A 90-day experiment in habit change

I’ve talked before about my struggles with sugar addiction. About my propensity to binge eat. While I’m not sure if I will ever be fully free from this, I do not accept that I have no options for change ahead of me.

In January of 2010 when I decided to get off my couch and start making some changes in my life, my challenges were quite different. At the time I had never been a fit person. I had never maintained a healthy diet or been close to a healthy weight. I certainly had not purposefully exercised or run for any reason other than to get to the pizza guy at the front door.

Even as I started to start making changes in my life, food addiction was not something that I really thought much about. Sure I had some really bad habits around food and food choices, but I had never experienced what many people would consider compulsive overeating or binge-eating. Instead, I just had years and years of inactivity and poor diet choices to overcome. No big deal, right?

Well, as it turns out, as you peel back the onion, new layers to every problem can be found.

As I started losing weight and learning about the world of healthy living, I became both obsessed with and simultaneous overwhelmed by the process of “reaching my goal.” At the time, I had small numbers in my head at the end of the road and no matter how far I went, I generally just plateaued at some point.

Inevitably I would give up for a bit out of frustration, get lax with my diet, and gain some (usually small bit of) weight. For a long time, it was temporary, and I would usually bounce back, but as I did this more and more, it became harder and harder to maintain an end result vision in my mind. Each one of these setbacks (in retrospect) represented my own inability to ever reach those goals and little by little I gave up.

Simultaneously, as I was giving up, I started to develop some really dangerous habits around eating. Habits which I felt a compelling need to hide, given that more and more of the company I kept (including my wife), expected something better of me.

Thus my habit of binge-eating was born.

Over the last 3-years has represented a hitting of bottom again for me. My challenge now is that I lack much of the physical fitness I gained before and have also gotten heavier as a result of yo-yo dieting and binge-eating episodes. My metabolism is slow and to top it off, I seemed to have become a zombie participant in the sugar-games. Where, given a few sugary treats, I will eventually fall off a cliff and devolve into a wild animal with little control.

While I have enjoyed some limited success getting out of the hole, for periods of time, it never seems to last long and eventually, I slowly transition from “feeling great” to “closet binge-eater who hates himself and is slowly but surely murdering his future.”

After spending some time over recent weeks really taking a look at myself and trying to understand where I am and why I’m doing what I’m doing, I’ve come to a few conclusions.

1) I do indeed have a food/sugar addiction issue

This was not necessarily something I was born with but was cultivated over time due to my use of sugary foods in order to cope with emotional stress that I was (and still am) dealing with at the time. This has led to some disordered dopamine cycles to be born in my brain, and for those that don’t know, dopamine being the “learning hormone“, means that I’ve essentially taught my lizard brain that the best way to deal with problems (including those ones born from the shame of sugar consumption, is to keep eating more and more.

2) A lack of positive reinforcement habits to fall back on

My reward cycle is so messed up that my brain looks to negative habits to seek positive rewards in a time of stress. Which, being a father, husband, traveler, and a bunch of other things, is all the time. How can you expect to make any sort of change when your default way to soothe yourself is to do more damage to yourself?

3) I no longer surround myself with healthy reinforcements

In fact, feeling that I will automatically be a failure, I have a tendency to stay as far away from these as I can. While I at one time would read books about how to be healthy, talk to people about health, and listen to health-related topics, instead now I feel embarrassed not only in the state I find myself in, but also that I know as much as I do, yet somehow do exactly what I know is wrong. As if knowingly being ignorant is somehow going to help.

4) I don’t know what it feels like to really be hungry anymore

One thing that I have been able to understand about when I succeed and when I don’t is that when I’m eating well and making good choices, I am able to feel hungry and let it drive me forward. When I’m binge-eating all the things, instead, I have no idea what hunger feels like and instead just feel compelled to eat. I’ll eat junk-food after junk-food until I feel sick and then eat more for dinner later, even though I am actually too sick to eat, all to cover up for the fact that I ate so much earlier. Hunger should be a driving force, something that focuses you, however, in an everyday situation it should not fill you with panic. That is the closest I can really equate it to in a way that explains it to those who have never felt it.

So now, knowing what I know, I have to learn how to move forward.

