I honestly don’t even know where to begin.

Cliché, I know.

Trying to adequately sum up the culmination of some of the most transformative and amazing 12 weeks of your life in a few paragraphs is nearly impossible, but I’ll give it a shot. This is a long post, but c’mon…it’s my first half marathon! Read the rest of this entry

I’ve been back on My Fitness Pal since the start of 2013 in my efforts to get down to my goal weight of 190. For the first few days of the new year, we ate most of our meals home and keeping my calorie intake in check was a breeze!

Friday rolled around, and we had some last-minute Christmas shopping to do for a few people. We have been blessed with an abundance of gift cards to chain restaurants all around Greater Cleveland, so we decided to check out Chili’s while we were out at Great Northern.

One of the best ways to become discouraged during the journey to better health is to have to watch what one eats every time they dine out, so I budgeted my calories all day to ensure that I’d be able to enjoy something delicious. I figured that I could easily fit a burger, fries, and part of an appetizer within 1,585 calories. Was this unreasonable to expect?

Yes.

By the time I left the place, I’m certain I went over my limit. I did do some yoga-esque exercises throughout the day to increase my calorie allowance a bit. Fortunately, my meal was delicious. I know that restaurants like this have “light” menus, but I just couldn’t get excited about having steamed broccoli as a side. (On a side note, the fact that steamed broccoli is the best healthy side dish that the creative minds at Chili’s could develop is very sad. Haven’t their chefs heard of quinoa?) Needless to say, the entire experience was very frustrating.

I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one who dined out this weekend and had difficulty navigating through the perilous seas of restaurant menus. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has struggled with portion sizes and food choices, but I’m glad to say that I’ve learned a few lessons that might be helpful to others who are still fighting the good fight with their New Year’s resolutions!

Here are three quick tips that I’ve learned along the road to wellness and better living. Perhaps these are common sense to most people, and some of you may have even seen these kinds of tips posted elsewhere. However, I’m sure that there’s at least one person out there who might be able to find these useful!

 

1.) It’s OK To Rob Peter To Pay Paul – Budget Your Calories

If you’re like me, going out to a restaurant and knowing that your food choices will be limited is almost a guarantee for a bad time.

Thus, when I know I’m going out to eat, I “budget” my calories. If I knew that I would be going out to dinner at a place at which I knew I would want to eat something that would be high in calories (such as an Applebee’s or a Taco Bell), I’d be sure to minimize my calorie intake throughout the day. Conversely, if I had a large lunch, Sheila would plan for us to have a smaller, healthier dinner that evening.

This doesn’t just apply to eating out, of course. If you know that you’ll be dining on a home-cooked meal that is a bit unhealthy or going to throw back a few beers while watching a game, make sure to monitor your calorie intake earlier in the day so that you can have a guilt-free evening! By doing this, you will be able to having pleasant, satisfying dining experiences without jeopardizing your weight loss goals. Sounds good to me!

 

2.) Step Away From The Table

One of the best things about food is that it is something that can bring people together in a communal setting. Some of my happiest memories from college involve sitting around in the dining halls with my friends for hours on end, enjoying great conversation, listening to the jukebox, and procrastinating on our homework just a little bit longer. There were multiple evenings when I would eat with one group of friends and then see another group of friends coming in just as I was about to leave. What did I do? Head back to the buffet and eat with them! If you’re wondering, the same cycle often repeated multiple times on the same evening. I didn’t just accumulate the fabled “Freshman 15”—I had the “Sophomore 15”, “Junior 15”, “Senior 15”, and “Super-Senior 15” too!

I’m not big on regret, and the memories that I made with these people (many of whom remain friends to this day) are priceless. That said, I’ll tell my future children to load up on plates of healthy food when they know that they’ll be in the dining hall for several hours.

Overeating can also happen at dinner parties, when good conversation keeps people around the table far longer than they had planned. When this happens, people (such as yours truly) tend to keep eating far longer than they had planned.

What to do? The answer is deceptively simple. Either politely suggesting that everyone continues the conversation in a food-free zone or getting up and put the food elsewhere can help keep you from eating too much. My mother-in-law makes us big, delicious family-style dinners whenever we visit. We tend to sit around the table talking for quite some time after we’re finished. I used to keep eating, and eating…and eating some more. Now, I’ll either suggest that we keep talking in the living room or get up and put all of the food elsewhere in the kitchen out of immediate reach! You’ll find that you’ll be a lot less likely to go for thirds and fourths if you have to get up and walk across the kitchen to fill your plate.

If you’re eating out, asking your server to box up your leftovers immediately after you’re done eating is a good way to ensure that you don’t eat what you originally had planned on taking home.

