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Squat Day – 2016/11/27

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Today was #squat day. Finally breaking back into some sense of normalcy, pushed my pause squats up to 255 for 12 reps on 3 sets; supersetted that with some walking lunges with 35 lb dumbbells. My dumbbell bench is still taking some time to recover, hitting 55×12 for 3 sets with some dumbbell flyes.

“Dummbell Flyes” is an interesting sequence of words. In terms of  time flies is correct. The simple present tense of “fly” is “flies” and not “flys“. The simple past tense is “flew” and the participial form is “flown“. The verb “fly” is irregular. When looking at the lifting action of doing a “fly“, the plural of the action seems to be “flyes” on consensus of articles on the Internet.

Finally, my biggest hurdle and nemesis, the pull-ups. Struggled on some assisted pull-ups; definitely need a couple more rounds to get back to where I was. The long term objective is to be able to do them “knee in band” instead of “foot in band” and then, of course, no band at all. It will come in time, it’s definitely a continued battle.

The next four days will be zero lifting as I will be travelling and won’t have access to anything resembling a proper gym. Hotel gyms are always a fun sort of exercise in futility.

Next week, I will be looking forward to restoring normality. Next week I will be back to normal meal prepping, normal lifting (I never lift normal, only awesome!), normal cardio, normal work schedule at my normal office. I’m ready to get past the last few weeks of infinite improbability.

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Deadlift Day – 2016/11/26

Workouts

Today was deadlift day. This was my second deadlift session since I was out of the gym for nearly two weeks.

Today I was able to push my snatch-grip deadlift up to 275 for the final set; I also pushed up my dumbbell shrugs to 75, my barbell shoulder presses to 85, and my single arm kettlebell clean & press to 40.

Exercise Highest Weight Today Reps
Stability Ball Pikes n/a 15
Half Kneel Rope Pull 37 15
Kettlebell Clean & Press 40 16
Snatch Grip Deadlift 275 12
Dumbbell Shrug 75 10
Bent Over Row 135 10
Lat Iso Pull 40 20
Barbell Shoulder Press 85 10
Dumbbell Lateral Raise 15 15
Heavy Bag
Squatted 1-2 + 3-4
n/a 60 seconds x 3 rounds

 

oeuf dans une bote triste ngatif

Grief, Nutrition, and Exercise

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You’re never prepared. Never. It can come in an instant, and no matter how much you think you’ve readied yourself for it, it hits like you’ve been crushed by a tumbling wall of bricks. You know it will happen one day, but you don’t expect it to be that day. You know there is no avoiding it, but nothing can hold you up when it occurs.

On Friday, November 18, 2016, my mother passed away at the age of 58.

While I come to terms with her death, I also realize I must also come to terms with the behavior changes I have made while she was ill for the prior two months. My mother was extremely proud of the progress I made in changing my life, my behaviors, and my overall body composition. She used to tell her friends and other family members how amazing it was that I was transforming my life, my body, and achieving goals I has dreamed of achieving for decades. I truly believe that keeping this going is what she would want more than anything; to ensure I live a long, healthy, well fulfilled life.

This isn’t the story of my mother’s life, or of her decline, or ultimately her death. Those are stories for another day. Instead, this is the story of how illness can change our behaviors and the importance of ensuring those behaviors don’t become self destructive.

When  my mother first went into the hospital in September, my stress levels began to rise. I noticed by diet beginning to slip. It also coincided with my camp trip, so already I was already thrown off a bit by changes in schedule. I noticed myself desiring sweets more and more. Some days I could resist, while others I found myself stress-eating chocolate on a too regular basis. When I would grab coffee from the Dunkin, I would also find myself subconsciously ordering a donut.

As the weeks progressed, it began to get worse. I would be snacking on a near-constant basis. When I would learn she was doing better, I eased off a bit. If something came up bad, I would find myself snacking again. Then the call came… my mother had a stroke while at the nursing facility being on the mend for an infection. I began to ravenously eat whatever I could find in the house. It simply was the reaction to stress to begin grabbing food and making myself feel temporarily better with this Band-Aid.

I constantly found myself eating food I shouldn’t be eating, neglecting my hydration, and increasingly consuming massive amounts of coffee just to try to ease myself.

