My Whole30 Journey

23 Jul

May 2017

No one ever called me fat.

But I was woefully out of shape.

After more than twenty-five years of putting work and family ahead of caring for myself, I had grown from a scrawny college freshman into a typical middle-aged American man. At 44, my daughters asked me to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. After researching the trip online, I wasn’t certain I could make it.

Like most people, I had made periodic attempts to lose weight over the years. We had acquired a home gym, a fancy treadmill, and a high-tech exercise bike. There were even some success stories; once dropping 15 pounds while working in Germany, running a 10k in less than an hour, and occasionally flirting with giving up alcohol.

My reality was mainstream as I bought pants with multiple waist sizes that I bounced between as I expanded and contracted. That summer, I weighed in at 200 pounds and looked like an average dad and businessman. It might have been normal, but it was not good – I was carrying around 60 pounds of fat on a 5’10” frame.

So, I began to get serious. The hike in Peru was a motivator. I did not want to disappoint my daughters and I did not want to disappoint myself. Over the next few months of serious dieting and exercise, including weight training and lots of cardio, I lost 25 pounds of fat and gained 15 pounds of muscle. A month after my 45th birthday I hiked the Inca Trail at 190 pounds. I felt pretty good about the accomplishment.

That is where I stayed, more or less, for the next couple of years. I continued to exercise and continued to struggle with controlling my weight as the goal of the hike was replaced with the everyday stresses of work and home. At 190, even after the transformation, I was still carrying around body fat equal to almost 20% of my weight.

There seemed to be no amount of dieting or exercise that could affect that. It should have been simple physics. Burn more energy than you consume and you will lose weight. I was stuck in the “calories in – calories out” paradigm and it wasn’t working.

And then, at 48 years old, a friend challenged me to try the Whole30 eating plan for a month. I researched the plan and thought that it would be near impossible to follow. But I had been challenged and I never back down from a challenge. (Thanks Kasey!)

So, I did it for thirty straight, life-changing days.

The elimination of all added sweeteners, dairy, grains, legumes and alcohol from my diet had a profound effect. After a ten-day period of feeling like I had been run over by a truck, I began to feel fantastic as I lost another twenty pounds, bottoming out at 170 at the end of the month. It felt as if I had uncovered a secret formula for beating back the dad bod. As an added benefit, my chronic heartburn was gone, my cholesterol was down, and the nurse no longer looked concerned when taking my blood pressure.

Over the past two years I have completed three more strict Whole30 programs at roughly six-month intervals. The plan, however, has had an incredible impact on the way I eat all the time. My relationship with food has changed dramatically. I do not deprive myself, but I am very conscious of what I put in my body and how it makes me feel. I had been eating crap and trying to exercise it off in the gym. It wasn’t working.

I am now pretty steady 180 pounds with a body fat percentage of less than 10%. During my bi-annual strict Whole30s, I usually drop another five or ten pounds and once pushed my body fat down below eight percent. I still exercise, but now I see real results. As I shed layers of fat, the muscle I had gained by lifting weights was exposed.

Whole30 adherents will object to my focus on weight loss and body composition. They just want me to talk about the health benefits of eating well. Whatever. I have abs at 50! And I have more energy, and I sleep better, and I have greater mental clarity, etc., etc.

Fitness experts say that no one regimen works for everybody. While I think that is probably true, I cannot help but believe that it must start with food. The American diet has changed so dramatically in the past 40 years that it takes real effort to avoid the bad stuff. Every processed food in the store has added sugar or sweetener. The industrial agricultural complex has sold us on unhealthy and unsustainable ways of eating. Getting back to basics opened me up to a whole new world of flavorful options. This is not about deprivation. It is about exploration and experimentation and listening to your body. Many chronic health conditions can be linked to, and addressed by, what you eat.

Whole30 changed my life. I won’t claim that it is easy, but the results are so dramatic as to be indisputable. It is still a struggle to balance work, family and fitness. I can be lazy and undisciplined. I still love pie and wine. The good news is that I can afford to eat whatever I want if I’m smart about it and maintain healthy eating habits most of the time.

You should try this too. Read the books. Follow the plan strictly for 30 days and see what happens. If you throw in a little exercise, I am willing to bet you will experience a massive transformation in how you look and feel. Get ready to buy some new pants.

The Eulogy Virtues

16 Jul

Grove BrameOn July 4th we said goodbye to our friend, Grove Brame. Lost too soon at 59 to the same form of brain cancer that has taken two other good friends in recent years. While it is close to impossible to find anything positive in such a tragedy, there are lessons to be learned and messages to be reinforced.

