Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011 Goals / 7 Weight-Loss Tips

Happy new year! It's 2011 and many people (including yours truly) are setting goals for the new year. For me, the big goal for 2011, of course, is to get healthy. I've had a severe bout of plantar fasciitis since July and am only now seeing significant progress in my foot thanks to time off from running, physical therapy, a night splint, and self therapy. An orthotic designed for runners is on the way and I'm feeling optimistic about my foot for the first time in months. If my progress continues and I'm able to be at 100%--or damn close to it--by April, here are some goals for the year:
  • Break 2:55 in the marathon. My current PR is 2:58 and since then I've run two 2:59s. I was planning to go for a sub-2:55 at the 2010 Vegas Marathon, but my foot injury dashed those hopes. A spring 2011 marathon PR effort is an outside possibility, but realistically I think my PR push will have to be in December 2011 at either the Vegas or Sacramento marathons.
  • Top 20 at the Leadville 100. Entering the Mayqueen aid station (mile 86.5) at the 2010 LT100, I was in the top 25, but altitude sickness landed me in a cot at Mayqueen for 40+ minutes as more than 50 runners passed through. I still got the big buckle and a sub-25-hour finish, but I wasn't and am still not satisfied AT ALL with the result. In 2011, my big goal is to finish top 20 at Leadville.
  • Break 4:30 at the Leadville Trail Marathon. This is an ambitious goal as the LT Marathon is one tough race. At the 2010 LT Marathon, I finished with a 4:55, which is a very solid time, but again I wasn't and am still not satisfied with my time. Is a theme emerging?
  • Summit all of the Front Range 14'ers. The Front Range 14'ers are Evans, Bierstadt, Greys, Torreys, Long's and, of course, Pikes Peak, which I've already done twice.
  • Stay healthy for the whole year. In the last three years, I've suffered injuries that really complicated things. In 2008, it was a patella femoral injury during the Mohican 100 (still finished 4th overall) that required PT and basically cost me 5 weeks of quality running (I still managed a 2:59 at the 2008 Columbus Marathon a few months later). In 2009, after a 131-mile effort at the USA 24-Hour National Championship in Cleveland, I suffered inflammation of the bursa sac behind my left Achilles heel, along with a sore arch and knee. It took me a full two months, including PT, to come back from that injury. And of course this year the story has been plantar fasciitis. With some recovery and cross-training built in in 2011, my plan is to stay healthy the whole year!

If your goal in 2011 is to lose weight and get healthy, I'm wishing you success! You can do it! What's stopping you?

I know what it's like to fight with weight and the aches and pains of carrying too many pounds. In 2003, Anne and I made some diet changes in our life together and we've never looked back. We started eating healthier and my weight plummeted. I went from a pudgy 219 pounds to 168 pounds--from a dude many perceived as a "big guy" to a dude many people see as "slim." I went from size 38 pants to size 33, from a size 46 suite to a size 42, from an XL to a large and sometimes medium, from a fat face to a bony face. But best of all, my lower-back pain went away, my confidence improved and success ultimately came my way.

Excess weight is devastating to one's health. Complications and problems from being over-weight or, even worse, obese include back and spine pain, joint problems, diabetes, heart disease, cancer (cancer cells feed off sugar), stroke and low self-esteem (which can contribute to depression). Simply put, the #1 killer in America today isn't heart disease or cancer; it's obesity!