After the stroke, she went to a rehab facility located by my bother. This made me feel better; she could recover from the stroke, get stronger, and be near family even though we had to be apart. While at the rehab facility, I began plans to fly in to see her in person.

Then the call came in, and she was back in ICU again. A urinary tract infection, but a nasty one that had spread. She was going to be fine, though. A couple of days in the hospital, and she’d be back to rehab again. She went into ICU for the UTI on Wednesday and by Saturday they were ready to start moving her to a room and prepping her to go back to rehab.

The next day, I received a text that I needed to be a conference call about mom’s status. She had taken a turn for the worse. Chocolate, chocolate was my friend. I was told her condition was extremely critical, and I made plans to fly out as quickly as I could. When I arrived, I was told the full details far beyond what I learned the prior day… her respiratory system was failing. I was told that, in nothing but simple terms, that she was going to die. My entire body went numb, my mind went empty. I began to hunger for more food, it was what I always used to comfort myself in the past.

Over the next five days, my mother was sent to an in-hospital hospice facility where she would be “actively dying” as it was explained to me. The objective was to make her as comfortable as possible in her final days. I was committed to spending her final days with her, taking care of her as much as I could.

In between visits to her bedside, I made trips down to the ground floor of the hospital. There were three options; the cafeteria, Starbucks, and Tim Hortons. Never in four days have a drank so much coffee, eaten so much garbage, and in general had such more behaviors for my own body. Later I would tell a friend that I do believe I consumed more sugar in those four days than probably the prior four months combined.

Each day was the same; barely sleep, spend time with mom, drink coffee, eat a donut, grab a cranberry bliss bar, eat something from the cafeteria, and keep repeating that.

When my mother passed away, the shock was simply more than I could bear at the time. I remember vaguely going to Dewey’s Pizza in Columbus, Ohio and eating pizza. Most everything from the moment I was told she passed until about the time I landed from my flight the next day is still much of a blur to me.

As I began to settle back into my life of “new normal”, I found some of my behaviors were persisting. I’d grab coffee and still be grabbing a donut. I was still reaching for chocolate to satiate my need for comfort. Each time I was doing it, I was both simultaneously conscious and unconscious of the action. As the week progressed, my actions were beginning to take a physical toll and make me sick to my stomach. This was not a physical reaction, but an emotional reaction.

As I look back today, I realize a lot of the actions I took may have been necessary as part of my overall healing process. However, I also know I have goals I want to achieve, a body composition I want to attain, and I won’t achieve these things by stress eating. More importantly, I also know my mother would not want me to be repeating the same behaviors. Many of these behaviors may ultimately may be what caused my mother’s own death, and she was so proud I was breaking the cycle of dependency on food and my desire to get fit.

To the end, she still didn’t like me lifting “heavy” weights, always concerned about my safety above all else. She wanted to protect me, she was my mother after all. I assured her it was safe, I was working with an awesome professional who was helping me, and she had nothing to worry about.

During her final days, in one of our conversations (which were difficult given the stroke) I promised her I would keep my progress going, that I would not allow bad behaviors to repeat themselves again.

So now I am facing a “new normal” without my mother. I do this with her in mind, to ensure I honor her memory and that I will break the cycle of poor health, obesity, diabetes, etc. that has caused the early deaths of many in our family. In her honor, I commit myself more than ever to the great endeavor of a healthy life.

To help steer me back, I will begin food logging once again for a minimum of 30 days. Every single item will be logged; condiments, oils, etc. Everything. I will also commit to returning to a normal workout schedule after my next work trip; four days of lifting, multiple days of cardio, and bringing #BeastMode to everything I do.

At the end of the day, we only have one life. It is up to us to ensure we do everything we can to live a long, healthy life. We can’t always control if we get hit by a bus, but we can control if we eat that extra donut. I now do this not just for myself, but for the memory of my mother who I often thought hated me working out but was simply so proud of everything I’ve done, the commitment I made, and she knew I would be accomplishing great things for years to come.

I miss her so much every single day; more than I possibly could have imagined. You’re never prepared. Never. I do know, however, that time will help… as will keeping my promise to live a healthy, strong life for many, many decades to come.