The thing that struck me during the service was how little airtime was allocated to Grove’s enormous list of accomplishments. He was a classic “up by the bootstraps” corporate success story, spending a storied career at Dr. Pepper that included too many promotions and accolades to track. Grove was also an amazing athlete and scratch golfer that you somehow didn’t mind losing to over and over again.

He spent forty years knocking down goals and building an envious resume. In the end, no one seemed to care about those things. Instead, what we heard about during his funeral was what we consider to be common virtues. The personal stories that were told were always about some kindness, about the way he made the storyteller feel, about some casual good deed, or about something funny he had done.

Grove was generous. He was kind. He was a great listener. He could fit with any crowd. Grove was a great father, stepfather, husband, brother, brother-in-law, and friend. These are the virtues of the eulogy. The ones that define a life and the person that lived it. In the end, it is character that matters.

I’ll readily admit to spending the last twenty-five plus years building my own resume. I, too, have a long list of accomplishments of which I am quite proud. And I do not intend to stop doing the work I love, hoping for success and maybe some recognition along the way. You may be doing the exact same thing.

Resume accomplishments are typically marked by readily identifiable milestones. The graduation, promotion, raise, award, and championship can all be celebrated. We pursue these and rejoice at the achievement. The eulogy virtues are acquired more subtly. There is no celebratory milestone for learning to practice empathy. We do not get an award for honing character to a certain level. They don’t give out black belts in compassion. The rewards for the development of the eulogy virtues are intrinsic.

The hard lesson from Grove’s death is that we should think about how we balance our investment of time. We should consciously work to develop the eulogy virtues just as aggressively as we pursue the resume accomplishments. These are not mutually exclusive pathways to personal development. Both are worthy goals, but one without the other is probably not the legacy you want to leave.

We can all honor Grove’s memory by bringing some balance to the task of creating better versions of ourselves and critically evaluating if we are having a positive impact on the lives of others. Aloha friend.

 

 

Millan Lives Large

10 Jul

MillanWe have never spoken of our competition. Yet, when I am on island it is always a race to see who reaches the kitchen first. Making the morning coffee is an honor that goes to the earliest of early birds. I know my friend Millan takes great pride in beating me there.

Sometimes I let him win.

Like this morning. It is 5:30am and I am sitting on the steps of the palapa watching the beginnings of the day in the east. Millan hands me a cup of black coffee, strong and hot. Back in his village, he grew this coffee. Planted and tended the bushes. Picked and dried the berries. Milled them, roasted the beans, brought them here on the bus, ground them, and made this cup just for me. This cup of coffee represents his way of life.

It is a part of him.

Millan lives large. He came to me with the island in a package deal and turned out to be more valuable than the real estate. He built the island and all the structures on it. Millan works hard. Like most Mayans, he believes that life is work and that work is life. He is a man of many talents. He can build things, fix things, farm, fish, cook, and deliver babies.

He has nine of them.

His home is a small, dirt-floor thatch structure with a comal in one corner. It is where the family hangs their hammocks each night and where they go when it rains. He keeps improving it, but it is fundamentally no different than what his ancestors lived in 900 years ago – only his has a solar panel to power a lightbulb and charge a cell phone.

That is my fault.

Millan’s smile radiates joy. Looking deeper you find strength and peace next to the happiness. He seems to have it all figured out. He is my Belizean Dalai Lama. I am pretty sure he doesn’t care how many friends he has on Facebook or how many likes his latest post received. Millan would be mystified to learn that that is a thing.

He is a man of substance.

He makes me want to be a better person; to hone character, to find joy in simplicity, to endure in the face of adversity, to value work for its own sake, and to always smile. Our competition will continue. Tomorrow, I will make the coffee and serve it to him.

He deserves it.

Poston Family 2016

1 Jan

Family Photo2016 – A Year of the Good, the Bad and the “Worthy”

January 2017 – Happy New Year Family and Friends. I know it is very late to be saying that but 2016 was a banner year for the Poston’s. It has been a whirlwind holiday season for us, so for this very “worthy” year, the kids and I worked together to give you the highlights we deemed important and relevant for 2016.

First off, Charisse applied to seven different graduate programs to achieve her “dream” of teaching. Lo and behold, she got all seven acceptance letters. “Worthy” and proud moment for me. In the end, it came down to scholarship and Stanford won. I would have been happy with any program she chose, but she made it easy for me to visit her and Cheyenne at the same time. She began the Stanford Teacher Education Program in June 2016 and will receive her Masters of Education in 2017. Charisse’s big “worthy” moments were her completion of two 5K runs. Huge accomplishment for a lifetime asthmatic. She would have completed three but she got the date wrong on the NYC Turkey Trot, so Mom took her place and completed one this year too! Charisse also reached her 2016 resolution goal of reading at least 24 different books. Huge “worthy” feat.

