22 Post Holiday Weight Loss Resolution Tips From a Former Fat Kid To Do Now

There are many reasons to want to lose weight, get healthier, and change our physical appearance. I remember one of mine like it was yesterday – it went something like this:

“Man, look at you. You need a bra.”

The above is one of the many comments and observations endured while I made my way through elementary, middle, and eventually high school. Several of my tormentors attended the military academy where I spent my school years, but it seemed the words could come from anywhere. Or out of nowhere.

I was a well fed Italian American boy, who showed no signs of stopping the culinary carnage as I ate my way through the kitchens of my mother, grandmother, and assorted relatives.

There was always a plentiful bounty of food – especially on a Sunday. Unending pasta choices, sauced with my grandmother’s jarred tomatoes, complimented by stacks of braciole (beef roll ups) and meatballs. Chicken cutlets, glistening with oil straight from the oven. The Sicilian street food arancine, a family favorite.

I was always instructed to eat more, to stave off the impending malnourishment that would be encountered once I ventured into the outside world. Of course, there would never be any of that.

To say I packed away a little extra weight would have been putting it nicely.

Eventually, the school yard taunting fueled a fire to get better, and – with the help of one Sly Stallone and the movie icon that would bring him his first taste of fame – I managed to shed the majority of the excess to resemble a fit, healthy teenager.

I ran laps around the suburban neighborhood of my younger years like my life depended on it – because in truth, it did.

Supplemented with grueling abdominal work and the release of my teen rage upon a canvas heavy bag (cue the Rocky theme), the damage to each and every one of my fat cells was unmistakable.

The fat dude in the school boy uniform, with pale blue shirt and dress grays, was gone. In all, 40 to 50 pounds just melted away. More than likely for good.

And more than 35 years later, I’ve managed to keep the weight off. To be transparent, I’ve had other issues to address – higher than normal blood pressure, ever increasing glucose levels, a self imposed lower back problem (all of these on the mend) – but even with that, the bathroom scales have never been tipped again in favor of a sneaky path to obesity.

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” – Beverly Sills

The secret to taking off weight and keeping it off is simple, but it’s never easy. This time of year, it’s a focus and a question mark for many. There’s plenty of misinformation, and ideas that may have worked for someone else – but might not be your cup of tea.

This post is not the product of a health and wellness expert  – but if there is one thing I can lay claim to being expert at, it’s moving through struggles with weight and trying to focus on a better way, within this balancing act called life.

There’s a plethora of information out there, which seems to reach critical mass the first couple of months of every year – but the most “back to basics” tips you can use will, in the long run, be the most helpful. Here’s a few of my favorites:

  • Remember that the word “diet” should not be part of your vocabulary – what you’re shooting for is lifestyle change. Albeit one small step at a time.
  • Eat healthy foods that you actually enjoy eating. For me, this includes fruits like apples and bananas, eggs, chicken breast, turkey, and green veggies cooked with garlic and olive oil.
  • Go for natural foods every time, not stuff in a box. Just because the box has words like “lean” and “healthy” on it doesn’t make it so. In other words, be wary of food marketing. Educate yourself.
  • Eat only pastas that end in the letter “i” – just my humorous way of saying it’s not necessary to give up foods you love. Not even close. Just use common sense, smaller portions, and leave the gluttony behind. I still enjoy my pasta – but I eat the portion size now that you might see in an Italian trattoria, not an American restaurant.
  • Exercise. Your first move: push the plate away.
  • And please don’t use the “got no time or money” excuse concerning exercise – you can do it all with 15 minutes of calisthenics, right in your living room, basement, or garage. Everybody’s got time for that.
  • Avoid drive-through windows like the poison center they are. If you must do the drive-through, get the salad.
  • Salads don’t mean boring eating, either. You can add to them with lean proteins, nuts,  and berries to make them filling and tasty. Just limit your intake of fatty dressings (I like olive oil, sea salt, and lemon).
  • Track your meals for a week. You might be surprised what you put in your body.
  • If you decide to go the route of a stricter eating plan, pick a “cheat day.” Mine is Sunday. On that day, have yourself some pizza and ice cream. Just don’t eat a whole pizza and a gallon of ice cream.
  • Use the stairs. Please. Leave the elevators for the elderly and the handicapped.
  • Exercise. Try walking. You have all the equipment you need. My wife is going with me to the gym, and she started out just walking on a treadmill. Then she started walking fast. Then walking fast up inclines. Then she started lifting. See? Baby steps.
  • Eat sweet potatoes instead of white.
  • By the way, have I mentioned fruits and veggies?
  • Sugar has been just about eliminated from my diet. There are some things I will not give up – I need sugar and cream in my delicious, home brewed coffee. But that’s about it. You can reduce it too.
  • That means limited, or no, soft drinks. Total sugar bombs. You’d be surprised at the caloric content here.
  • Ask yourself: Would a caveman have eaten this? Cavemen ate meat they killed and plants that grew on trees or in the ground. They didn’t have Pringles and Doritos back then.
  • Consume alcohol moderately, or not at all. Red wine (my favorite) is a good choice if you must.
  • Exercise. You should, without question, pay attention to what you put into your mouth. Intense, frequent exercise can cover a multitude of sins if you fall off the wagon of the particular eating plan that you’ve put into place.
  • Having said that, I remember a quote that sticks with me: “90% of the fitness battle is fought – and won – in the kitchen.”
  • I like this one as well – “It’s not what you eat between Christmas Day and New Years. It’s what you eat between New Years and Christmas Day that counts.”

Bonus Tip: Exercise some more. Make it fun! Outside of the gym, I’ve walked, jogged, sprinted with my dog (he’s 16 now – he can’t sprint anymore), played touch football with my son and his friend, did jumping jacks, and calisthenics. I jumped rope recently for the first time in years. Wanna sweat? Try jumping rope for 5 or 10 minutes.

Like this article? Please share on your favorite social media channel. Or better yet… read some more, with the related content below. Are you a “resolutionist?” Would these tips help you? Let everyone know by leaving a comment!

How To Bury Your Time Wasters

In the last post, I said that resolutions were a non-factor for me – that I only had a recurring one concerning traditions that need to be kept, and that was it. Frankly, I had no desire to join an army of “resolutionists” whose numbers would dwindle by each passing week.

But that wasn’t true. I lied. I’d actually like to add one resolution, if you will, that would boost all other resolutions if I decided to make them.

acquavivaStop wasting time.

All around us, you can hear the cry of the chronically overwhelmed.

“I have no time.”

“I’m just sooooo busy.”

“Ain’t nobody got time for that.” (A personal favorite)

But when you tell the truth, a high percentage of people who declare they are too busy for the important spend a good chunk of their days on activities that add zero to their lives. And I’m as guilty as anyone else.

As a newly proclaimed resolutionist, I intend to step up my game where I’ve begun, and to start in the areas that I need to. That means burying time wasters. And there’s plenty of them that we can shovel some dirt on.

Let’s get crackin’. Here are examples of time I am no longer willing to waste. Starting….now.

The Evening News – Walter Cronkite and Peter Jennings are long gone. There is no longer a reason to immerse yourself in the time wasting activity of the news. Most of it is sensationalized to bring in more advertising revenue, and it seems the only purpose is to increase the American public’s “worry factor”. About things most of us don’t have to worry about.

Stop watching stories about derailing trains or tornadoes touching down. Unless it’s happening in your house or neighborhood, the long term effects on you are minimal.

The Local News – Indulging in this is worse than watching national news. Want to hear about stabbings, shootings, and car accidents in your surrounding towns and cities? This is the place to be! Ugh. Serious waste of precious time. The only saving grace for our local news is the personality of a couple of very good meteorologists in the area, one in particular that helps animals in shelters.

Now that the Polar Vortex is upon us, they are even more excitable.