My usual tactic is simply to go on a diet and hope it all works out. That somehow something will change. That I won’t just repeat my previous habits and that I will avoid the previous pitfalls.

So what is different this time? This time I want to focus on habits. I want to focus on building and growth, instead of loss and other negative ways of looking at things. What can I add to my life that will create the change that I seek? What positive behavior can I add to my life that will replace the negative behaviors that are overpowering me now?

My assumption about making a change up until this point in life has been, “if I remove this, then I will get better.” However, if we remove everything, what is left other than a void? Maybe there is a better way.

Enter my 90-day experiment

Note: I’m only writing this now, as I’m already 10-days into my experiment and I want to get all of these thoughts into a place the makes sense. I normally have been trying not to talk about what I will do, only what I have or am doing already.

My experiment itself is really to see if I can create a set of positive habits, that have been repeated (nearly) every day for 90-days, in a way that they become easy to do and require little, if any, thought to complete. The idea is that if I can fill my life with positive habits, the negative ones will be easier to remove later, as they naturally make sense, without leaving a void.

This means creating daily practices with my only real goal being to repeat them the next day. I will eventually create goals to improve some of these practices, but right now the hard part is to be consistent, so at the moment, that is my goal, be consistent.

So, here is a quick list of the habits I am looking to cultivate right now:

  1. Eat lots of fibrous vegetables and avoid sugary foods
  2. Wake up every day before 6 am
  3. Read a chapter from a book about healthy eating/living every day
  4. Complete the 7-minute workout every day
  5. Run for at least 1-mile every day
  6. Take small breaks throughout the day to stretch
  7. Practice gratitude and thank myself every time I’ve done something good for myself

At first this may seem like a lot to add in all at once, but in reality, they’ve been fairly easy to accommodate. The best reason I can think of for this at the moment is that several of them stack fairly well together. On top of that, I believe the last habit is perhaps the most powerful. By thanking myself every time I do something positive for myself, it not only feels good, but it creates a reward for myself that helps reinforce the behavior. Not only that, it slowly starts to shift my inner voice toward a more positive one, by forcefully making my outer voice say nice things.

As I said before, all of this is an experiment. I’ve picked 90-days as a time horizon because I believe the standard 21 or 30-days prescription is too short to make meaningful change. I think that it is easier to sell a 21-day “change your life” program because it certainly sounds easier, but from my own experience, radical changes in habits require far more effort.

At the end of the 90-days, I will measure and assess where I am. At that point, I will start to add some further goals to help me improve the behaviors I’ve begun with these habits. Until then, I don’t need to lose 50-pounds or run a marathon. Instead, I simply need to put in the work. It doesn’t matter how hard it is or how well I do it. As long as I get up and do the work, I will have succeeded and I will thank myself for doing so well.

To be honest, for the first time in a long time, I’m excited about this all. I’m not hedging at all. I think every attempt up until now has had some sort of hedge added to the bet. Some thought that I will likely fail and do it all again. This time, though, I don’t feel that way. I feel excited to feel good about myself and to chase that feeling for once.

I don’t expect that it will always be easy (it certainly has had its moments already) but as long as I can look at myself in the eye and say, “Drew, you’re doing your best,” then I know it’ll be alright.

Don’t just set goals, instead take action

Last time I talked a bit about how I’m a prolific goal setter. I create them with such zeal and determination. I dream into the future and imagine what it should be.

Here’s the rest of that truth, though. I plot and I plan and then ultimately go chasing after the next shiny thing.

The real story is that goals don’t really work for me. Maybe they don’t really work for anyone. At least not by themselves. Goals are sort of abstract to do list set far into the future. One that has by itself has no real plan and no real method of success tied to it.

Start my own business? No doubt.

Pay off all of my debt? Let’s do that tomorrow.

Plus, I would like to spend more time with my family.

The truth is, that just saying I would like to do these things does not make them accomplishable. Setting those things out for the universe does not make them materialize.What makes them occur in reality is strategy and hard work.

What makes them occur in reality is strategy and hard work.

In other words, action.

When I was your age

When I was first looking to break into web development I was in a pretty terrible place in my life. For years, I had been scraping by as a computer technician, cleaning viruses off of people’s PCs and trying to explain to parents the dangers of downloading things on the internet.

