"Change your thoughts and you change your world." - Norman Vincent Peale
Please let me start by describing that dish above: One large grouper filet split in half, seasoned with turmeric and olive oil and steamed in aluminum foil on my grill; quinoa; and grilled squash. This was my first dinner after I changed my world last Thursday and I am not stopping.
Every runner knows that you don't look too far ahead when starting a major challenge. You focus on right now, the mile you're in, the present rather than the future. With that in mind, I don't want to get too far ahead of myself on my current challenge, but I wanted to share it as some have inquired.
On July 21, I decided to change my thoughts and change my world. I decided to quit consuming bread, pasta, pizza and gluten. I call it the 0BPPG Plan. My family was very helpful in advising how to go about it, and I evolved my thought process in walking down supermarket aisles. This is what I want to share: why I changed and how I changed, both equally important steps.
WHY I CHANGED
What causes that kind of major change in a single person? What is that fine line between ACTION and RUMINATION? Here are some of the things that tipped me over the top of the mountain:
On that day I changed, I was talking at length with a camera guy at an MLB event I worked that day at Sleepy Holly Country Club. He was fit and told me about his low-carb attack (I never use the negative word "diet") and how amazing he feels. I just needed to hear that from someone new to me, I guess. He gave me suggestions, a little too much like the old "Atkins Diet" . . . but it was an impetus.
This was not the result of any kind of cautionary medical directive from a doctor. It is me knowing me. I have struggled with extra weight for much of my life, from the days when I was described by mom as "husky" through ebbs and flows. I have walked past the cupcake shop downstairs at our Chelsea Market HQ, and some years I was a regular customer. This year, it began having a real adverse impact on me. I struggled the first 3 months of 2016 with respiratory/allergy problems, meaning I was carrying a lot of extra weight and virtually unable to train for my much-anticipated Rome Marathon on April 11. It was a beautiful event and a great trip, but the amount of walking I had to do through Rome's landmarks and my finish time was deflating.
Extra weight not only was only compounding my increasing respiratory and allergy conditions, but my wife Lisa, head of Admissions at a large senior-care facility in the Bronx, has repeatedly assured me from empirical data, which she sees and logs, that longevity is very much related to lean body structure. In other words, she does not admit very many overweight people. Not because they are home healthy, but because they are GONE. I'm sorry for the frank all-caps but if you are obese please change now. They do not usually last that long. Obesity and overweight conditions lead to too many health issues to mention here, including heart problems.
My grandpa Woody, a World War II veteran, is going to turn 100 in February. I think about his life, and I never remember him being anything but lean, happy-go-lucky, jitterbug-dancing the nights away and so smooth and effortless on his feet. God bless my grandpa. May he live for many more years beyond the century mark, and may he know that he has inspired me again, in this case to be more fit and trim.
I know I can do this, because I have proof: Quitting vices is something I am experienced at and good at. Case in points:
- On Dec. 1, 2006, after moving into a freshly painted Upper West Side apartment in NYC, I was at a tipping point. I was thinking about quitting smoking, and in visiting the couple who were moving out of the apartment a few nights prior, they explained that they ran Central Park in the New York Road Runners club. I was fascinated by the idea that I might be able to be a real "runner." I broke a full box of KOOLS in half and bought a box of ASICS instead. I stopped successfully because I would munching on celery/carrot sticks, grapes and nuts, I would drink water, I would run regularly -- and I would distance myself from places where people smoked.
- Then on Aug. 25, 2014, I quit diet sodas and sugary drinks for life. You know, poison soda. Aspartame on label = legal poison, reduced lifespan ("diet" sodas make your body crave sugar so the label is a lie, in case you are just learning this yourself). This has been WAY harder than quitting smoking, but I have gotten through with Zevia, seltzer, teas and other substitutes.
HOW I CHANGED
I want to stress upfront that I have NOT consulted a nutritionist or doctor on my 0BPPG program. It is something I have invented, or at least modified to my own personal interests. I had an initial plan and then Rachel, who is super solid when it comes to nutrition, gave me suggestions and was (and is) there for text feedback when I was unsure what fit into my thinking and what did not. So I mention all this because I do NOT want anyone to think I am giving expert nutritional advice, especially when I am still in my first week of doing this!
Important: I am proceeding, like we say in baseball, "pitch by pitch." You know how the 2004 Boston Red Sox came back from a 3 games to 0 deficit to beat the Yankees in the greatest comeback in pro sports history? (I wrote a book about it.) Their manager, Terry Francona, made them believe that by only focusing on the next pitch, and then the next pitch after that, and by doing that they did not dwell on the impossibility of winning the next four games but rather by "chunking" it -- like we marathoners do. THAT is how I am going forward with 0BPPG. My next hunger urge; my next snack; my next meal.