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Ben 2.0 & After-Camp

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Today begins “Year 2” of my efforts in transformation. While transformation never ends, this concerted effort continues on as I work towards my greater goals. I can achieve great things when I apply my mind and body to them. It wasn’t always this way, however…

A year ago, I was in a severe depression. Every single day I woke up in misery, both physically and mentally. I felt like my body was in a complete shutdown mode. It hurt to walk, my feet feeling the pressure of over three hundred pounds of weight. I couldn’t climb half of a flight of stairs without becoming very winded. In addition to my physical problems, I was having severe mental concerns; specifically, I was constantly dwelling on death. Every day, nearly every minute I would have thought about death. I assume it was because I felt like it was impending given my physical state of being.

Around that same time, I met someone who would help kick me off on the journey of the next year, a man named Andrew. He who would become my trainer, Andrew had me come in for an assessment in September 2015. We met, discussed my current condition, and agreed to meet again. In October we met and my weight went down… but my body fat went up. Not sustainable. After some thinking, I decided to try him as a trainer for a little while.

There is a longer story around this… but that’s for another post.

Beginning in early November we began the process of basically breaking me down and rebuilding me. I was having mobility issues, so we began to work on those. We also began working some dynamic exercises. I couldn’t do a single push-up unless it was on a fairly steep incline, for example.

After I progressed a bit, he pointed to a squat rack and smiled, “we’re going to do squats.” I immediately panicked. I had only ever done squats on a Smith Machine (and not very heavy) based on advice from prior trainers. I got on and fumbled through squats. Then shortly thereafter he had me do a deadlift with a trap bar; my very first non-dumbbell deadlift ever. It felt good. It felt right.

We progressed, but I wanted to know more. I started researching and came across the Nerd Fitness community. I had been a subscriber to their blog posts for some time now, and only just rediscovered them. I decided to join.

In April, I made the decision to ‘cleanse’ my diet. I started eliminating bad food from my diet, taking everything I made poor decisions on before and kicking it to the curb. Instead I focused on clean foods made from whole ingredients whenever possible.

Sometime in May I made another decision… Nerd Fitness was hosting a camp, and I was going! I signed up shortly after they announced their third annual camp, and realized more of what I was working towards. It created a nice deadline to work towards my goals, and allow me to focus on what I needed to do.

I continued working on my body fat. I began incorporating cardio classes into my workouts. What once became a chore became easier as time went on. I discovered I could have endurance if I simply worked at it.

September came fast, and it was time for camp. I was off the the northern mountains of Georgia for 5 days of fitness, workouts, classes, and who knows what. Days before I was to fly out, panic started setting into my mind. I’ve lived with a fear of the outdoors most of my life. As a youngling, I was instilled with a fear of the outside; wild animals, bugs, and all sorts of critters that will eat you.

I didn’t let those fears stop me, and on Wednesday, September 21 I was off to Atlanta to catch a shuttle. On the shuttle ride, unbeknownst to me, I sat down next to one of the headmasters which gave me a captive audience with him for a couple of hours. (Sorry if I drove you nuts, Jonathan.) 2.5 hours north of ATL, I arrived at camp and settled into my bunk. That evening I was off to opening ceremonies. As Steve Kamb, who founded Nerd Fitness, talked about the week ahead, I had a smile on my face. In the back of my head, however, I was screaming bloody murder at myself. “What have you done?” I screamed. “You’re going to get us killed, you moron!”  I continued telling myself. I did some deep breathing, and relaxed myself. After ceremonies, I was off to the bunks; would need sleep for the day to come.

As the first full day began, I was feeling much calmer. I lived through my first night of sleeping in a bunk in a room shared with five other people. I attended Jonathan’s class first thing, Moving w/ Longevity. He told me about it briefly on the shuttle, so I had to experience it. Wow. What can I say? Wow. He taught us to move every joint in our body and be one with our own bodies.

Next up as some Martial Arts Multi-Pack action. I had zero exposure to martial arts going into this camp, so this was a good primer for me to understand the differences… and apparently roll around in the grass with another dude mounted on me; he actually became a regular I saw during the week. Then I moved into Rising Above Emotional Eating with Amy Clover who was simply amazing. She talked us through what impact our emotions had on our eating, and how to be more mindful. She also talked through being more positive about ourselves, which I found very enlightening.