I was miserable. I absolutely hated explaining this thing that felt so obvious to me and was so repetitive. Every day was the absolutely same set of problems solved in nearly the same way.

In my own time, I had been programming. I was learning web development, but didn’t have a completed education, and didn’t really understand how to do it full-time.

Sure I had a ton of toy projects, but my real goal was to transition from doing repetitive work for near minimum wage to doing something that was more creative, paid better, and was overall more fulfilling. At the time, though, this felt completely impossible.

I didn’t have a college degree, I didn’t live in a digital hub, nor did I have any real experience to back me up.

What could I do? The answer as it turned out was to get the lowest paying web development job I could find and let that experience take me forward. And that’s what I did.

I searched around and found a small web shop that wanted to pay the kind of rates that we would pay to contractors overseas today and said, “I’ll take it!”

I did this because while it didn’t get me to my complete end goal, it got me closer. And over the course of the next 10-years, I went from near intern to having worked at several high profile companies and being the CTO of a small startup in New York City.

That wasn’t where I intended to go when I started, but that was where I landed.

Action is the real goal

The one thing that I can say for sure from my own journey, is that I got to where I wanted to go, not because I followed a plan the whole way, but because I knew the direction I wanted to go and I took action.

Recently I’ve been reading a fantastic book by Gary Keller called, “The ONE Thing.” As the title implies, the core concept of this book is that by nature we tend to focus on a full list of things we need to accomplish. That by checking things off the list that we will magically reach our goals.

What the book asks us to do instead is to ask the question, “what’s the ONE thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

This is such a simple, yet powerful concept. It challenges how we look at our long-term goals and how we seek to accomplish them by telling us, to just focus on ONE thing.

Perhaps instead of focusing on goals, we should be focusing on that ONE powerful action we can take right now. The one thing that will define the rest. That way we turn goals into simply the byproduct of action.

This simple turn of how we frame things has some powerful implications. It tells us that we need to be focused on what we can do today. Not what we want in the future.

Are having goals really a problem though?

The truth is, that having goals is a good thing. They provide useful guideposts. They tell us which direction to aim, however, by definition they don’t tell us much about which road we should take to get there. Instead, they distract us and teach us to focus too much on the unknowable future.

Yes, it is important to set goals. It is even important to set them well. To intentionally follow a framework such as S.M.A.R.T. goals to make sure that we’re defining them well. However, once this is done, it is important to take the next step and define how to get there.

What action can you take to reach your goal

Most people, myself included, tend to approach defining actions from the wrong direction. They will stand where they are now, in the present, and look toward the goal and say, “I will do this today.” They will repeat this over and over again and marvel at how their goal never seems to come closer and sometimes even gets further away.

The reason for this is really simple. You may know which direction to go, but you may not know how to get there yet. If you’re going to drive from New York City to San Francisco, California, do you just get in the car and drive west? Sure you could do this, but you’ll probably have some trouble getting there because you don’t know which roads turn where.

Luckily, these days we have software that makes navigation like this easy, but it wasn’t so long ago that the answer to this question was to pull out a map. Look at the start and the destination and draw backward from where you want to go, to where you’re leaving from.

You do this because you know where you are right now, so it is easier to trace back to there, then it is to trace to a place you’ve never been.

Let’s do a quick thought exercise

Let’s start with the goal “I want to start a business.”

First, we need to better define this goal, as technically I can just open a business checking account and I’ve legally started a business.

Instead, following the S.M.A.R.T. paradigm for goal setting, I’m going to rephrase this as:

“By December 31st of 2018, I want to have started a business that pays me at least $10k per month, has done so for at least 6 months, and have transitioned from being an employee to an owner as a result.”

Already this goal simultaneous feels far better defined and somewhat scarier due to the immensity of what needs to occur to make that happen. Both of these are good things, because they’re both real, and you should be a little scared by something this big.

Visualization and the art of right to left thinking

The next thing to do is to better understand this goal. What will life look like when you’ve reached this goal? What do you do in the morning when you wake up? Do you have more or less time? Are you energized to go work on your business? Do you work from an office? From a coffee shop? From home? Do you work with clients? Are you working on a computer?

