbit.
– Of course, in all climates including ‘SoCal’ (Southern California) where I currently live, speedwalking apparel runs the gamut from shorts and a tank top, to sweats, to zip tops, to a light jacket. Always a hat or a visor: to keep the sun at bay in warm weather, and, in cold weather, to keep the heat from escaping out the top of the body.
– Final accessory but a crucial one for me: a phone and a music player of some kind, in-ear earphones with a microphone to answer phone calls on the go. When I started this adventure it was my Zune; now it’s my iPhone 5.

Prepare for success:
– Before every walk I start with toe touches and spread-leg hanging stretches, for about two minutes, to stretch out the hamstrings. Before I did this, I would play “Dueling Hamstrings”: either my right or left hamstring would start killing me halfway through a walk, and sometimes they’d play a duet.
– Time to walk, and it’s pretty simple: I ease into it for about 50 steps, then go as fast as I can every single step, without stopping, until I get back to my starting point. Some people recommend doing intervals: walking super fast, then slowing down, and alternating. I just find my stride and fly. (Sometimes I have to stop to find a hidden spot in the forest and “give a little something back to the community,” but that’s the only stop.)

March 2013 | Me at Taekwondo March 2013 | After we got back from TKD that night. Cory was great; Staci got promoted to her next belt!

Muscle Up:
– Earlier this year I had the opportunity to do one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life: CrossFit and Olympic powerlifting across the country with a dear friend, and one of the most amazing physical specimens I’ve encountered in this lifetime: Jimmy Baker. Working out with Jimmy, I saw first-hand how knocking off the “sitting on a bench, pumping a muscle” gym rat routine, doing good, basic exercises like Squats, Pullups, Push Presses, Bench Presses, Burpees, GHD, the CrossFit “FRAN,” and more–quickly and consecutively, with ultra-high intensity–not only made me stronger, but built more muscle faster!
– While across the country I had yet another opportunity to do something I had never done before. Staci Hamer Ottaway invited me to join her and her son Cory one  night at Taekwondo (TKD) on the campus of the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), and it was great! Early on, when we were doing the punches and blocking movements, the instructor kidded Staci, “Are you sure he’s never done TKD before?” His enthusiasm faded somewhat when we progressed into the kicking movements…
– There is simply no “replacing” workouts with Jimmy…ever…but now back in California, I try to hit the gym a couple of times a week, full-body workout, CrossFit + powerlifting + other favorite exercises. I have little ‘competition’ for the Squat racks, which is where I now do most of my workout.
Jimmy Baker killed me!

  • early April 2013 | Jimmy said, “After the FRAN I sometimes lay right down and do a concrete angel.”

Move over, Wheat Thins. Burpees are also the devil (per Jimmy).

||| REST

I get about six or seven hours of sleep a night, sometimes less and on rare occasions a bit more. Not sure whether that is optimal, but it feels right for me.

Me: 20 April 2013 April 2013 at Relay For Life

||| RESULTS THUS FAR

  • I’ve lost 40 pounds in about a year and am in the best shape of my life. Karen, who enjoys acting and entertaining, has given me a movie-inspired nickname: The Incredible Shrinking Man. My doctor tells me my ideal weight is about 155; I’ve “broken 170” and am gunning for 160. Will I make 155? Not sure, but I’m really not worried about it.
  • Since I’ve been doing this I rarely feel tired during the day, and sleep well at night.
  • I used to have “a sensitive stomach” and was always popping Tums or drinking Pepto-Bismol. Since I’ve been doing this I rarely have a stomach problem. Red wine used to “destroy me;” now I can drink it–a glass or two, every few weeks–just fine.

||| COOLDOWN/LAST MILE

I currently work out of my home office in SoCal as a global program director for Stratecast. Both daughters are in college. I live in a suburban neighborhood near highways and parks. I do at least some work most weekends and holidays, but can also grab an hour here or there as needed during “the work week,” whatever that really is anymore. As I said above, I also seem to walk faster, naturally, than pretty much anyone. What all of that means, at least to me, is that “conditions are right” for me to take on this every-day physical and nutritional regimen; I have advantages others do not. So lest anyone think I am holding myself up as a model for what others should do: I am not. I am betting that some can, and if, after consulting a physician, they choose to undertake something like this–probably under tougher life conditions than me–they have my utmost respect.

Me: May 2013 ("press time") May 2013 (“press time”)

One of my other joys in life is doing impressions. So before I close I’ll dip into the comedy vault for something I’ve told friends in the voice of comedian Ron White, explaining what I’m up to: “Ah’m makin’ up for decades of STUPID.” Those who, unlike me, have remained in top shape since high school have my profound admiration.

I found my motivation before, at, and since my Grissom High School Reunion. I fell in love with life again. I get boatloads of support and encouragement from those I’ve mentioned above, and others who are friends in fitness and life. God bless them…and you, for reading this far!

Me-Gym_10-05-2013_2 28 47 PM-EDITEDUPDATE: October 2013

UPDATE 8 October 2013: 162 lbs, two away from goal (or as my friend Mike Simonson says, “…so your goal is 164?”)

UPDATE 26 January 2014: 158 lbs, two under goal weight and just 3 lbs away from “perfect doctor’s chart weight” of 155. Here are the most recent photos of me that I actually like, from when I ran the Oceanside Turkey Trot at Thanksgiving 2013 in 24:56. Full story here.

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UPDATE June 2014: Never really done carving down but now even more focused on building up, and confident enough to take this gym selfie. Heaviest preset bar at my gym, 110 lbs., for shoulder shrugs.

! Gym selfie_June 2014

If you haven’t done so already: find your motivation–and run (or powerwalk) with it.

!mB for WP

* I swear when I was a kid the Olympics broadcasters pronounced it “Keen-yah.” My daughters insist it was always “Ken-yah.”
** Sorry: baseball expression. I sometimes write in sports metaphors.
¤ This is not a recommendation of any course of action for anyone; it is a statement of the program undertaken by the author. Before beginning any health or exercise program, consult your physician, as I did.

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4 Responses to “Dropped 40 pounds in a year, Jeff? How did you do it?”

  1. holly says:

    great read Jeff!!! Ah,, happy to be part of it you!

  2. Vicky says:

    Wicked Awesome! :o)

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