Hit the lunch chow line.

Just after I finished lunch, Troy, a very awesome dude I met the earlier, asked if I wanted to go blobbing. Basically it is jumping off a dock onto a giant inflatable blob and then getting launched. Being fearful of heights, I took 20 seconds of courage and jumped off. Four times. Each time, I fell off the slippery blob. However, I did it and felt a sense of accomplishment.

As I finished blobbing, I realized I had 10 minutes to change and get to my next class. Ran like a beast from the lake to the cabin, and then off to class.

Self Defense with Rachael was intense but so helpful. It helped me understand what to do if their is an assailant after me. I worried I would be out of place as a man, but there were other men in the class as well. Having missed my morning cardio, I felt like getting my heart rate up so now it’s off to Hero’s Bootcamp. Amy again… and she built me up earlier, and knocked me down later. It was a rough class, but I will fully admit smiling through most of it. “I AM A HERO!” we all screamed. OK, I’m beat to hell, so I’m going to go take a class on solving a Rubik’s cube to calm down.

Had some amazing dinner, and as I was leaving was chatting with a few people I had met earlier in the day. Sarah, a wonderful person I had briefly spoken to earlier, was going through her checklist of quests. I sat down and went through mine. We both realized we finished the core quests, and we could go do a “Legendary Quest”.

So we headed off together, teaming up. Halfway through, we ran into two other people, Joe and Joscelyn, who also teamed up to do the quest. Suddenly there was some competition. As we met later in the quest, all four decided to team up to finish it together. What we realized was all four of us were from different houses; the camp had split people up into Harry Potter style houses for fun for the camp, and instilled some rivalry in trying to get points for your house. By teaming up, we all represented all the houses. We solved the Legendary Quest, and we were the first ones to complete it!

Then I got into my costume of Arthur Dent… don’t forget your towel.

Arthur Dent, I Presume? Arthur Dent, I Presume?

On Friday, I took a class on Speed, Agility, and Quickness that was not what I expected… and that wasn’t a bad thing. I got so much out of it. I then took Primal Movement 101 where we learned how to become more connected with nature as we walked and crawled across all sorts of surfaces, including gravel, asphalt, grass, and plastic.

Improv 101 was so much fun, although I nearly got myself killed when I suggested people do jump squats. I then was off to learn how to Life-Hack a home gym which will come in very helpful as winter arrives. Then grip strength to learn how to improve one of my weakest points.

Dinner, and a casual evening around the camp that evening. No major parties, just went and hung out at the campfire and enjoyed some S’mores for the first time in my life by a campfire.

Saturday, I was back in Jonathan’s class in the morning again, trying to build the habit of daily movement to open my joints and being mindful of my body and the connection to the world. I then spent the next several hours doing Brazilian Jujitsu and Grappling with Rog and Takao who were both simply amazing. After lunch, I learned some Wrist, Elbow, and Hand care techniques, and then attended a talk on how to apply what we learned after camp with Steve. The rest of the day I just did some relaxing and enjoying the camp before it came to an end. A glow party ended the night, and then I headed to the campfire for an hour before turning in.

Camp was over, and it was time to go back to the real world. I was amazed by the openness and acceptance of everyone in the community. I was amazed by how friendly people were. I was amazed by how people connected and hugged and didn’t think twice.

Camp ending also means that Year 2 was beginning, and that meant…

Year 2 – Ben 2.0

So what is Ben 2.0? Well, it’s a culmination of all I’ve learned and done over the prior year. I’ve learned to accept myself for who I am while continuing to work on improving. I’ve learned by body can do amazing things thanks to my amazing trainer. I’ve learned I’m not alone in the world thanks to the awesome people of Nerd Fitness.

Ben 2.0 simply means I recognize I am not the same person I was a year ago. I am a very different individual with very different life goals. I no longer dwell on death, but rather embrace life. During camp, someone said something amazing… “People say life is short. It isn’t. It’s long, enjoy it!” A year ago, I wouldn’t have believed them. Today, I know I’ve begun setting myself up for a long life ahead with better health that ever before.