These are all important questions because they ground you in that future moment so you can stand there instead. The more details of that life that you can visualize, the better you can draw yourself there, stand in your future shoes, and look back on this moment and imagine, “how did I get here?”

Once you’ve placed yourself firmly in that future, “what needs to occur just before this, for this to happen?”

This question is key because it acknowledges not only the cause and effect that will result in it but begins to ground you in the actions needed to get there. Likely a long series of actions, all that lead a trail right back to where you’re standing right now.

For this, you need to disconnect yourself from the doubt of “but I don’t have that yet” or “I can’t do that right now,” because that is sort of the point. You’re identifying what you need to do to be able to do those things. So every time you hear that voice tell you those things, simply ask, “what would I need to be able to make that happen?” and you now have the preceding step.

After which, you will have a map. A series of guideposts to mark your way to your destination. A series of smaller steps to take that are more attainable and less overwhelming.

This brings us back to the ONE Thing.

Once you know where you’re going and have an approximate map, you should be back to standing in the present moment. From this moment, it is your job to cut down on the noise and take action. You will likely have a thousand things on your mind. A thousand potential actions, but your only goal right now should be to get to the next point on your map.

Every day, the one question you should ask comes back to, “what’s the ONE thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” Ask this when you’re looking at your long list of things to do and focus on your next point on the map you’ve drawn.

The answer won’t always be easy, but the reality is, that most of the things on your list are probably not as important.

Is the first post on your list to have one client? Then why are you reading a book about marketing? Get out there and sell yourself on a site like Upwork until you get that first client. Use the experience from that to tell you what you need to learn. Your book is just a distraction.

Once you get to this first milestone, you’ll be able to see more easily how to get to the next one. The cycle will repeat on and on. There will always be distractions, but there will always be ONE thing that you can do right now that will move you forward.

Focus on that.

The goal is not the destination

Remember, the goal is not what you’re really looking for. It is the actions you take that will define where you’re going. Be open to the fact that your destination may change along the way. That as you repeat this exercise, your destination may change many times. This is not only okay, it is a good thing.

I write all of this, not to state my own expertise on action-taking in general, but instead to distill what I’ve learned in the past in my drive to become a web developer.

I do this because I am not repeating this journey and relearning these lessons as I go forward. That goal from the thought exercise, that one is mine. It is one of my destinations and from it, I have set a series of nearer term destinations to aim at along the way.

Maybe it will change along the way, that is okay because the destination doesn’t matter.

Your destination doesn’t matter.

Your actions do.

What is the ONE thing you can do today, such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

Setting your intentions to win the day

That’s right, want to win the day? Set some positive intentions for your day. right from the start.

For the last several years I have been a prolific goal setter. During that same time, I have also been a prolific goal forgetter.

The reality is that I suck at goals. More specifically, I suck at keeping them.

I’ve thought about this a lot and set goals to figure out why I’m not keeping my goals about setting more goals. In the end, I always end up right back here, wondering why I’m not getting anything done.

Recently I’ve been working on a new story because that’s all any of this really is, right?

One where I do complete my goals. One where I wake up every morning and kick a bunch of ass. Where I’m super productive, get all the important things done, say no to the rest, and spend more time with my family.

Yeah, that’s the story I want to listen to.

The question, though, is how do I actually become that person?

Maybe it is because I’m in Bali right now, but one of the ideas that has really been resonating with me recently is the idea of setting an intention for the day.

Hell, everyone is talking about them. It’s all the rage.

Inc talks about why setting goals aren’t enough. That intentions are more expansive and help you get out of your own head.

The Huffington Post talks about how setting morning intentions will change your whole life. That certainly sounds good to me! How do you want to feel? How do you want to be seen?

And of course Mind Body Green talks about the 10 intentions to set for your most authentic life. They all feel a bit woo-woo to me, but at the same time, they still resonate for some reason.

Here is the thing. Every morning, I usually wake up and check my email. I look at my Facebook feed and wonder what new crazy thing Donald Trump has done on my new favorite TV show. I move around a bit, get my coffee ready, and I head to my coworking space to work. When I get there, I already feel drained and am in a negative spiral downward.