Cheyenne is in her junior year studying both education & chemistry at Stanford. She spent a “quarter abroad” in Florence, Italy, where she learned Italian “Buon giorno!” and how to eat lots of gelato! She spent six weeks in Belize (by herself) to complete part of her dive master certification and worked as a helper to the dive crew, Belize Underwater. She can guide you in diving the Belize barrier reef and keep you safe. All “worthy” moments. She still had the underwater training to complete, but more on that later. She experienced a hurricane in Belize while there. Scary moment, but she went on some very amazing, life changing dives too! She’s pretty amazing herself.

That leaves Jacob – he graduated with honors from Champion HS in 2016. A “worthy” moment indeed. Exciting moment – his 400 Freestyle Relay team captured first place (by the touch) at the 2016 Texas UIL State Swim Meet. Not only an honor, but a great feat to finish his swim career. During this same weekend, he also received his acceptance to the Cockrell School of Engineering at UT Austin. All good things happen at once. (We like to think so.) We took his friends to Royal Belize for his graduation party. I tell people, we survived and they had fun.

Jensen, Sarah, Walker and Marshall came back to H-Town in October. After almost a year and a half of working in Belize in the hospitality industry, they decided the boys needed socialization with other kids. They had many adventures, made lifelong friends, and learned a lot. Now the boys must learn to wear pants and shoes again. It’s nice to have them back home in Texas.

Travel was the main focus (again) of 2016.We visited Napa – a couple of times, San Diego, went to Jazz fest in New Orleans (and got rained out). There were multiple trips to Belize. The most meaningful (to me) was in mid-December when all three kids visited together at the same time. This was a huge feat to accomplish but we finally did it. We had a great time. During this visit, Cheyenne completed the underwater portion of her dive master certification & is an “official” dive master. Charisse got some much needed “relaxation” and Jacob “spearfished” his way through lion fish in the barrier reef. We did our NYC Thanksgiving, where Charisse prepared us a full meal of turkey and all the sides. It was a spectacular meal; we wish y’all were there to taste it. For Christmas break, Charisse “surprised” us by bringing Harley home. Who is Harley you say? Well that’s what I said. Harley is Charisse’s boyfriend. He is also a teacher in her Stanford program. It was a nice little surprise. In June, the “Poston three” (Charisse, Cheyenne, & Jacob) took a road trip to drive Charisse’s Jetta to Stanford. They stopped and visited the Grand Canyon. Bill, Cheyenne and Katy Goles (who took my place) made it to Oahu & Kauai for our summer trip, since I was not able to travel after my “accident” (More about this later). I recuperated and stayed at home.

This leads to the bad part of 2016. During Jacob’s Belize graduation trip, I had a “small” accident. I slipped on the dive boat and landed on the right side of my body. It winded me, but who’da thought it was that bad? Not me! I went to a hospital in Dangriga for an x-ray (I don’t suggest that) and stayed two more days in Belize, then flew home as planned. I went to my doctor to get pain meds and a new x-ray, only to find out a week later, it was worse than suspected. I had a chest tube put in for a pneumothorax and stayed in the hospital for 10 days (I didn’t know what pneumothorax was then – but I do now). The doctor wouldn’t let me fly, so no Hawaii trip for me (You’re welcome Katy!). The other bad part was Bill slipped and fell while hiking in Kauai, luckily at the end of the trip. He broke his ankle, so we were a “mess” recuperating when he returned. Those were the stressful parts of 2016. Grateful, it was only two things for the bad.

On to the “worthy” portion. (noteworthy, brag worthy, life changing worthy, etc.) I marked many through this letter with “worthy” moment. Bill’s worthy moment was turning the big 5-0 in November. It was a big day and we partied in style. He is still working 24/7 at Kalypso & in Belize. My biggest “worthy” moment came on December 28th when we traveled to Botswana to go on safari. That was my “life changing” event and I can’t wait to go back again. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was all worth it. I wish I could have shared it with my family, but alas school got in the way. There’s always next time! Those who are considering a trip, ask me about it! I’m happy to tell you – GO!

We are blessed with good health and wish you the very best that 2017 will bring! Cheers!! The Poston Family

Poston Family 2015

10 Jan

2015 Holiday Photo

“Let’s Thai One On”

New Year’s Day is a good time to reflect on the past year. The house is very quiet because the “family” is more spread around the world than ever. For this crowd, the definition of “home” shifts week by week. Home is often in the mountains, New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, Belize, Hong Kong, or Thailand. Intermittent togetherness means every family occasion is that much more meaningful while we prepare for the reality of a truly empty (and, if Billy gets his way, a smaller, lower maintenance) nest.

