Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Hard Rock Experience

A Hard Rock Experience

The more speaking events I do, the better I feel.  I must do more!  Identifying the things bringing us joy, things in line with our passions, and doing more of those things, is critical to our well being and success.  Staying within my calorie budget and exercising brings me joy too, gives me confidence--and when we're drenched in the positive, joy-giving good choices--it creates momentum, making it a little easier for more good to come; another vital weapon against the powerful inclinations running contrary to our best interest.

This journey is a balance of emotions.  We make the imperative effort to separate our negative emotions from our behaviors with food and we invite positive emotions to help propel us toward the best choices.  To me, it's like separating emotions into two boxes--One containing emotions and issues we must meet and deal with directly and another containing loads of positive reinforcement for the road ahead.  The first box can't be ignored for too long, or it overflows and has the potential to become overwhelming.  For someone like me, with a lifetime history of emotional eating--I speak from experience...And as my recent struggles have proven, even hitting goal and maintaining for a year and a half doesn't exclude me from this powerful truth.  A balance of emotions is the pursuit--and maintaining this balance is crucial to maintaining everything else.

The event at The Hard Rock-Tulsa was awesome.  I honestly didn't know how big the place was until I arrived.  I didn't do a search or any research prior.  I knew about the Toby Keith restaurant, I didn't realize they had several other choices too.

Since I already committed to challenging the Toby Keith restaurant in my blog and via twitter, I decided to stick with the decision and Toby Keith's place Friday night and trust me, it was a challenge.  I've yet to find a restaurant where I couldn't find something reasonable.  After a few minutes scanning the menu here, I quickly zeroed in on the only option to my liking.  If you're a fan of salads, you would be fine simply ordering one to your specifications regarding toppings and dressings.  I don't like salads, I've never ordered one--and I'll probably not start anytime soon.  I was left with one fairly decent choice for my taste and preference.  The six ounce sirloin.  I was looking at 450 calories had it not been so well trimmed--it was very lean.  A 6 ounce lean sirloin according to my calorie counter checks in at 350.  Brushed and grilled with butter (it was shiny--you could tell), I was comfortable assigning a count of 375 to the steak. 

The list of sides, to me, was as undesirable and limited as the menu--speaking from a calorie budget perspective.  I've recently made a point to cut down on potatoes.  It's not an outright ban for me--but simply a realization that I wouldn't really miss it if I cut down, and then my calories could be better spent in other ways.  Still, considering the options--the two most obvious choices were the green beans and baked potato--ordered with the "loaded" stuff on the side.  I enjoyed half the dry potato with a tablespoon of sour cream, salt and pepper.  The green beans were cooked in bacon fat and onions.  You would think this southern style preparation would be right up my alley, but no.  Not even 500 pound Sean liked such a method (500 pound Sean preferred his green beans covered in melted cheese).  I'm now perfectly content with green beans being simply, green beans.  The wild card--and nowhere on the menu was it mentioned or mentioned by the server--was the jalapeno cornbread slice accompanying every dinner.  Just because something is on the plate doesn't mean I have to eat it, I realize this--but a choice was made to at least have half...I ended up eating 2/3 of the piece.  My best educated guesstimates for the sides: 160 for the 1/2 baked potato with a tablespoon of sour cream, 75 for the small dish of bacon soaked green beans and a whopping 175 for the 2/3 piece of corn bread.  Thank goodness I always order water with my meal--because I didn't have room for any other calories the rest of the evening.  A count of 785 was only 25 calories shy of the 810 I had remaining for the day.  Normally, I would have had dinner and enough left over for a small snack later--not tonight.  I was okay with the experience.  I could have made it a better count by placing the bread on the far end of the table in an imaginary "do not eat" zone.  I could have shaved a few calories by requesting the steak not to be brushed in butter while cooking--and if I were a little less stubborn about my vegetable selection--I could have picked a side salad instead.  For me and my tastes--I did good.  The final count was a little higher than I like to have for a meal, but again--it fit the budget for this day.

I was up early Saturday morning and looking for coffee by 6am.  I took the elevator down to the first floor, still groggy and with my bed head hair as tamed as could be, but still looking like I just woke up, because I had.  The elevator doors opened and I was immediately faced with hard rock and roll music... naturally, because this is the Hard Rock Hotel, where rock and roll lives 24/7, I get it... But geez...I guess my age is showing in my displeasure.  I was fine with the music the night before--I loved it, actually, but 6am--no. My suggestion to the Hard Rock involves a name change from 5am-10am each day-- Make it "The Soft Rock Hotel."  Coming off the elevator to the soothing sounds of Seals and Crofts, rather than AC/DC--would have been a little more soothing.  I thought about the guy working the coffee bar--everyday he arrives at work in the 5am hour and is constantly surrounded by rock and roll...and actually, he seemed pretty maybe it was a good thing for him.  Maybe I needed to get into the rock and roll spirit or something... Maybe I just needed coffee.  Yeah, I just needed coffee.