I am not thinking about how much I might weigh when the legendary Falmouth Road Race happens on Aug. 21 on Cape Cod, or how much I might weigh when I run my fourth NYC Marathon on Nov. 6. I want to be more focused than that, and just do the best I can and stay POSITIVE.
THIS is when "quit" is an acceptable word, at least in my lexicon. Let's look at the four things I have quit:
BREAD: "Give us this day our daily bread." I just said that on Sunday morning in our Episcopal church service. I've always had to have one or two pieces of bread, usually buttered, to sop up that sauce on a dish. I've always had to have those two English Muffin, smothered in butter and honey or maybe NuttZo. I've always had to have that bread on a cold-cut sandwich that I would eat on my way to work. I think that "our daily bread" is not to be taken literally, though. (Maybe I can serve as a positive example to the many people today who take the Bible too literally, as with same-sex marriage and other issues.) I decided to stop eating bread. I will get asked 100 questions but that's it, no bread. HE GONE
PASTA: Lisa and I thrived on pasta in Italy two months ago. Imagine not eating pasta! Well, I can, and I did. At least the kind of pasta that contains gluten, the pasta you buy in your pasta aisle at the supermarket. Last night, Rachel picked two zucchinis from our garden and used the food processor to make an awesome zucchini pasta. THAT is OK, but for the purposes of my 0BPPG Plan, you know what pasta I am talking about. What you get at an Italian restaurant. I am done eating pasta. It sits in my stomach and converts to sugar. I want to shrink my stomach. I don't want to eat pasta. So you won't see pasta pics from me now. I will get asked 100 questions but that's it, no pasta. HE GONE
PIZZA: I have to write this paragraph really fast because this is the one that is blowing my own mind most of all. After eating maybe 100,000 pizzas in my life, in many countries and styles, from Chicago stuffed to a slice of New York white to our old Pizza King pepperoni with Coors back in the day, I have moved on. I will get asked 100 questions but that it's, no pizza. HE GONE
GLUTEN: I realize that this is what I am quitting in the ones above, but I decided to make this No. 4 anyway because there are many other sources of gluten in the world, and I am not going to consume them if I can avoid it. This is tricky because I am finding out what gluten is. Sometimes you see it on labels and sometimes you don't. Rachel has helped me with this. It will be a work in progress. Many people have told me how amazing I will feel once it is out of my system. I will get asked 100 questions but that's it, no gluten. HE GONE
If you are a company that makes any of this stuff, then say goodbye to my lil friend...
Also in the "How I Changed" category: Fitness is a huge part of this, as they go hand-in-hand. I am going to be training for that 7-miler in Falmouth (psyched because it's New England's second-biggest race behind a certain Boston event!) and the NYC Marathon, and currently I am combining training runs with our gym membership for weight training and core, cycling and swimming.
EXAMPLES OF CHANGE
This was actually the first food I bought after I changed my world. I went to Organica, a healthy market near us, and opted for the turkey and rice you see here.
Rice and quinoa will be key staples for me, as I am not going the grain-free (or dairy-free) route typical of Paleo. I bought a batch of these at the store:
Last Friday at our Chelsea Market HQ, I went downstairs and bought a half of a roasted chicken at one store, and then walked over to another and bought a side of roasted broccoli. I bought a TeasTea (zero calorie) and came up to my desk and ate it.
Eggs will be a big breakfast ally for me. This morning for breakfast, I picked basil from our garden and chopped them up to go into scrambled eggs. I sliced half an avocado and had a banana (which will give me strong protein and potassium). Add OJ and boom.
I am a NuttZo Ambassador, and NuttZo just happens to fit nicely into my arsenal. I just won't be spreading it over bread or English Muffins. I came to work today with a near empty jar of Crunchy Original, and a bunch of half-cut celery hearts. I slathered the celery with NuttZo as a 3 p.m. answer (eat five or six smaller servings per day rather than the traditional three big meals daily). You can use my code mark-20 and get 20 percent off at nuttzo.com.
It helps if you have a supported family, as I do. Bonus points if you have other family members who know more about nutrition than you do and are happy to share. I also know from experience -- again having successfully kicked smoking and poison soda -- that there is a massive community of fellow runners who are supportive and even inspired by such challenges. I appreciate what so many of you already have told me via Twitter, IG, FB or otherwise.
Going back to my original point, I am in no way going to predict 0BPPG success or claim that I am doing something superduper. Man, I have eaten way too many Hostess Fruit Pies and chocolate cupcakes and large sausage pies in my life to be anything but humble now.
I am just explaining why and how I have decided to go about this. There may be nutritionists out there who think it's dumb, who knows. I can tell you that I am not focused on any weight-loss goals or reduced waist size, as I am just taking this pitch-by-pitch. So there you have it; time to head home and eat something great for dinner.
Have any great suggestions for me? What's your nutrition gameplan?