Sunday, January 29, 2012

January 2012: Health & Fitness Letter

January 24:  Blogger, the host of my This Side of Fifty blog, provides statistics on the number of hits by day, week, month, and all time.  It provides the top pages views in each of those categories.  I learned just there were over fifty hits to my few of my past Health and Fitness letters.  While this is not even close to being viral, I do not recall seeing the Annual Health and Fitness postings ever getting any hits.  It made me wonder why?  It made me wonder why now?  Being that we are nearing the end of January, this could be because people are struggling with keeping to their dietary resolutions and looking for inspiration and tips on how to stick to their regimen. 
No matter what the reason, seeing hits to these postings made me realize I have not written a Health and Fitness letter since July of 2010.  I basically skipped 2011.  There is a good reason for that.  I was not happy with either my health or fitness.  The back-slide that I reported in 2010 continued through 2011. In fact, it continued until just this month.  I was not happy that I had only logged 1,000 outdoor miles last year.  That was the lowest mileage I had logged since 2003.  I was not happy that I grew a pant size or two since the last Health and Fitness letter.  I was really down on myself.  As there was nothing good to report, I did not want to write a preaching but not practicing letter.  I did not particularly want to pen a whiny letter.  So, I just skipped it.
Yet, I am writing a Health and Fitness letter now.  Why?  What will I write about?  Stasis?  That would be equally boring. 
I decided to write a Health and Fitness letter because I am recommitting to the quest I began in 2006.  It was a resolution, a decision basically, I made late last year.  I am a month into it and I feel better for sticking to it for 24 days for two reasons.  First, I am just happy to have kept to it for 24 days and thus it was not a false start.  Most false starts last about a day.  Second, I physically feel better for eating right and exercising every day.  I knew this to be true, it was simply difficult to get out of my own way to, as Nike says, "Just Do It!"  This Health and Fitness letter is about getting started and launching the initiative. 
The words of Mark Twain always come to me when I think about false starts.  He said, "Quitting smoking is easy.  I've done it a thousand times."  There are a lot of people who suffer silently from the string of false starts.  When the string gets longer, we tend to beat ourselves up.  We see others that seem to be above these kinds of tribulations and we wonder what is wrong with us.  The longer the string becomes, the more likely we are to give up and accept that being overweight, addicted to smoking, and any other habit we are trying to break is simply our lot in life.
My belief is to never ever give up.  It is the mandate of Winston Churchill and was the motto of my late father in-law, Harold Mardoian.  Here are some quotes on why we should never give up on what we want:
  • Never, never, never give up!  ~ Winston Churchill
  • Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.
    ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Don't be discouraged. It's often the last key in the bunch that opens the lock. ~ Anonymous
  • Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than one with all the facts. ~ Anonymous
 January 26:  There are many tips, tricks, methods, activities, and mindsets one could take to initiate and achieve a lifestyle change.  There is no right way.  The right way is the way that works.  The right way is the way that works for you.  Look at them all.  Try them all. Pick the ones that resonate best and ride it for as long as you can.  Maybe the "never give up" quotes listed above are all you need.  Perhaps it is the advice from Dr. Mehmet Oz .  He provides the following bits of advice:
  • Don't beat yourself up
  • Write it down
  • Declare it publicly
  • Arrange your environment to help
  • Track your progress
  • You are not planning to fail, you are failing to plan.  It is key to find an eating style that is both healthy and something you can follow. 
  • Eating in reverse is key (see the triangle figures).  Eat your biggest meal for breakfast.  Lunch should be smaller than breakfast.  Dinner should be smaller than lunch.  
  • Snacking is good if it is healthy and in controlled portions.
  • Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than one with all the facts.
 I really believe in "eating in reverse comment."  I heard it once from a Colgate colleague from France that I met only once.  You need the fuel to work and get through the day, not to sleep.  Also, I am thoroughly convinced that the lighter your dinner and not eating after 8 pm makes for a much better night's sleep.  