I spent the morning enjoying coffee and an egg white and veggie scramble for breakfast while preparing for the speaking portion of this trip.  The audience would be very different than previous talks.  I was the 10am speaker for the Oklahoma Osteopath Association's Winter Conference, "The Ravages of Obesity."  The room was 98% doctors.  More doctors in one place than I'd ever seen.  It's funny--when I was over 500 pounds, I avoided doctors as much as I could--and now I'm speaking to a room full of them.  It was good.

I told of my experiences as a 500 pound man--moved into the weight loss portion, then the after-effects, the returning struggle--and finally my opinion on what can be done to help people like me.  I was once anti-medicine, anti-surgery--anti anything different than what I was doing.  My mind has been expanded--opened and has a much better perspective today.  I've grown and after four years of examining my own path and witnessing (through email communications and various correspondence) others with similar and all different paths to freedom, I've come to a very good place in this mix of options. Whatever works for the individual with a single caveat: I firmly believe, no matter what  path is chosen--if the person doesn't deal with the underlying issues--acknowledging and embracing their responsibility to self--then any solution and success, mine included, becomes a temporary diversion.  In my experience, there simply isn't a substitute for this inner work we must do in our effort to change our behaviors to ones best suited for long term results.  My point was, my morbid obesity was a side effect of my emotional eating/food addiction behaviors.  Treating the side effects without acknowledging the underlying cause is like calling a cleanup crew to a sewer line break but not calling a plumber.

The question and answer portion of the program was a great experience too.  I can always tell how well received my talk has been by the number of good questions following.  This incredible group of medical professionals had a bunch of questions.  I fielded each one--making points and examples along the way and then suddenly came a question that not only stumped me--forcing me to admit I didn't know the answer, but it also created a slight disagreement between two attending doctors.

The question was:  (this isn't a quote--I'm paraphrasing--but this was the essence of the question)
How can we help kids understand the complexities of recovery and making behavioral changes that go beyond the physical weight loss and into the most important elements needed for balance with emotional eating/food addiction recovery, thus bringing them sustainable results?

The doctor added, "How could you have been reached as a 13 year old and 100 pounds overweight?"

"By example" was my best answer, my first thought, but saying that seemed too easy.  It isn't that easy--example isn't the be all/end all solution in my opinion. Explaining--clearly describing to a developing child the mental and emotional side of this road isn't an easy undertaking in my opinion.  Kids are developing--often wrapped up in the issues of their youth--the very dynamics combining and lending to the adult they'll become.  Could it be explained and explored in a way that's productive, positive and life changing?  Could it be received in the same way?  It depends on the child, I suppose.  Would it be a welcomed interruption--a needed understanding forever changing the course of their development? Or could it be misunderstood and a negative experience, adding so many new concepts to the whirlpool of growth they're experiencing at that age.  Ultimately, I simply said "I don't know."

I was 100 pounds overweight at 13 and I'm not certain how best I could've been reached.  I'm not saying there isn't hope for the childhood obesity epidemic, I'm simply saying it's a little more complicated when we're dealing with adolescents who haven't fully developed the mental/emotional skills of an experienced adult.  We must try to reach them, by first putting more thought into the methods used to make "consumption" of the dynamics involved easier to understand.  It was a tough question.

One doctor put it all on the parents, 100%.  Another, through personal experience, contended that even a household with better than average eating habits, good choices surrounding--and an upbringing that promotes healthy choices in eating, still isn't immune to having obese children.  Kids can have a great example in front of them and still be drawn to all kinds of foods outside of the home.  Add emotional eating, food addiction and of course, lack of activity--and even parents setting great examples can and do have obese children.  It's a discussion we could talk about for hours, I'm sure.  It's an important discussion for sure.  And in my opinion, it's one that doesn't have a straight-up easy answer/solution.

I signed books afterward and enjoyed further discussion with several attendees in the lobby of the conference center.  I couldn't have imagined it unfolding better than it did.  I packed up my displays and hit the road feeling refreshed from the entire experience.  It was needed.  A big thank you to the Oklahoma Osteopath Association for inviting me to speak!

Thank you for reading, goodnight and...

Good Choices,

 photo photo43_zpsf6c0e794.jpg
Here's a picture of the above described Toby Keith dinner.


  1. As an overweight kid with a normal sized family in the 70's & 80's I liked your answer. By example. That's good. You are so right, it's very complex.

