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Labor Day Challenge – Day 2 – Healthy Eating

Welcome to Day 2 of my Labor Day Challenge! If you want/need to check out why I am doing this challenge, or what it is all about, read my first post from yesterday. 

One of the biggest changes in my lifestyle and reasons for attempting the Labor Day Challenge is my commitment to eating healthy. As I stated yesterday, a couple years ago I weighed nearly 240 pounds. I had fluctuated in my weight ever since I went to college, where I didn’t gain the freshman 15 but the sophomore 30.

I was tall and broad shouldered, so I carried the weight fairly well, with most of it going to my chin(s), chest and belly. (I have always had my chicken legs, even at my biggest) However, it was a far cry from the skinny kid I was all throughout childhood and high school, where my nickname was “Bones” because I was soooo skinny. I was skinny enough that my ears and nose didn’t match the rest of my body. (They still may not, but at least it is more proportional now!)

Right when I graduated college, I had gotten to a weight that was decently healthy, a respectable 200-205. It was the smallest I had been since high school, and I was happy with the way that I was looking. Then I met Kristin, got her to marry me, and became complacent again. Over the next couple years I ballooned to a plump 235-240, and was feeling uncomfortable, sleeping poorly, and unhappy with the way I looked.

I decided to do something about it. I started running with Fleet Feet Tulsa and completed my first half and full marathon. I lost a little bit of weight, and when I crossed the finish line at my first marathon in 2009 I weighed closer to 225, but I was still not happy with my results. I was not watching my diet, and was actually eating more to compensate for the extra running I was doing.

Then, at the beginning of 2010, I got serious. I kept track of all of the foods I ate for a couple weeks, and found out there were some foods that were killing my caloric totals. (Probably killing me too) Foods that I didn’t even think about being unhealthy or unwise, but added to my habitual eating problem. I created a list of foods that I would not eat, placed it on Facebook and challenged others to hold me accountable. Here is my initial list:

1. Fired foods of any kind
a. French Fries
b. Chips
c. Deep Fried anything
2. Sausage
3. Bacon
4. Side Rolls and Bread
a. Texas Toast
b. Crescent Rolls
5. Ranch Dressing
6. Cake
7. Brownies
8. Chocolate
9. Candy
10. Biscuits
11. Gravy
12. Pop
13. Sweet Tea
14. Pizza
15. Ice Cream
16. Cheesecake
17. Pie
18. Fast Foods
19. Nachos
20. Cheese Dip
21. Doughnuts
22. Bagels
23. Chocolate or Strawberry Milk
24. White Bread
25. Macaroni & Cheese
26. Syrup
27. Muffins
28. Cinnamon Toast Crunch
29. Cream Cheese
30. Cornbread

I stuck with my diet, and as I learned more and more about healthy eating, I developed a plan that worked for me. Because I was running so much, I needed to have a healthy diet with more calories and it didn’t hurt for me to have some extra carbs. I worked it into a diet consisting of 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat (healthy fats, such as foods high in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats). I went mostly organic, not organic in the sense of non-chemically treated foods, but organic foods that were not manufactured or processed foods. I ate a ton of lean meat, such as chicken and fish, whole grains and pasta, low-fat dairy products, and of course, fruits and veggies. It was a complete change for me and really only the second time in my life I had altered my lifestyle so dramatically (the first was when I started running).

The results were unbelievable. My body responded in ways that I could have never imagined. I started my healthy eating on Jan. 1st near 215 pounds. By Feb. 1st, I weighed less than 200 pounds, and by March 1st I weighed less than 185 pounds. When i ran the St. Louis marathon in April, I had gotten all the way down to 175 pounds. It was smaller than I was in high school, and actually smaller than I needed to be. I had to actually start consuming an extra 1,500 calories a day to stop my body from losing weight. I had achieved success I never though possible, and I have students now who have only known me as thin that don’t recognize pictures of me from the past. It has changed my life forever, and I now can live a more active lifestyle and achieve more physically than I could have ever dreamed.

I tell you this whole story to show you how important it is for me to eat healthy during my Labor Day Challenge. I have not eaten healthy since the beginning of July, when I went to Cuba, and I have set new goals for myself (i.e. six pack). I have stopped running as much, I am still coaching a half marathon group with Fleet Feet Tulsa, but I am not putting in the 50-70 miles a week I needed to compete for PRs in marathons. I currently weigh between 185-190, which is actually a great weight for me, but I am shifting my focus to gain mass through lean muscle and eventually becoming “ripped.” I know that some of this is vain, and will not lie to you and say that I don’t want to look good. Primarily, however, my purpose returns to the original meaning behind the Labor Day Challenge. It is 6 weeks of working harder than usual to build a base I can maintain for long periods of time, to change my life forever.

To become successful in this endeavor, I have created a system to hold myself accountable, to track my intake and complete my end goals. I am back to counting calories, protein, fat, carbs, etc. on Livestrong’s My Plate. I have found this to be the most comprehensive calorie counter available.

I emptied my house of unhealthy or tempting foods, and will not go out to eat until I can trust myself to not over-indulge. I know that I will not be successful if I go to a buffet, so I will not even think about going until the end of my Labor Day Challenge.

I write out my diet a week in advance, so I know what to eat and when to eat. I takes some time every weekend, but I am prepared for the rest of the week and do not have to worry about foods on a day-to-day basis.

I know I will be tempted, and I know I may fail every once in awhile. However, I must give this my best shot, because I know I need to, and I know I will be happy with my results when the 6 weeks are over.

I would be more than happy to talk to anyone on an individual basis about my healthy eating if you would like some insight or advice. I know what worked for me will not work for everyone, but I challenge you to attempt to live a healthier lifestyle for the next six weeks. Maybe it means you track your calories, maybe it means you cut certain “calorie killers” out of your diet, maybe it means you can go hardcore with me. Whatever you need to do to become healthier, I challenge you to do it.

“There is no better time to do than now, no better person than you to do it. The longer you wait the harder it will become, and the less likely you will achieve your goals.”


10 responses

  1. Emily Eller

    You inspire me Ryan!! Your accomplishments and committment is commendable!!! Proud of you!

    September 7, 2011 at 1:19 pm

  2. I would like to know how you shift your diet when cooking for two people who need completely different calorie intakes.

    September 7, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    • Usually, Kristin ate half what I ate. Literally ate half the amount of chicken I would, half the cereal, etc. Worked out pretty well for the both of us!

      September 9, 2011 at 1:32 pm

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