Get Your “Before” Pictures

In addition to having a reliable bathroom scale to help you keep score, you should take time to ensure you have appropriate visual evidence to document the starting point on your health journey.

I’ve shared some in My “Before” Pictures, but here are a few more from 2016:

At the Mall of America, with an appropriately baggy shirt, after my youngest daughter’s August wedding.
The next week in New York, just before we started our health journey.
At my middle daughter’s October wedding.

My only regret is that I didn’t take pictures that more clearly captured the extent of my…extent.

In some ways I suppose I wasn’t confident of the eventual outcome, and so I wasn’t thinking about having good “before” and “after” pictures.

I do have some shirtless bathroom photos from about 10 pounds below my 265-pound peak.

And even though I’m being pretty public about my health journey, I don’t want to show you something you can never unsee.

As you’re getting started on your journey, be sure to capture the evidence of where you’re starting, even if…especially if…it’s just for your own motivation.

Get some that are less graphic but that still tell the beginning of your story, so that when you’re successful in this you’ll be able to produce the receipts.

Be sure to get some profile views as well, so you’ll be able to see your progress from a different angle.

I’m 100% confident that by applying the steps I’m sharing in the #BodyBabySteps, you’re going to make amazing progress.

You will be so glad you have your before pictures so you can show the change.

To get these updates on a regular basis you can subscribe by email, or follow me on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn, where I’ll also be posting links.

Check out My Health Journey and my #BodyBabySteps.

Get apps to track progress and support your health journey

I have found the following apps helpful in encouraging and supporting the health changes I’ve made over the last few years.

As you’re starting the #BodyBabySteps, you might want to download these. All of them are free, though most have premium offerings as well.

I’ve supplanted some of them with apps related to devices and gadgets I’ve purchased, but I’ll introduce those in later posts.

For now, we’re starting with the basics.

  • Health, from Apple. This comes with iOS, and Google Play has a comparable offering for Android.
  • Fitness, also from Apple. This integrates fitness-related data from various apps and devices, and particularly from my Apple Watch.
  • Weight Gurus. This app supports my bluetooth scale, as I described previously.
  • Strong. I use this to track my resistance training. If you’re not doing weightlifting yet, you can wait to get this one. That’s #BodyBabyStep Seven.
  • Map My Run. This likewise supports the cardio side of #BodyBabyStep Seven with versions for iOS and Android.
  • Sleep Cycle. You just set your phone on the nightstand, and it has a smart alarm. Instead of a definite time, it looks for a time close to your target when you are in a light sleep stage. That’s better than being jarred out of a deep sleep.
  • Zero. This is my fasting app. #BodyBabySteps Four and Five relate to the timing of your meals so you don’t need this right away, but I’d recommend getting it.

What other health-related apps have been helpful for you?

If you think your friends might find this post helpful, I hope you’ll share by email or on your social networks using the buttons below.

You can subscribe by email, and I’ll also post links on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

Get a Bluetooth scale

As you get started on your health journey, it’s important that you have a good bathroom scale to measure your progress.

You may not want to do daily weighings as you’re getting started. Some people get discouraged by natural weight fluctuations, and so if you think you’re prone to that you may want to weigh once at the beginning, and then wait a few weeks before stepping back on the scale.

Lisa and I use this scale, which we got for less than $50. With the Weight Gurus app (iOS or Android), you can automatically record not only your weight, but also Body Mass Index and percent of your weight that is fat, muscle, bone and water weight.

It’s kind of magical, calculating all of those percentages by the electricity running through your bare feet. And the good part about having these figures in addition to body weight is that as you are getting into the #BodyBabySteps involving exercise, and particularly resistance training, you will add muscle mass.

That’s a good thing, even if your weight isn’t going down.

So if you don’t have a trusty scale, I recommend you get this one. I’m not an affiliate and I make no money based on your purchase.

I just like it and use it every day, and I think you’ll like it too (assuming you have an iPhone or Android device.)

You’ll be glad when you’re able to look back and see how much progress you’ve made. Here’s my first weigh-in, along with yesterday’s:

Lisa didn’t weigh when we started on this journey because she didn’t want to know. She thought it would mess with her head, and she also wasn’t sure she could be successful.