Jensen and Sarah decided that potty training would be more fun in paradise, so they adjusted their latitude to 16° and took over the management of Thatch Caye in Belize. Walker (2.75) and Marshall (1.50) are island boys with two dogs and hundreds of hermit crabs for pets – and about 30 full-time parents. This arrangement gives Gigi and Bully an excuse to visit (not that we really needed one.) It is not apparent to us that either boy has worn a stitch of clothing in six months. Shoes and pants are foreign concepts to them. Gigi keeps feeding little Marshall healthy doses of Marie Sharps Habanero Hot Sauce. “It’s good for him,” she says.

2015 was the year that Charisse transitioned from poor college student to poor working girl. Tulane sent her packing with honors and accolades, but New Orleans is home and tough to leave. She is serving in an AmeriCorps program in a high school helping kids with behavioral problems. Eligibility for food stamps is part of the compensation package. We keep up with her by following her on Twitter. Apparently, she is on a quest to save the world or at least create a viral Hotline Bling video. Her hair was its natural color for 357 days of the year. She figures that she needs to go back to school while she is still good at living on the poverty line.

Well into her sophomore year at Stanford, Cheyenne is loving life and living large. She claims that she studies all the time, but she seems to know an awful lot about Cardinal football, Spurs basketball, Star Wars, SCUBA diving, Palo Alto eateries, and the best routes to Half Moon Bay. Mom and dad are happy to visit, although it would be easier if she would meet us somewhere between SFO and Napa Valley. While she is ostensibly studying chemistry, she is a ardent feminist, budding philosopher and social commentator. Follow the hashtag #shitcheyennesays for a taste of her freely dispensed wisdom. The force is strong with this one.

Jacob is swimming through his senior year. No college selection has yet been made, but we are hoping he goes to an engineering school that will, once and for all, answer the question, “is a shit ton more than a butt load?” An independent traveler, he successfully talked his way into both Japan and Thailand this summer without incident. As the “good boy” among his group of friends, he is readily adopted by multiple families in town. We don’t mind sharing, but his mother wants him back for an occasional visit. There are just a few more weeks in swim season, then a slow walk to graduation and a certain future in a yet-to-be-named field of study.

The pending change in Richele’s parental status is pushing her to explore new ways to fill a day. There always seems to be a new fitness craze to try – multiple forms of yoga and pilates, ballroom dancing, body pump, and something called KokoFit. This is all just a way to support her new daily habit of drinking high-end cabernets. Like habanero hot sauce, she read an article that said wine “is good for you.” The fall turned her into an avid hunter of feral hogs. She wanted to kill the ones that tore up the yard, but then learned that you have to stay up past 8:30pm and quickly gave up that pursuit. Gigi has got it goin’ on, but the hogs are safe.

Billy lives life “off the leash,” splitting his time between Kalypso, Stelos, Housley, and Muy-Ono – the ever expanding dominion in southern Belize. We are up to three islands, one beautiful beach resort, a SCUBA business, a fly fishing operation, and Billy’s Beach Bar. There is talk of more to come using the “economies of scale” justification for otherwise irrational decisions. The name of his boat is “Weak Moment”. That seems apropos of the entire enterprise. There was one afternoon this fall that he admitted to being tired. We thought this might be a turning point from a flash of self-awareness, but after a quick nap he was up and at it again.

We enticed the kids into a couple of weeks of togetherness by taking everyone to Hong Kong and Thailand this summer. After daily $4 massages and $13 multi-course meals for five, we were ready to relocate permanently. On the other end of the spectrum, we all spent Thanksgiving in Manhattan so our average trip costs are probably normal. Other travels took us to Deer Valley (ask Billy about his ankle), New Orleans (ask Richele about her toe), Napa (where we ate at The French Laundry and McDonalds in the same night), Keystone, Palm Beach, Monterrey (the one in Mexico), and at least ten trips to Belize with various groups of friends.

In retrospect, the year was full of laughter, love, and lots and lots of air miles. We are all on a journey to an unknown destination. Sometimes we get a little tired, but the momentum is always forward. The ability to look back on these experiences with satisfaction is like living them twice. I guess that is what it is all about. Like Tramp, (from Lady and…) we are looking “beyond those distant hills.” We may be striving for something undefinable, but there is a purpose to this frenzied, frenetic approach. We continue to discover new places, people and things in this great and wonderful world. Come with us and let us show the parts we like the most.

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