Every day is the same, and every day I feel like I’ve failed when I somehow don’t hit my lofty goals.

What would change though if I flipped the script? What if I changed things from moment one in the morning and instead of allowing the negative to rain down on me and take control of my day, I brought in the positive? That is the purpose of setting an intention after all.

So that’s what I’m doing. My new morning looks like this instead:

  • Wake up and grab some water
  • Walk outside (this is Bali after all and I basically live outside anyway)
  • Stand in the sun and just think about the day I want to have
  • Think about how I want to be seen, what I want to feel about my day when it is over, and why I want to do all the things I need to get done.
  • After that, I sit down and write a bit about what my goals for the day are, based on this. I identify the ONE most important thing that I can get do that day.

While I cannot speak to the result of this new practice yet, I can already say I at least feel a bit more mentally clear the last few days. I plan to tweak and learn what works best and use this as a seed for a new morning routine, Chase Jarvis style.

I just want to finish by saying

Generally speaking, I don’t fall for the woo-woo nature of this sort of thing. I’m not a proponent of “The Secret” nor for asking the universe to do things for you. This instead makes sense to me not on a metaphysical level, but in that it stacks your brain to think and see the world in a particular way. In a positive way.

You go where you’re looking.

Its like they say about driving:

That big window above the dashboard is quite useful, for drivers who don’t insist on driving by the instruments alone. And how you look through that windshield is important as well. Generally, I was told to be always looking through the top 1/3 of the windshield. Keep your eyes on where you want to go in the distance, not right at the end of your own hood. Look where you want to drive to, and you’ll drive there.

If you’re looking at the positive in life, you tend to find your way there. Pay too much attention to the negative, you’ll end up there instead.

I’m curious, have you had success with intention setting in your mornings? Has it helped you reach your own goals?

I’ll likely follow this up soon as I add other activities to my morning to increase productivity and the positive potential for my day.

Overcoming Fear Through Action

Recently I’ve been looking back on the last 10-years of my life and reflect on where I am. Predictably, I’m left looking as much at what I didn’t do as much as what I did.

Regret is a powerful force that I know plagues most of us. Worse yet, it is difficult for us to predict it in the moment that a choice comes to us. So when we’re thinking, should I shouldn’t I, it is very easy to keep putting things off, until it becomes, I didn’t.

In the last 2-years, I have 2 major regrets that continuing to plague me. They are both so bad, that they even undermine my confidence in my ability to execute in the future. My regrets come from a single common place, lack of action. Looking back now, it is impossible to predict whether-or-not failure would have occurred. Instead, I’m left with “failure by default,” which is not a great place to be.

One of my mantras this year I’ve stolen from Nike, it is the iconic, “Just Do It.” I know this sounds silly, but for someone prone to over-analysis to the point of paralysis, it is a good reminder. It is good to remember that it is better to do something and fail than to do nothing at all.

It comes down to is that over-analysis begets fear. These many times come in the form of what is statements.

What if …

  • No one will buy what I have to sell?
  • I look stupid?
  • I can’t do this?
  • The product grows beyond my means to support it?
  • People won’t pay for it?

Here’s the thing, there will always be questions, but the best way to answer fear, in this case, isn’t to give up. Instead answer the questions honestly or understand that these questions can be distractions.

Sure, some of these questions, like “Will people pay for something like this?” are important ones to answer up front, but don’t assume you know the answer. Instead, find some people who you’re thinking would be your customers and talk to them. Ask them what sort of problems they’re having and find out if what you’re looking to do will solve those. If so, ask, “how much would it be worth to you to have this taken care of for you?”

The idea is that we fear what we don’t know. Fear also causes us to draw our own conclusions. Not based on reality, but based on our own understanding and prior experience. It is easy to let this fear tell us it is right and that it knows what will happen. The reality of the matter is, you need to buckle down and do the work. Answer the question by doing, not assuming.

If you find that nobody will buy what you’re looking to sell, then use those conversations to find what they would buy. These types of actions, when taken, can bring confidence and ease the fear. Ultimately they can provide the knowledge needed to make something happen.

The key, though, is that you need to decide what that next action is to move you forward and “just do it.” You won’t always get the result you hoped for, but sometimes you’ll actually end up with a better end result. No matter what it is, I’m sure it will be better than the alternative, which is a future full of, “what if I had done it?”