Other Television – This one may prove a little difficult. My wife and I are big Seinfeld fans, notably fans of the syndicated re-runs that are on every night. So easy to lose an hour to this one.

And sports programming can wind up being a giant time suck as well. Between football and baseball, I know I spend hours in front of the TV, soaking up all the athletic entertainment that I can.

My television habits will be a work in progress. Stay tuned…

Email – let’s face it, there are emails, meetings, and more emails – the majority being a complete waste of everyone’s time, but that never stops it from happening. In my line of work, the only activities that matter are helping clients and pitching prospects. End of story. Everything else will add little value to what my customers do, or my bottom line. These two activities must take up the majority of my day. I will no longer allow this line to be crossed. The email black hole must be stopped.

Social Media – Facebook, with its unlimited potential for negativity, political bickering, and general pointlessness, is actually useful for me keeping up with friends and family that don’t live in the area. What was once the ultimate time suck for me is now a medium that I’m logged in and logging off for 10 minutes every couple of days.

To stop wasting time I want my usage to drop even further, with the exception of sharing posts like this one. It’s a beautiful thing.

While I still plan to get notifications from people that a) live far away, or b) actually say something worth caring about, I really don’t have that many Facebook “friends” to begin with so it should only take me a few minutes, tops.

Other Minutiae Of Life – Small talk. Chit chat. Idle gossip. Feeding the rumor mill. We’ve all done this, right?

Time waster. Time waster. Time waster.

Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation and just wanted to walk away?

But you didn’t, because you were taught to be polite?

I’m going to start walking away. And not perpetuating negativity. Not letting anybody waste my time.

Because time is finite. There’s only so much left.

I’m going to turn my TV off. Brian Williams will become a stranger to me. Jerry Seinfeld may, as well. It will be so hard to say goodbye.

The time to just “watch” has passed me by. I’ve said it before – life is short. The game has nearly been decided. The clock is burning down. It’s hard to take action on the truly important because of the little things. And if that’s the case, don’t let those little things include the evening news and mindless internet surfing.

The quality of your life depends on it.

Luck Be A Lady: Working Hard For Love And Money

As I mentioned in the last post, my grandparents had an insane work ethic. They had to, as they toiled in factories to make their mark when they first came to America, then running a restaurant for many hours, days that would segue into late nights.

I’m talking crazy work ethic. The “We’re in our 80s and still moving at warp speed” work habits. One of a kind.

They passed this on to my father, who in turn passed it on to his kids. When I decided to work at the restaurant after high school, the only way to work was their way. Hours upon hours upon hours. The majority of it standing up, walking, running, whatever it took. Not much in the way of sitting.

Most younger guys wouldn’t have gone for that, but I wanted to be a bartender, and I wanted to work with my family. So I went all in.

What followed was a years long string of 12 to 14 hour days, the busiest ones filled with non-stop activity. I made money, created relationships, and helped build a business.

There were times when I thought it was getting to be too much of a grind, and wanted to quit. But gut instinct told me to stick it out. The hours I was putting into the small family business were going to make me neither rich nor famous, but I was sure, someday, that something great would happen.

Right Place, Right Time

Fridays at the restaurant were especially grueling. Our customers had money on Friday, and they all wanted to spend it. That equated to a longer day, at times 14 to 16 hours.

After one particularly nasty double shift, my father and I were walking to our cars to go home. One of my friends, Bruce, was with me, tagging along. It was a clear night in April, but we walked quickly as it was a little brisk.

We had parked our cars right next to a busy college hangout, in their parking lot. As we approached the lot, I could see that my Dad’s Chevy wagon was blocked in by the car of some overzealous student. I could easily pull my car out, but that Chevy wasn’t going anywhere.

I was tired, but my father worked in our restaurant’s kitchen, so I knew that he wanted to get out of there and go home.

I tossed him my car keys and took his in exchange, saying to Bruce, “C’mon, let’s go across the street and get a drink”.