I also believe in tracking progress.  I only do well when I am recording my weight every morning and evening.  The scale tells the truth.  I am real good at justifying veering off the dietary path with any number of inane rationalizations.  The scale demolishes those myths by reporting the reality of what happens when I take in many more calories than I expend.  For me the scale takes all the BS out of the equation.
I am not so hot on the good Doctor's advice to plan better.  But, this is just me.  It may be perfect advice for others.  There reason I say this because I am great at planning.  My problem is that I am a much better at planning than implementing and executing the plan.  I know what to do.  I have known what to do for a very long time that "Knowing never equals doing."  
January 27:  I clearly am making this too difficult.  It really does not have to be very complicated.  All you have to do is watch TV.  I just saw a commercial on TV.  It began with a simple question, "Where exactly is your road to happiness?"  It continued with "On a Beach?  On a mountain?  Or wherever you are."  It had my curiosity.  What were they selling?  A path to self-fulfillment?  I wanted to know.  I had to know.  Given I was working on this letter, it seemed to fit right in.  "The first step on that road may well be..."  Please tell me.  If have to know.  I have to incorporate it into my letter.  The answer?  "The first step on that road may well be... a bowl of soup."  Of course, what else did I expect in a television advertisement?  This was an advertisement for Campbell’s Soup.  The first step on that road may well have been... a bright yellow Camaro, a membership to Bally Fitness, or perhaps a new suit from Men's Warehouse ("you're going to like the way you look").   Actually, all you have to do is by a roll of Mentos and you can make yourself and everyone around you happy.
All kidding aside, there was not a first step on this particular version of my road to happiness.  There were, in fact, several steps or motivations.
First and foremost is health.  I want to live a quality life and be as self-sufficient as possible as long as possible.  I do not want to be a burden on others.  I do not want to ever have to live in any kind of assisted living or full care facility, if I can help it.  The only way to do that is to take care of myself right now.  This means eating right and exercising.  Eating right is following the Dr. Dean Ornish plan of eating whole grains, fruits, and vegetables until you are full.  Other foods like non-fat dairy should be consumed in moderation.  Sugars, alcohol, and meats should be avoided.   A very good synopsis of the Ornish diet is found on this Web-MD link. 
 Exercising is all about getting myself back on the bike.  I biked so little last year because I had a little knee issue from August to December of last year.  I was convinced that I would need surgery.  I was actually limping around and very tentative on stairs.   My sister Nancy said that if I did need to do surgery, the best thing I could was to prepare for a quicker recovery by losing weight and strengthening the muscles around the knee.  The best exercise for that is the same exercise that doctors prescribe post surgery:  bicycling.  
I was tentative to get back on the bike.  But, this month I figured I will try it.  The worst that could happen is my knee could hurt worse and that would hasten my trip to an orthopedic specialist.  Beginning January 1, I started up again on the stationary bicycle in the basement.  I began with a very light level of resistance.  Guess what?  My knee feels much better.  The creaks and aches are not entirely gone, but it is much better.  There is no discernable limp most days and I am not tentative on stairs.  Cool.  I am even back to the resistance levels I had been using before this injury.  I recently went for an annual check-up.  My physician, Dr. Mark Rudberg, said to continue the bicycling and does not recommend seeing an orthopedic specialist at this time.  Double cool.
The second step or motivation might sound vain (heck this whole letter probably sounds vain).  For me getting lean is matter of self-esteem.  I have been one unhappy SOB these past two years.  I have beaten myself up pretty good for this back-slide and the subsequent inability to get it back under control.  That unhappiness was impossible to keep inside.  It translated into a surliness that was not pleasant to be around.  My wife commented just this morning I am much happier because I am back on the right road to health and fitness.  Eating right and exercising has led to a ten pound weight reduction but the weight off of my mind is probably ten times that.   This is a very strong motivation to continue. 
Related to this self-esteem motivation is how others perceive me.  As a management consultant, I have to sell to get business.  I have to sell my capabilities and my personality.  I have to feel good about myself to put my most positive foot forward.  The better I like what I see in the mirror, the better I feel about myself.  Also, there is the reality of first impressions.  Do I really want my first impression to be old and fat?  That is hardly a first positive first step in a sales process.  I cannot do much about my age (don't even think of suggesting that I dye my hair).  In fact, I have no problem selling age and experience.  But, if I do not appear active and energetic, looking instead overweight and lethargic, I am no one anybody would want to hire.  I can certainly do something about the looking lean and energetic... get lean and be energetic.  That is my intention. 
I often refer to and even make fun of my good friend and fellow musician Ara Topouzian.  I have to give Ara some inspirational credit for this latest re-start of my quest for health, fitness, and longevity.  Ara shares some of the same challenges I do with regard to the battle of rotundity. 
In November, Ara was here for a gig.  We were to play a concert of Armenian folk and classical music for a 50th birthday party in Chicago.  We had a singer with us with whom we had not worked playing a repertoire that was a bit outside our normal dance music.  We had a lot of practicing to do.  Ara came early and we spent some time.  I was impressed that he had started a healthier eating habit.  I was double impressed at how dedicated he was to it.  This also motivated me.
Ara and I share something else in this regard.  His two brothers and his father are lean and lead very healthy active lifestyles.  My Dad, my Uncle Buddy, Cousin David, and my son Aram are in that same boat.  I am always talking about, at least to myself, “letting my inner Gavoor out.”  By this I mean, emulating the health and fitness lifestyle of the other Gavoor men I know.  I am sure Ara feels he is letting his inner Topouzian out. 
January 29:  I just saw a quote via Twitter.  It was from Jim Rohn.  It is the perfect quote to finish this letter with.  It reminded me of a quote that I used in my January 2008 letter, so I am including that as well.
  • Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment. ~ Jim Rohn
  • Goals are dreams with deadlines.~ Barbara Scharf Hunt
 Yes, this is what anyone embarking on such a journey needs:  Dreams with deadlines and the discipline to make the dream happen.  I would love to get back to writing the Annual Health and Fitness letter again in either June or July.  I would love to have good things to report.
Wish me luck!


  1. All the best to you in reaching your deadlines! Stay strong and true to yourself! I look forward to reading a progress letter. And posting some pics.

  2. Mark,
    Loved the article and not because you mentioned me..but to hear you are back in the saddle again. Truth be told, whenever I would see you and could see you had lost weight - you were my inspiration. And here when you mentioned self-esteem, I thought you were going to talk about the shop in Birmgingham!
    Let me hopefully add to your inspiration. My quest to stay alive a long time began in August, 2011 and to date I have lost 42 lbs. I am almost half way there. I hope to be at my goal of 100lbs by the end of August this year, right around my sons birthday. I look at it quite simply -- taking a year off to add years onto my life.
    You can do it Mark, I have faith in you!
    Yours in rotundity,

  3. Keep it up Amu! We're all cheering for you :)

  4. Cuz: one entirely relevant issue you didn't address (and not to let anyone off the proverbial hook by invoking this)is genes/genetics (wrt weight). Some people can exercise minimally and not eat optimally yet still look great (or at the least better than they would otherwise were they to have lower quality genes). Seems a cruel twist of fate to those in the "lower" category but, as they say, "it is what it is." Another thing about higher-quality-gene people (again, only wrt weight): while they may look quite good externally, they may be quite less so internally as a result of their habits, ie high levels of bad cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides, etc. Cousin David