 

3.) Make Tomorrow’s Lunch Before You Sit Down To Eat Dinner

I don’t know about you, but I get bummed when I start thinking about heading to bed and I realize that I still need to get my lunch ready for work. When this happens, I either get to bed far later than I had planned or wind up grabbing whatever is easiest. Oftentimes, I wind up grabbing things that are high in calories and not very filling—not exactly the best way to make sure that I have a healthy lunch that will allow me to have an enjoyable dinner!

One easy way to prevent this from happening is to make your lunch at the same time that dinner is served. How can you do that? Simple! When the person who cooks in your house is dishing out the evening’s portions, take the leftovers and immediately put them into storage containers that you can take to work the next day. Once you’ve done this, your lunch is mostly packed! Doing this also has the added benefit of making sure that you don’t eat more than intended at dinnertime because you’re far less likely to reheat food that is already packaged in the fridge.

 

A few small changes in our day-to-day routines can lead to big changes in our health and wellness, and I hope that you found this post to be helpful. If you have any tips to share from your own success stories, please feel free to share them in the comments!

My Weight Loss Journey

One year ago today, Sheila and I each began a journey that will have a profound impact on the rest of our lives.

While I was enjoying the Browns\Steelers game from seats in the Dawg Pound (thanks again Jeremy!), Sheila spent the day drawing up a proposal for the Scranton Road Legal Clinic, which she established last year. She’ll put up her own post about that experience at some point in the future. For now, please click the link if you’re interested in learning more about her new venture!

Normally, I’m in good spirits when I leave for a Browns game. The 16 weeks of the year during which Browns games occur are some of the best weeks of my year, and I still look forward to each and every game even if the team isn’t doing well.

This Sunday, though, I left for the game in a bad mood. Why? Because I had begun making efforts to lose weight and was heading off to the windy shores of Lake Erie on a half-full stomach.

Many people who are planning to lose weight map out their plan to lose weight with only slightly less organization and precision than that which was involved with planning the Normandy invasion on D-Day. I didn’t. I didn’t weigh myself at the start of the day, nor did I come up with a meal plan or take any official “before” pictures. Why is that? I don’t really know.

What I did know is that heart disease runs as strongly through my mom’s side of the family as the sense of humor that makes every Dulin family gathering a fun and joyful event. My grandpa had a whole host of heart problems, and my uncle had a heart attack. I also knew that I wasn’t getting any younger and that the practice of law can be a stressful job that could easily exacerbate high blood pressure.

Deep down, I also knew that I was, and still am, an emotional eater. When I’m stressed, I pray. However, I also make a beeline for the nearest delicious food or candy. During law school, I felt constantly stressed. This was a major problem, as free food was almost constantly available. Making matters worse was the fact that this free food often consisted of pizza, which is one of my favorite foods. Oftentimes, I would scarf down six (or more) pieces of pizza and rationalize my actions by saying, “We’re low on money, and I just saved us some money by eating a free lunch.”

Most importantly, I knew that I needed to lose weight and that I had a very unhealthy outlook on healthy eating. Many people told me that I needed to eat better and that I needed to lose weight. When they brought this up to me, I would often become incredibly angry at them. One of the worst fights that Sheila and I ever had occurred after I consumed a large plate of nachos at Applebee’s after I thought I had done very poorly on a Juvenile Law final that I had expected to pass with flying colors. (As it turned out, I did very well in the class, which further underscores the folly of emotional eating!)

By the end of the bar exam, I was at least 20 pounds overweight. My struggles with finding employment towards the end of 2011 did a number on my self-esteem and I’d consume loads of unhealthy food without a second thought. Here’s a picture of me from August 2011:

I wonder how many guys looked at us and thought, “How did a fat guy like him get a hot girl like that?”

Around this time, I noticed that one of my pastors at Scranton Road Bible Church (Pastor Che) had lost a boatload of weight. He told me that he had used an online meal planner called My Fitness Pal that gave him a recommended calorie allowance per day. At first, this seemed like a big gimmick, but he mentioned it to me on multiple occasions and slowly the idea of using this tool began to sink in.

When January 1, 2012 rolled around, I made vague promises to Sheila about dieting and watching what I ate. However, when I raided the refrigerator for more food after Sheila made me a healthy breakfast and she said, “I thought you were going to watch what you ate this year,” I responded in my usual angry way and left for the game in a pretty sour mood.

Before I left, though, I entered my personal information and the food that I had consumed into My Fitness Pal on a bit of a whim. I started off at 220 pounds—which is what I had weighed when I weighed myself in December—and set my weight loss target at 200 pounds. When I saw that I could consume approximately 2,000 calories per day and still lose a pound per week, I figured that I would at least try to lose some weight.