“Across the street” was another bar, an old time watering hole called the Eldorado. After walking through their door, life was never going to be the same.

Beautiful Stranger

Bruce and I put our bellies to the bar, got our cocktails, but fatigue was starting to wear me down. He was talking to me, but I didn’t hear him – I just stared straight ahead in a haze. Then his eyes lit up and he spread his arms into hug formation, as if to greet an old friend.

I turned away from the bar, and watched as he gave an embrace to this striking girl that just came through the door. She was a recreation of the classic Barbie doll: blond, cute, with beautiful eyes. She had a sensational form dressed in denim and a dark blazer.

I couldn’t believe my good fortune that night. I had a friend who could introduce me to “the girl”.  And over twenty years later, that girl is still by my side.

My wife and I met under circumstances that should have never happened. I was in a place that I wasn’t supposed to be, and she came to the same place, not knowing where the next stop was. The intersections of life are, at times, unplanned trips. The stars align in just the right places, and that “mystical and magical” force just takes over.

I can give credit where it’s due. Without my grandparents showing me the ropes – without watching how they worked all their years – there is no way I would have put in all the hours I did. And without that, right place and right time never happens.

And that’s the way it is with many things in this life. Like my grandparents, I strived enough, expended effort and energy, to create opportunities for good things to happen. Without the work ethic taught to me by others, I don’t meet the woman I was meant to fall in love with.

If my two children can learn just one thing from me, I’d like it to be this:  never underestimate  the power of hard work and maximum effort. It can change your life. You will run into people who won’t agree with this, happily coasting through their lives.

Ignore them.

Take what I say to heart, understand what my parents and grandparents taught me, and do what few others will do – work it, and work it hard.

It’s the principle that got you here in the first place.

Terrible Old School Career Advice To Blatantly Ignore

My daughter is now at the age where she’s started getting unsolicited career advice from well meaning friends and family that some of us got when we were teenagers.

You’ve probably heard it yourself.

“Go to law school. Become a lawyer.”

“How about doctor? You could marry one. Or go to medical school. Medical school would be a fine choice. ”

“I hear there’s a lot of money in computers” (Talk about general advice).

While I typically favor the practices of the old school, this is one old time suggestion that should be tossed in the garbage can. If I’m dispensing advice, I’m not comfortable going with either:

  • a) “do what you love” starving artist vs.
  • b) pursuit of law or medical school for riches and prestige.

You gotta meet somewhere in the middle.

For Love Or Money

I was told once that I had the personality for sales. In the beginning, I didn’t have a passion for sales, but I do like stuff that I’m good at. So I stuck with it. My passion is a full wallet and the freedom that comes with it, to do cool things with my family (see this post for that).

Note to children: Here’s your unsolicited advice from your father – find an activity that you are really good at, or find something that you enjoy practicing over and over again so you get good at it. That’s your start.

Find people that want to pay you for that one thing, and you are on your way to finding your career.

My daughter, as of this moment, is really into biology. The idea of dissecting a frog or perhaps another dead animal is her idea of fun. She loves it. It has potential to become her passion.

I know the mind of a teenager can change. Mine certainly did when I was that age. At this point, it matters not. I’m a proud papa anyway. If she chooses to go into a field like biology, that’s only icing on my pride cake.

Like Father, Like Son

In our basement (which I proudly refer to as “the dungeon”), I have an old heavy bag that I have used for exercise and stress relief for the longest time. How long, you ask? Well, the bag has the insignia for the Los Angeles Olympic Committee, circa 1980.

Don’t judge. I was a very young man back then.

When I was a teenager, boxing was to me what biology is to my daughter. I went to live matches, and followed all of the big fighters. I trained like a boxer to stay in shape after initially using that training to melt away well earned body fat.

My bag is an Everlast, and the fact that it’s survived almost three decades of beatings makes it one of more durable possessions that I have. I still enjoy using it frequently, and number one son has now taken to the feeling of satisfaction that is punching things.