For me, the weight-loss didn't happen overnight. Even when I was over-weight, I was still ripping off runs of 4-5 miles but eating the wrong foods (like KFC, mashed potatoes, too much red meat, cookies, etc.) and smoking a few cigarettes a day. Not until we changed our diet did the weight finally start coming off, allowing me to amp up my running and eventually focus on a dream I had since I was 17 or 18--finishing a marathon. This experience tells me that changing your diet is the single-most important thing you can do to bring weight-loss. Here are seven tips:
  1. Eat whole grains. This includes whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain bread, brown rice, whole-grain cereals (preferably oat meal, but not the instant kind) and sweet potatoes. The grainy texture of these products may seem strange at first, but give them a shot and stick with it for a while. I'm now a big fan of flour-less bread, such as Ezekiel, that instead has whole grains. Whole-wheat and whole-grain products help prevent your blood sugar from skyrocketing like it would as a result of simple sugars. It takes a lot longer for the sugars in whole-grain products to be broken down, and so the release into the bloodstream is slower. Skyrocketing blood sugar, as is the case with simple sugars such white rice, white potatoes and really bad stuff like pop, is very bad for your weight and health. An added benefit of whole-grain foods is better digestive function. I really like Hodgson Mill whole-grain products and am a huge fan of Safeway's whole-grain organic pasta line. Uncle Ben's makes great brown rice; buy the kind that takes 30 minutes to cook. With oat meal, avoid the instant kind since it's loaded with sugar and instead buy the kind you cook on the stove top. Quaker's 1-minute oats are great!
  2. Consume lean proteins and avoid red meat and pork. Lean proteins include everything from nuts, poultry and fish to skim milk and yogurt.
  3. If possible and if resources allow, consume organic products and avoid meat and poultry from animals that were fed corn products. Cows are not supposed to eat corn, and yet that's a big part of their diet these days since corn-feed is so abundant and cheap. Cows were intended to graze in fields. Avoid red meat from cows that were fed corn (which is 99% of the meat at your local supermarket) as these cows just aren't as healthy, lean and happy as grass-fed cows. The same goes for poultry and, believe it or not, farm-raised fish. I'm a huge fan of free-range chicken, grass-fed beef (in strict moderation, as in once a month), wild-caught fish and cage-free eggs. You will probably need to buy these products at a higher-end grocer like Whole Foods, Fresh Market or, here in Denver, Sprout's (or, better yet, the farmer's market)...but it's worth it. The added cost of meats may ultimately cause you to eat less of them--a good thing--and cook more vegetarian meals (another good thing).
  4. Focus on fruits and veges. I love salads with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I pretty much have given up all store-bought salad dressings since they're loaded with garbage. My favorite veges are broccoli, spinach and and red peppers. My favorite fruits would have to be fresh pineapple (wonderful anti-inflammatory qualities), apples, honey dew and bananas. I eat an apple a day.
  5. Drink lots of water and stay hydrated. You can curtail your appetite significantly by just drinking lots of water.
  6. At all costs, avoid refined sugars, fast food, processed "foods" and anything with high-fructose corn syrup. Popular refined sugars include white rice, white pasta, white bread (basically any bread that's not 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain), white potatoes, soda pop, candy, and desserts. High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is, in my opinion, the #1 worst thing you can eat with the possible exception of trans fat-laced foods (which usually also have HFCS). Science is now starting to show the critical danger of HFCS. A chemicalized product that is cheap, HFCS is super-sweet, makes you feel nasty and has secretly replaced good, old-fashioned sugar in literally thousands of products on the grovery store shelf. It makes us fat! HFCS is used in everything from mainstream mayonnaise, sauces, ketchup and dressings to cereals, cookies and pop. You can buy all of those things and more without HFCS--you're just going to have to pay more. If you rid yourself of products with HFCS, you will be amazed how much better you'll feel.
  7. If you do nothing else, never, ever drink calories, especially soda pop which is laced with high-fructose corn syrup. Avoid sugary coffee drinks like mochas and lattes, pops (which are laced with HFCS), "fruit" juices, and sweet tea. If you love sweet tea, use Spenda instead of sugar. Try diet juices and diet pop, although pop in all forms should be avoided. I admit that I am a big fan of Crystal Lite, which contains the ever-controversial phenylalanine. At the end of the day, water reigns supreme.
Click here for more details. Exercise takes it all to the next level. Do it gradually and set realistic goals. Before I ran my first marathon (2004 Columbus, 3:22), I paid my dues, finishing a few 5Ks and a 20K and being an active member of a running club where I learned the ropes.

Then if you become a marathoner, as I did when I hit about 180 pounds in 2004, the weight really comes off. I didn't turn to marathoniong for weight-loss. I love running and it's only by good fortune that my passion is also a great way to get and stay healthy. Since 2004, I've shed about 12 more pounds and am holding steady at 168 pounds (around 165 if I'm really in good shape and primed for a big race).

Here's some off-the-charts motivation for you!

You can do it! Just do it. Now!

More at Ben Does Life.

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