Now she wishes she had gotten a starting weight. She has lost at least 40 pounds, and is fairly confident it’s 50 since we started in 2016. But because she didn’t weigh, she can’t be exactly sure.

So before you start the #BodyBabySteps, get a scale and a starting weight so you’ll be able to tell your full story of success to encourage others.

If you think your friends might find this post and this series helpful, I hope you’ll share by email or on your social networks using the buttons below.

You can subscribe by email, and I’ll also be posting links on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

Cadaverous to Corpulent

In the Spring of 2008, I had some amazing things happening in my life, both personally and professionally:

  • I learned that our first grandchild (coming in August) was going to be a girl, and that her name would be Evelyn.
  • We were launching several of our early Mayo Clinic social media channels, including YouTube, Twitter and some blogs (News and Podcast) that have since been replaced by more robust offerings.
  • I was blogging like a crazy man, with 33 posts in April, 17 in May and 24 in June. This was peak SMUG, just after I had rebranded my blog.

But from a health perspective, I was at the start of some disturbing developments.

For several years, I had been giving blood every 10 weeks (or whatever the required waiting period was at that time.) When I went to the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center to give my unit of A+ blood (only the best!), the helpful staff would always help me preschedule the next donation.

But in the Summer of 2008, I began to notice that my pre-donation hemoglobin test, which started with a reading of something like 16, was declining a little each time.

I didn’t think much of it when it was 15, and then 14-something, but then it got to 13…and finally, in January 2009, to 12.4.

The magic of that number and why it’s memorable to me is that 12.5 is the minimum level required to donate.

I was officially anemic. They wouldn’t accept my blood.

I thought I should see if there was some underlying problem. Lisa also said she thought I wasn’t looking healthy.

I was at about 225 lbs. and playing pick-up basketball, and so I had attributed my reasonable weight (at 6’6″) as due to getting lots of exercise.

Lisa thought I was gaunt – skinny in a not-healthy way. Haggard. Cadaverous might be overstating, but it made an alliterative headline. And when you look at all of the synonyms, one of them is anemic:

So I went to my doctor, a high school classmate and great friend, Dr. David Strobel, and he started by looking for the most common causes of anemia for someone my age: namely, unexplained blood loss.

Thankfully, I didn’t have colon cancer or a bleeding ulcer. On March 13, 2009, he diagnosed celiac disease.

I recently wrote a post on the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network site about that celiac disease journey that highlights how social media helped me to cope: to learn about gluten free eating and where to find gluten-free restaurants.

The story I didn’t tell in that post was what gluten-free eating to manage my celiac disease did to my weight.

Because I have celiac disease, eating gluten had caused my immune system to attack and severely damage the villi in my small intestine, which made it hard for my body to absorb nutrients.

I was anemic because I wasn’t absorbing iron. I was gaunt because I wasn’t absorbing other nutrients well either, even though I was eating a lot.

The good news is most people with celiac disease have their villi restored when they eat a strictly gluten free diet, and that was true for me as well.

My iron and ferritin (a measure of stored iron) levels gradually increased.

So did my weight, and not necessarily in a good way. I was eating as I always had, but now I was absorbing all of those nutrients.

By March of 2013, my medical chart says I weighed 117.7 kg, which translates to 259.48 lbs. Two years later I was 117 kg – staying below the dreaded 260 lbs. mark, but just barely. In February 2016 the charts say 117.9 kg.

That’s also when I did the #ScopeScope.

My chart says my blood pressure in the pre-colonoscopy physical was 155/94, but later that year I was “only” 139/92.

The highest I remember reaching when I would weigh before workouts at the local YMCA was 265. But here’s the highest photographic evidence I have, from May 21, 2016:

So my Body Mass Index (BMI) on that date was 30.3.

I was officially classified as obese.

I understand the limitations of BMI, and I never had a doctor tell me I was obese.

But going from haggard to hefty – to the tune of 40 extra pounds – between 2009 and 2013, and then spending four years within five pounds either side of 260, and with borderline or high blood pressure, was not a healthy development.

In my next post I’ll tell why this was so frustrating for me.

Follow along on TwitterLinkedIn or Facebook.