Like father, like son? Very likely. After all, most of us would like to take after our fathers in some respect. Derek Jeter once said “My dad had been a shortstop….and you know, when you’re a kid, you want to be just like your dad.” My dad started as a bartender, so guess what I wanted to be?

Bad Advice, Not Taken

When I was a bartender, a “friend” of mine asked me when I was going to get a real job (read: desk job shuffling papers and dodging office politics). Apparently, my current gig was low status, and did not reflect well on me personally.

I’ll admit, I did consider this advice for a brief time. After all, my friend was only looking out for my best interests. How could he let me languish in my role as mixologist?

I ended up ignoring his advice because there were some aspects of the job he just couldn’t understand:

  • The privilege of being able to serve thousands of people
  • Forming relationships with dozens of them, some lasting to this day
  • Being able to work with family (OK, at times this wasn’t all that great)
  • Growing a business that was distinctly my own. My customers belonged to me
  • Having fun! Most people don’t get this at work
  • The physical nature. Every day on the job was a workout. Lots of running and lifting

The last one is really important. Despite all the second hand smoke, I was in pretty good shape when I was a bartender. Those with real jobs had to battle the middle age spread. Before middle age.

And there’s one more…

One particularly punishing 14 hour shift on a Friday in the early 90s. Wanting to go home, but circumstance not allowing it. Staying out, and meeting a girl who would become my wife two years later. If I had followed up on my friend’s suggestions, and gotten out of the restaurant business then, our paths may never have crossed (more on this in another post later this month).

Best career advice: Gut instinct. Follow it.

What say you? What did you do with that “helpful” career advice that was given? Did you follow it? Or toss it? Let me know in the comments, start a conversation! Using the share buttons would also be appreciated as well.

Writing From The Dark Side

In a past life, my wife would need to implore me to come back from my dalliance with “the dark side”. When I worked for a company I liked to call “The Evil Empire”, that was a place I visited on too frequent a basis. I was not the easiest person to live with.

However, that job is gone, and Happy Joe has been present and accounted for 99% of the time. But, I seem to be on a little of a dark side streak. Negative events in the media have prompted publication of the two most recent posts here, my related opinions of the Aurora mass murder and the cover up and subsequent betrayal by Joe Paterno.

The original intent of this site was to pay tribute to those closest to me: grandparents, godmother, members of my family and friends, sharing the life lessons they passed along to me. Which I consider a gift.

Chris Brogan had put it best: “Turn your lens on your family. Tell family stories for future generations.”

Although my last two posts approach what is quality content, I’m unsure if the stories fit here. I want a certain feel to each post or series of posts. I didn’t get that feeling.

Lens On The Family

I left a comment at Jack’s place after he published an excellent post about how certain smells trigger memory. As I read it, one memory of the smell of meatballs cooking in my kitchen as I’m frying them immediately brings me back to my grandmother’s house, the scenario always being the same: Early on a Saturday morning, running down the stairs in my pajamas, woken up by the scent of meatballs wafting through the halls.

And the ritual of being the first to get a meatball sample at the start of another weekend. Perfect blog fodder for whenever I decide to dispatch procrastination and just write it.

I’m not exactly sure why I would write about anything else, especially the topics of mass murder and pedophile supporters. There are more than enough people to comment and write about all the crazy in the world. I did it, and it felt like a chore. When I left that brief comment about smells and memory, it flowed. I know if I turn it into a full length post, that would flow as well.

This summer has not been all peaches and cream. I lost my best friend after his long struggle with Parkinson’s, and another very good friend of mine passed away suddenly at the age of 59, just two weeks later.

It’s said that once you hit a certain age that you start to attend more funerals than weddings, and it looks like I may be in that place. That’s one part of life where you wish you could roll back the clock.

Clocks notwithstanding, life’s frequent patches of darkness are more than enough to shed light on without going to the current events pages to handle that as well. Lessons to be learned.

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