Suddenly Svelte...ish

Those of you that have seen me lately may have noticed, there's a lot less of me to see.

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I hadn't written about this yet (not in depth anyway) because I wanted to keep it to myself (and close family that see me all the time). If I put it out there into cyberspace, maybe I wouldn't follow through and then I'd look foolish (and fat). But I have followed through (for 80 days now), so interweb-karma be damned, I'm spilling the beans.

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On January 1st, I changed my eating habits and began an??exercise??regimen. My goals were two-fold. First to get myself back into shape. I could realistically take "back" out of that sentence. I've never been in any shape other than round, except for two fleeting years in the middle of college when I got involved in Stage Combat and was at least tolerably active. I wanted to get down to a weight I hadn't held in my adult life. I've boasted before about wearing a couple of shirts that I've had since high school, but that has more to do with how big I was in high school than how well I've taken care of myself.

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The second goal was to run a marathon. This was something that even as I contemplated it and committed to it, I doubted whether I'd ever achieve. Richard (my hetero-lifemate) challenged me to this while he was still serving his country overseas, and I was expected to join him in training once he returned. I scoffed at it at first. Then I mulled it over. Then I got a little excited. Then I knew I'd go for it. But I needed a head-start on Richard. He'd been a soldier for almost four years. While he may not be in peak physical condition (and I don't think the Army trains for marathons anyway) he was obviously in better shape than me.

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So January 1st I weighed in. 241.2lbs. The biggest I've ever been in my life. I had let myself go badly over the last year here in New Orleans. The combination of a desk job, long commute and a new baby, had taken the little physical activity I did have in my routine and chunked it out the window. Ella and I talked about my plan. She was as excited as I was (less of my behind means more bed for her) and 100% supportive. The steps I took immediately were these:

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1. Cut out all Regular Coke. - Coca-Cola is my one remaining vice. I love it in a way that I can't begin to describe to a "Dr. Pepper-person" or a "water-guy". I didn't think I could give it up cold turkey, but in just three days I had replaced my cokes with diet cokes without even missing them.

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2. Cut back on my calories. - I'm a weird eater. I have incredibly picky tast (see my "This is Crazytown" blog for more info) and so the degree to which I can change my diet is limited. What I did was eliminate snacking on any salty/fatty foods, and cut the portions of my meals back drastically. No super-sizing, no Double Grand Godzilla-Burger and Tub-o-Cola. When I felt like snacking, I would drink a tall glass of water. If that didn't fix the problem, I allowed myself one slice of toast or a 100 calorie bowl of cereal and a big glass of milk. This all sounds terribly difficult, but within a week, I didn't miss the old stuff.

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3. Start a running program. - Truthfully, I started a walking program, with an eye to turning it into a running program as I advanced. I found several "Couch to 10k" training programs and custom-tailored one to fit my schedule. I started with two weeks of walking for roughly 30 minutes three times a week. At the end of that period, I felt good so I switched to every other day and added short bursts of jogging. At first I couldn't jog more than a few seconds at a time and took forever to recover after even the shortest jog. But slowly, steadily, my stamina and pace increased. I was turning myself into a jogger, and would someday turn myself into a runner.

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These three bullet points are great, but they wouldn't have been very successful if not for two big factors:

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1. I've got the most amazing, supportive wife I could wish for. - Ella is a full-time mom right now. She's home with Judah from whenever I leave in the morning until whenever I come home. He is outgoing, rambunctious, exhaustive and occasionally a little bossy. But never once did she put up the slightest resistance at giving me an extra 30 or 40 minutes to jog. She was onboard from day one, and without her, I couldn't have even started this thing.

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2. I set short-term, mid-range and long-term goals for myself. - I knew exactly how much weight I wanted to lose (55lbs) and when my "end date" was (Mardi Gras Marathon 2010). In between fatso-Joel and Joel 2.0 I needed some tangible goals to achieve. Something to remind me every few days/weeks/months that I was on the right track and what this was all about. My first goal was a 5k. February 2nd was this year's Mardi Gras Marathon, and at that event was a 5k run/walk. I entered the second week of January. I was still just walking and had only topped two miles at a time once, but now I knew I had to get better and quick.

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Progress? So far it's been fantastic. I ran in the Mardi Gras 5k, finishing in under 40 minutes (which was at the time a personal best). I was able to run almost half of it, slowing every so often to catch my breath. I finished ahead of almost 800 people, although I finished behind about that many as well. I've lost weight slowly and steadily (the "safe" way to do it, I've been told). My face and stomach are tighter, my pants looser and my??wardrobe??re-expanding (I've got tons of jeans to wear again). March 21st was Day 80 of my little experiment and as of that morning, I have lost 20.1lbs.

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I feel better and I know I look better. I've got more energy than I've had in years. Judah and I play more, I'm more excited about planning day-trips with him and Ella, and I'll admit more active as a writer. I've gotten a lot of confidence because of the weight loss, but more because of my ability to change my lifestyle. If I can make these changes, if I can become a runner, then I feel like I can do just about anything I set my mind to. Like land a great writing job. Like be a wonderful dad to TWO little boys. Like run a marathon.

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I've got another mid-point goal coming up. April 11th is the Crescent City Classic. It's a 10k (about 6 miles) and I'm gonna run it in an hour and fifteen minutes or less. Richard is back stateside and he's gonna be a big help with training, but as I've found out in the last 80 some-odd days, I'm not bad on my own.