That is definitely one definition of hell for me.

I know I no longer want to live with those type of questions and I hope you wouldn’t either.

So I ask you, what is one thing that you’ve been putting off because of fear? And what is one thing you can do right now to move it forward?

Sometimes you just have to start

I know from personal experience that one of the most crippling forces that you can encounter when starting something new is what we call analysis paralysis.

In short, this is what happens when you have access to so much information and so many variables, with so many unknowns, that you simply run through your options over and over again. Telling yourself why you’re not ready to start.

It is a game of second guessing and pretending. Believing there is a perfect solution out there. Hoping that if you just keep thinking about it and researching, that you’ll find it.

To this, I call bullshit.

You’ve probably heard this one before, but there is a famous Chinese saying that goes, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The one thing that needs to be remembered is that when you’re analyzing your idea in your head and going back and forth on why it is good or why it isn’t, you’re really just standing still. Maybe you’re even going backward. What you’re not doing is going forward.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t get it perfect that first time. Here’s a protip for you, no one gets it perfect their first time and next to no one gets it right either.

What they do see is progress.

They learn something from both success and failure. No longer are there those “well maybe” type questions about everything in their head. Instead, those are replaced with more definite “this works” and “this doesn’t.”

Each step you take forward teaches you something new and helps inform the direction you need to go. The goal is to just keep moving. Keep doing. Keep trying new things. Most importantly, keep learning. The worst place you can do this is in your own head.

Instead, get out in front of people.

Write something and get people to read it.

Want to sell a product, but haven’t built it yet? Talk to the people you think would be your customer, and pre-sell it to them. If your idea is good enough, you’ll end up with motivation to get your product built. If you can’t sell it, then take each failure as an opportunity to learn what your product should probably be instead.

The point is, you’ll always be in a state of limbo if you don’t take that first small step. You’ll always wonder what could be. Instead, take that idea you have and pick one thing that you can do every day to move that idea forward. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know if it will work yet. That isn’t the point.

The point is to do. There will never be a better time than now. So get started.

Food addiction; a hard thing to admit

I’ve struggled on and off for the majority of my life with food. To say for sure where this came from is hard. Was it upbringing? Is it the effect of decades of exposure to a “western diet”? Or am I weak and need to have more self-control?

The answer likely lies in the middle of each of these.

It is important to own up to your situation in life and speak about it. To remove the stigma attached to these matters with force and purpose. For me, at least, not to be public leads to a downward spiral of secrets and shame.

Sometime after losing most of the weight I carried, habits began to emerge. Habits of occasional and destructive bingeing emerged. While I’m sure it was there before, it was far more difficult to distinguish. Likely because the balance of my diet was so skewed toward the negative.

This tendency to indulge in food would show its face in the form of late night trips to the corner store. Trips where I would eat ice cream, cookies, and all manners of junk. I would tell myself that I was a zombie in these moments. That I lacked any sort of self-control. That it wasn’t me, but someone else buying and eating all that junk food.

The reality is that the person doing it was me.

Sure, I would have some moments of lucidity. Many of them would appear immediately after an “episode.” I would regret all that I had done. Sometimes I’d even able to maintain the understanding of what is going on. In those moments, I’d hold back from committing these crimes against myself.

It never seemed to last, though.

In one way or another, these issues have persisted over the last several years. In fact, over the last few years, they’ve become much worse. I’ve had many ups and downs. I’ve also had many excuses for why it was occurring. Chief amongst them was that idea that I was not responsible for what I was doing because it wasn’t me.

But this is not the whole truth.

Health, nutrition, and wellness are all complicated things. I also know that there other forces inside of me that are harder to quantify. Pieces like hormonal balance, gut health, and nutrient deprivation which decrease my power. No matter the odds, though, we can always be in control. You just need to change the angle at which you attack the problem.

This comes in the form of strategies and thinking ahead.

It has taken me a long time to get to where I am. I’ve rebounded many times and lost my credibility just as many times because of it. What I can say is that I’ve been successful in the last few months and am starting to turn things around.