As I move into Year 2, I have begun goal setting. The base of a goal is the long-term year goal. Steve Kamb may have unintentionally helped me set that. Back at the Saturday glow party, I took one more 20 seconds of courage and finally went up to Steve to say hi and thank him for creating the wonderful community he did. I told him my back story briefly about my weight loss and what the community has meant to me, and he gave me a big hug. (For those who don’t know, he hugs a lot.) He then asked me what was next. I said I wanted to keep burning fat off and build up some muscle mass. Steve gets this huge smile on his face and says, “so next year you’re coming back as Captain America.” Click. Something in my brain just went off… exactly! So now Year 2 is the year I work towards becoming as much Captain America as possible… no, I will be Captain America. Why? Because I AM A HERO!

One final note: I mentioned several people as part of the narrative. If I didn’t mention you by name, you are no less appreciated. Everyone I met was wonderful. My friends. 

Oh, and one more final note… Rheeeeeeeeeenooooooo!

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The One With the Shirt

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The shirt you see pictured here as a storied past. Well, not so much storied as idle past.

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This shirt was purchased over a decade ago. It’s a Daniel Cremieux shirt I bought simply because I loved how it looked, a French designed shirt with just the right colors and feel. I didn’t try it on, as I figured it was in my size so it shouldn’t be an issue.

As I quickly learned, a French XL is definitely not an American XL and it was relegated to the back of the closet. Every time I moved (and this shirt was bought when I lived in Cincinnati) I moved the shirt along, washed it, and hung it back in the back of the closet. I suppose it was a “one day” shirt and just could never bring myself to get rid of it.

This morning I am going through my closet trying to figure out what to wear to a workshop. Since I work from home, my typical daily wear is a t-shirt and jeans or khakis and of course gym clothes, so I haven’t worn many dress shirts lately. The ones I have I basically got my last use out of them during my last trip to NJ a few weeks ago when they were hanging off me.

Then I saw this shirt in the back. There was no way this would fit; I bought it over a decade ago and I probably weighed 210 pounds when I bought it and it didn’t fit then. I slipped it on, and excitedly buttoned it up. It fit perfectly. I couldn’t believe it; the shirt from the back of the closet that was never worn, the shirt whose name should not be mentioned was now buttoned on me and following the lines of my body actually fairly well. I sat down, it was even comfortable when sitting.

It goes to show that body composition is way more of an impact than just weight. A 210 pound Ben from a decade ago couldn’t wear this shirt, but a 243 pound Ben from today with more muscle, less fat, and losing weight the right way can.

I finished dressing and went on my way, excited at this new shirt in my wardrobe. For now, I suppose. Who knows how long this one will fit?

Progression & The Four Week Update

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Here we are, four weeks into my 90 day effort. It has certainly been an interesting 28 days. I’ve made some progress, I’ve tired myself out, but there is still plenty of time to push for more fat loss, greater gains, and greater achievement. 

If we look back 4 weeks at June 22, we will see I had a busy day. I had three circuits in the gym, including a deadlift workout, a run in the morning, and the “Fitclub” launch for the eight week competition at my gym. 

Before we get into a status update, I want to define something. “Hypocaloric Diet”. This essentially means you eat less calories than you burn. 

Following a hypocaloric, or reduced-calorie, meal plan can help you shed unwanted body weight. Using this type of meal plan helps you lose weight based on calories, rather than having to consume special “diet” foods or avoid others.

— SF Gate, http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/hypocaloric-meal-plan-follow-12077.html

I think this is critical to remember that I am taking in less calories than I am burning off. I do this every day. This is basically how you shed unwanted fat. Some will say 3,500 calories equals 1 pound of “fat loss”; many will refute that. Regardless of where you fall in your opinions, it is a fact that calories and a calorie deficit play a huge role in fat loss.

What this also means is that when you are in a calorie deficit, your body relies on your “reserves” to get you through the day. This means that after, say, 3 hours of workouts, you will feel a greater amount of fatigue than someone ingesting a higher calorie count.

The Fitclub effort my gym is doing is tied to three core things: taking classes, performance changes, and body composition changes. I take three cardio classes a week, but will not change my strength training routine as I have goals that may be different than others for whom the classes may work well. 

Here are the results of the core metrics from the original check-in, as well as the current one from today.