I spent the next few months dutifully entering everything that I ate into My Fitness Pal. One of the best aspects of this tool was that I could gauge what I was consuming and plan out my meals. If I knew that I’d be going somewhere like Applebee’s for dinner, I’d cut back a bit earlier in the day so that I could consume plenty of food at dinner. Thank goodness that my Catholic conscience prohibited me from cutting corners or distorting my food intake or else this tool would not have worked! While there were a few days on which I went over my target, I’m proud to say that I stayed under 2,000 calories most of the time. Sheila deserves much of the credit for my weight loss—she spent a great deal of time planning healthy meals for us that were also very delicious and filling. Because of her efforts, I can honestly say that I ate very well during the first few months of making a concerted effort to lose weight.

Over time, the numbers on the scale began to slowly decrease. As the numbers fell from 220 to 215 and lower, I steadily gained more enthusiasm about the entire endeavor and looked forward to my periodic “weigh-ins” in which I would often see more progress. I was particularly impressed by the fact that I initially lost this weight without any exercise!

As the year progressed, I slowly worked my way down to 205 pounds and lower. My clothing started to fit much better and I began to receive compliments from several people about my weight loss. Although I didn’t notice an outward change in my appearance for quite some time, the fact that others were able to observe a change for the better helped me stay focused on my goal.

Best of all, my attitudes about food changed. I gradually learned how to control my eating habits and slowly realized that healthy eating isn’t something engaged in only by killjoys. Learning that I could still heartily enjoy life and mealtimes while consuming normal portions and healthy food was a very transformative and invigorating experience. After awhile, I gained willpower that I never thought I would ever have, and resisting going up for thirds at a buffet or eating free food just because it was there became commonplace. I never, ever thought that I would be able to hear someone tell me that I needed to eat less without getting mad at them, and I attribute much of the change in my mind, heart, and attitude to God’s transformative power. Although my tendency to eat as a stress reliever still remains, I learned how to substitute water and other types of things that minimized the negative impact on my health that was made by using food as a stress reliever or comfort.

Losing weight became a bit easier once we started training for the Lakewood Summer Meltdown in June. My dad reminded me that the muscle that I would be developing was heavier than fat and encouraged me not to be alarmed if my weight loss slowed a bit, and this was helpful as I spent many weeks hovering around the 203 pound mark. I was finally able to reach 200 pounds by September, though, and I celebrated by splurging and purchasing the shirt seen in this picture:

Before I head into my training schedule for the half marathon, I wanted to shed a few more pounds. (The fact that I made the decision to lose additional weight without one iota of outside encouragement is still mind-boggling to me!) When I weighed in this morning, I saw that I weighed 199 pounds. All in all, I lost 21 pounds during 2012!

As I head into 2013, I’m thrilled to say that I feel great and that I look forward to shedding these last nine pounds to get down to my new goal weight of 190 pounds. Many of the clothes that I own are too big, and some of my dress clothes now make me look like a corporate clown in a blue shirt and khakis. While I didn’t begin this journey to make myself into the next Bradley Cooper or Ryan Gosling, I do take some joy in the fact that my weight loss has been observed by and complimented upon by many people. I am also happy about the fact that my weight loss has aided in my efforts to become a runner—it’s much easier to lug around 200 pounds instead of 220 pounds!

Many people make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and then quickly abandon them for various reasons—stress, lack of progress, lack of encouragement. Perhaps you are someone who is heading into 2013 with a resolution to lose weight, or perhaps you’re someone who knows that you need to lose a few pounds but is unsure or uncertain about how to do so. Maybe you’re someone who knows that you need to lose some weight but is resistant to the idea, just like I was at this time last year.

If any of the above describes you, I hope that my story gives you hope that losing weight without being miserable in the process is possible. If you make a good faith effort and enlist the support and encouragement of others, I promise that you will lose weight. You are not alone. Although I’ve lost a good bit of weight, my journey is not yet complete, and my battle against unhealthy tendencies is a daily one. I’m still fighting the good fight too. In the words of a pastor whom I heard several years ago, “I’m just a beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” If I know you in person, I would be honored to have the privilege to come alongside you on the journey to better health and wellness. If you’re someone whom I haven’t met, I’d love to do what I can to help you too via email.

I also hope that reading this long post inspires you to believe that the challenges and struggles involved with losing weight are well worth it in the end. At the risk of sounding like a commercial, I would highly encourage you to head over to My Fitness Pal if you’re looking to lose weight and utilize their free tool to help you manage your food intake and establish weight loss goals. I am not a paid endorser—I doubt that they know I exist as something other than a username in their database! I am, though, someone whose health has been improved dramatically by this tool, and I’m grateful that My Fitness Pal remains free and easy to use.

Regardless of where you are on the journey to better health and wellness, I hope that you’re having a great start to 2013!

(February 14, 2013 edit: As of today, I am down to 195 pounds! With God’s help, I’ve continued to lose weight in the midst of an extremely busy season of life, ministry, and employment! I’ll keep you posted as I progress towards my goal weight of 180.)