    I stumbled upon my answer when I gave all my Xmas candy to my brother one year. Then again when I sold candy bars for a fund raiser and did not eat any.

    The answer was there, but as a kid, it did not pop out at me. I was slaving away with a Richard Simmons exercise book , praying I did not look like the overweight drawings as an adult.

    Complex stuff. Great answers. Glad you are talking to medical professionals. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  2. I was always a "chubby" kid. I remember a doctor examining my knee when I hurt it and saying out loud "Hmmmm, chubby." A teacher called me "fatso" in fourth grade but I have pictures of myself from that time and I was not terribly overweight. Their observations did help set in motion my obsession with calories, losing weight and working to not be fat. I honestly have no idea what the best approach would have been to help me manage my weight. We were encouraged to eat as much as we wanted. If we put it on our plate, we owned it and we could not leave the table until it was consumed. Yep, I'm still a member in good standing of the "clean plate club."

  3. Sean.I loved that line..dealing with the side effects without dealing with the underlying issues is like calling a clean up crew to a sewer break and not calling a plumber. Exactly. That is why I knew from the get go that I had to get my mind right as I went. And as you know.sometimes people want to get their minds right first..but it is often an excuse to never do anything, but to keep asking questions.....doing both is key. Great blog post.

  4. I will say I have friends of all shapes and sizes and the children in each family tend towards whatever and however the parents are. Younger children, especially don't really have much choice when it comes to exercise and food - they follow along in their parent's footsteps. Unfortunately if those footsteps lead them through a weekly barrage of fast food, by the time they get old enough to make the choice for themselves, habits and I believe some physical addition has set in. Top that off with hours and hours in front of computers, TV, and video games and we basically have a recipe for disaster. So while I'm not sure it's 100% parents - mostly because there is an aspect of genetics as well - a big portion of that responsibility does fall upon the parents. If those parents were raised with poor habits you now have a vicious cycle that has to be broken. A problem no matter how you look at it.

  5. I would love to read a synopsis of your speech and some of the Q and A. The question about childhood obesity IS an intrigueing one. I think today the answer is in big part about parenting and about how to live life , recognize problems early on, and seek and actively work at the solution.

    I was an obese kid / teen and going forward and my family was normal sized. I was always overeating and food obsessed and also secretly bingeing from an early age-like as young as 5. I remember doing it and hiding it for years. Obviously, not hiding the effect. Ultimately, my reaction to any comments of love and concern from family (and strangers) was always extreme anger that masked shame. I don't think society or doctors or the mental health community were equipped then to deal with it. I know seeking mental health in the 60's and 70's and 80's had a stigma to it. And then let's add bullying to the mix too which didn't have public recognition as it does today.

    At least the children and teens of today have more access to help and information about the issues and how to deal with them. And there are positive role models about fighting obesity on television like The Biggest Loser and MTV's "I Used to Be FAT." How I would have welcomed those shows when I was younger.

  6. I wasn't an obese kid but my husband and his brother were kinda of husky when younger. I have a 6 yr old and 4.5 yr old and when I do drop off and pick up at the school sometimes it's so sad to see some of the kids out there.

    Thanks for the break down of Toby's restaurant food. We have a new one near CHicago and I'll be hopefully going in May there. When I first looked at the menu I though I don't think I can eat anything there. Thanks for the heads up!

  7. Oh, a transcript of the speech is not a bad idea. :D

  8. wow that's some shiny food :) I totally agree with what your answer about childhood obesity. I have a friend who's a nurse and her poor 4 year old is starting school as a fat kid. I never really learned that there were consequences to my actions when I was young. I could have avoided ruining my body, or my credit, or certain friendships etc. etc. etc. but I was invincible. I'm not sure my parents could have changed that. I watched my dad gain and lose weight my whole life. He died at 47 and I WAS following right in his footsteps.

  9. Oy, what a question. I don't think that the kid is the person that we should reach. When it comes to childhood obesity, the problem is further upstream. That's where not only parenting, but the whole food environment we live in is the problem. When it comes down to it, a lot of times childhood obesity is the end result of a damaging environment that a kid probably doesn't have the wherewithal to handle without using damaging coping techniques. Forget about reaching the kid -- the problem is much further upstream than that. Problematic family life, horrible ever-present techno-crap food, peer pressure ... Even genetics isn't as much of the root as we think. Back in the day, any genetic differences that motivated people to overeat rode under the surface. Maybe one might be 20lbs overweight at most. Now, with tons of horribly engineered food all over the place, those differences are suddenly visible and people can fit a week's worth of calories in the space of one human stomach.

    It's unpopular to say that, though. It forces people to realize the scale of the problem and can make one feel hopeless. Most big social problems are like that. Saying "how do we reach the kid?" just misses ALL of that. :-(


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