  • Body Fat – 28.9% (Using Handheld Impedance Device)
    • 4 Weeks Ago – Body Fat – 29.8% (Using Handheld Impedance Device)
  • Body Weight – 243.1 (Based on Fitbit Aria Scale)
    • 4 Weeks Ago – 253.7 (Based on Fitbit Aria Scale)
  • Waist Circumference – 44
    • 4 Weeks Ago – 47
  • Hip Circumference – 49
    • 4 Weeks Ago – 51 1/2
  • Push Ups in 1 Minute – 34
    • 4 Weeks Ago – 33
  • Pull Ups in 1 Minute – 0
  • Plank Hold – 2:25
    • 4 Weeks Ago – 2:15
  • Rope Waves – 115
    • 4 Weeks Ago – 108

What we see from this result are some interesting changes. I’ve dropped 10.6 pounds in bodyweight in 4 weeks, dropped 0.9 points in body fat. I’ve also been able to improve the push up number slightly, as well as the plank hold. The rope waves were down, most likely driven by fatigue of multiple workouts in a single day as well as ropes not being part of my core workout lately. A pull-up is still well beyond my grasp at this point, but we’re certainly working on that.

What we see from the results from the last four weeks is that I’ve improved body composition, I have made incremental improvements in performance, and I know for a fact my workout schedule is completely on point. Between 6/22/2016 and 7/20/2016 I had 41 visits to the gym, which is typically driven by multiple visits in a single day of a morning run and an after-work lifting session several times a week. 

This is only part of the story. The goals I have don’t end with the “Fitclub” goals, but begin there. These aren’t necessarily the most critical goals I have, especially those related to “performance testing” during these Fitclub sessions. The body composition goals are critical, of course, to my current effort to continue dropping my body fat and changing my overall body. 

The other part of the goals are my performance goals from my “regular” workouts. These are more critical to me than the testing performance goals. This month, the trainer and I have set goals related to weights for deficit deadlifts, diamond pushups, clapping pushups, squats, and the bench press. Each of these this round are focused on volume rather than weight to help improve form and base strength.

As I move forward over the remaining 9 weeks of the 90 day effort, I am focused on my workouts, my nutrition, and my body composition while trying to maintain as much muscle (or gain) as possible. This means being more active, including more activity during the days. This means ensuring I keep consistent with my workouts. This means driving myself hard towards the 90 day line to see what I can achieve during this time.

This gets me to the overall theme of the upcoming month. This is something that came up between my trainer and myself today. He said, “sometimes progression is a bitch.” He’s right. It’s tough, especially on those negative pull-ups I am currently working on that (which will be the topic of another post to come). I then laughed and thought about it, “then you win.” That’s the truth… progression is a bitch. If you keep at it, you will win. Progression means moving forward. No matter what you do, if you are progressing you are winning.

We’ll close today’s update with some updated photos. These were all taken today, and if we look back at the last photo set 

In Just Three Months…

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Three months ago, on April 15, I attended a gala event hosted by the local Anytime Fitness clubs, including the club I go to in Ellington, Connecticut.  Part of the event was, as you entered, they were recording people talking about how Anytime Fitness impacted them. It was off-the-cuff and very quick, so I had to think quickly.

When I saw they posted a bunch of videos to their YouTube page, I went through looking to see if they posted one of me. I scrolled through the videos, and couldn’t find one. I then started watching some videos and went bottom to top. When I got back to the top, the very last video to watch seemed familiar, the person in the thumbnail looked familiar. Wait, that’s ME! They did post one of me. I simply didn’t recognize myself.

I was still extremely uncomfortable in front of any cameras at this time, but they did post a video of me from this event.

After seeing this video, I was amazed to see myself looking like this. After all, it has only been three months. I decided to put the suit back on, and look at how it fit today in comparison with then. Honestly, the difference was remarkable to me. The belt is no longer usable, even though it was on the first hole when I bought it. The pants no longer fit at the waist. The jacket is loose but still wearable. The shirt now feels more like a poncho than a dress shirt. 

I decided to put together a video of me wearing the suit again to show the changes over the last three months.

Patience is a virtue, and we must be patient when it comes to changing out bodies and our lives. We don’t gain weight overnight, and we can’t lose it overnight. If we work hard, if we have on point nutrition, and we commit ourselves, then change can happen. There is still a ways to go, and I’m looking forward to the next round.