Part of that success has been because I’ve been seeking to empower myself. Instead of claiming I have no control. To own my decisions. And when I’m unhappy with a decision I’ve made, to be proactive, take the blame for what I’ve done, and to try again.

Another piece has been because I know I need to create a positive example for my own child. One that, regardless of the best of intentions, I did not have. I refuse to indoctrinate him into a world where excuses are ever a valid reason to not try harder.

More than anything, though, I know that I cannot be my best self if I continue to embrace my worst self. I need to own this piece of myself and continue to try new things to move forward. Which is where I am now.

I write this because I know that this sort of struggle is real for many people.

I write it because the taboo nature of this sort of struggle forces those of us in it to feel shame and the need to hide.

I announce this as my intention to overcome this piece of myself by bringing it to the light.

I make this public because I know that in the darkness it has the most power.

I have no plans to make what I write going forward to be a daily account of my struggles. No food logs or any such thing that I have done in the past. I do want to go more into detail into what I’ve learned and know to be true. To speak in the open about the strategies that work and the ones that do not. To talk about the negative effects that diet can have. All while I break my own negative patterns by embracing a new one.

When we embarked again back to Southeast Asia I told my wife that there were lessons for me to still learn. Lessons I needed before I would be ready to go back to our life in New York. Consider this my embrace of that truth and a return to my roots.

Roots I should have never left behind.

Bringing it all together; the way forward

A little over 7-years ago I set out to reinvent myself. I weighed around 350 pounds, was a near shut-in, and was deeply unhappy. Near this lowest point of my life, I knew I had two choices. One was to continue drifting down and the other was to climb up.

So I climbed.

Over the last 7-years, my journey has taken several turns. First I lost some weight and got myself together. Then I moved to a new city, ran some marathons, and met a girl. We got married and had a kid. Now we’re traveling the world as a family.

I started this journey while blogging about it to friends and family. It was a way to stay accountable to the changes I was seeking to make. In the different phases of my journey, I moved to new blogs, leaving old ones behind. I changed the name many times. Each time as a way to add a mile marker to my journey. Here is where I was and here is where I’m going now. As if the different phases were somehow separate, as opposed to pieces of a greater whole.

So here I am, 7-years later, and I’m still reinventing myself. This is not a phase of my journey, it is the journey. One that will likely always persist in some way or another.

After looking at my many blogs and the writings they contained, I’ve made a decision. To finally combine them all together.

In retrospect, I should have never abandoned the blogs. I should have recognized that change is a constant and embraced the momentum of reinvention.

While my blogging started in weight loss, health, and fitness, it is now broader than that. It is my story. It contains many details, both good and bad. Yet, it is a story arc that should join together and continue.

So here I am today, back in Ubud, Bali. We’re coming to the end of our travels and I know there is so much more for me to learn. I know my journey will continue on long after traveling concludes and we settle back down in New York City.

From here, I’ll attempt to keep my journey more up to date. To keep it light and in the end, tell a more complete story.

I’ll add more tomorrow.

We’re off again, first stop Chiang Mai

We decided to make the first stop on our return journey to South East Asia, Chiang Mai. Our initial thought was just to go back to Ubud, Bali and just stay there for 5-months. However, upon more thought, we decided to make a short trip to our other love, Chaing Mai. Not only to just be back here but also because right now it is rainy season in Bali, which can be quite unpredictable weather-wise.

Our flight from Houston was our longest to date. We had an 8.5-hour flight to Manchester, England, where we spent 2-hours go through the slowest security known to man, only to get right back on the plane. Note to future self, put the empty coffee mug in a checked bag, apparently coffee + MCT oil leave “chemical residues” which set off the explosive detectors. I won’t say much, but I’m pretty sick of the “security theater” at these airports. It is ineffective and unnecessarily hostile to travelers.

Our next segment was a 13-hour leg to Singapore. The interesting thing about these flights is that our son is getting to the point where he doesn’t sleep like he used to. This means that we’re getting to that point where we have to more actively entertain him on the plane. Luckily he was relatively good the whole time, minus a few screams into the ears of sleeping passengers as he was running up and down the aisles (sorry about that again…) We arrived in Singapore in pretty good spirits, though.

This was near the 24-hour point of our travels and we were actually fairly alert and awake. It was 7am Singapore time, aka 6pm CST, which we had left behind. We had nearly 8-hours to kill before our last leg to Chiang Mai and I’ll say this if you’re ever stuck in an airport, Singapore is the place to be.

Between the 3-terminals, they have nearly a complete mall, a couple dozen food options and all sorts of free entertainment options. There is a gym with a pool, a butterfly garden, and even free movies running big movies from the last 2-years.

For us, what was most impressive, though, is that there is a huge play structure in each of the terminals, which means we could just let Bear run around, climb, and play for a large part of the time there. What more can you ask for?

The time flew by pretty fast, but near the end, we were all getting pretty tired and were ready to take our last flight.

The leg to Chiang Mai was luckily only 3-hours, nothing compared to the other 2-flights. We landed after a few cat naps, flew through immigration, got our 1-million bags, and headed to our hotel for 2-nights.

While we didn’t do much that first night (other than sleep that is,) we hit the ground running the next day and found a great apartment for the next month. We’ve got a bathtub for Bear (this is huge for Chiang Mai,) a pool downstairs, and awesome windows with views of Doi Suthep (the mountain to the west of Chiang Mai.)

We’re excited for the next few weeks to get a little more immersed in the town here. It is a great opportunity for us to be on our own again for a while and will be a good urban warm up for our return to Ubud, which is far more rural, but amazing for its own reasons.

Our plans going forward are still a bit fuzzy, but for now, I’m just happy to be settled into a nice apartment and enjoying the amazing weather here. Seriously, it is in the mid-80s and sunny every single day.

You can’t ask for much more.

A week back in NYC

On our way back to visit family for the holidays, we got to spend a week back in our home city, aka, New York City.

We were privileged to spend tons of time with some old friends and stayed with my the founders of my former company, who are seriously some of the best people I know and if I didn’t miss them enough already have given me a thousand new reasons to miss having them in my life.

While I did, as usual, spend most of the week in a coworking space finalizing a project I’ve been working on for many months, we did get to see a little of the city as well. There were so many people I wish we could have seen during our time there, but with an overfull work schedule, it just wasn’t possible.

What became immediately clear upon visiting is not only how much we miss living in New York, but how much work we still need to do to prepare ourselves for living there in the best way possible.

So for now, we’re in Texas, seeing family for a few weeks. We’re already plotting our escape next month and also planning a little better for our reintroduction into NYC next summer. Neither of us can wait to get there, but also don’t want to miss out on the journey and adventures to come.

The end of the road, for now

After being away from the U.S. for exactly 5-months, we’ve made our way back.

It has been interesting an interesting time getting reacquainted to U.S. culture and Lauren has described this as a sort of reverse culture shock. For me, it hasn’t felt quite so severe, but I will say it is nice to take language barriers off the table for a little while.

Currently, we’re in Philadelphia, as I attend WordCamp U.S. this weekend. Next week we head to NYC so that we can see some friends and I can get some project collaboration done. Afterward, it is back to Texas for a few weeks to enjoy the holidays.

I was doing a slight recap of the places that we’ve been and it is cool to think that in a short 5-months we’ve been to 9-countries collectively and 10-separately.

Here’s the list:

  • Japan
  • Thailand
  • Indonesia
  • Singapore
  • Spain
  • France
  • Germany
  • Switzerland

And separately, Lauren and Bear went to Australia, while I went to Canada for the Automattic Grand Meetup.

Overall that means that I’ve personally been to 12 countries, aside from the U.S. this year. It has been a great year for a number of reasons and because of that, Lauren and I aren’t sure we’re ready to come back for the long term.

We’re still making plans, but what we know as of now is that we’re going to head back out in January for about another 5-months. There are a number of reasons for this, but what it really comes down to for me is that I still feel there is something I have left to learn out there in the world. Something that I’m not sure I can learn if we get caught back up into “settling down.” And since we have the opportunity and the freedom, we’re going to take advantage of it.

So, the good news is, I’ll have plenty more to write about here.

And I promise I’m going to be putting more of a priority with updating this blog with our ongoing travels. That is something I’ve really regretted not doing over the last few months and I don’t want to live with simple regrets anymore.