Middle Age Miles

Inspired by a Travel Encounter, I’ve Lost 20+ Pounds!

middle age miles travel story inspired inspiration lose weight lose 20 pounds
Today’s story starts on the hills of the beautiful town of Positano on Italy’s famed Amalfi Coast

After writing and posting today’s earlier soul-pouring and gut-wrenching article about my lockdown by AA, I need something to make me feel better.

This story is mostly a personal one, but it has a place on Middle Age Miles as it was inspired by a travel encounter. Sometimes you gain inspiration while traveling the world in unexpected ways!

Background

To set the stage – In my younger days, I was blessed with pretty good metabolism, which helped me stay slender into my early adult years. As for most people, that blessing faded over time as I grew older. As I entered my late 30’s, I began running regularly – and at times a lot – to get back into better shape. I kept up my regular running routine for about 10 years, into the year 2012.

Back in 2009, I had set up my own law firm (the best decision of my professional career, but that’s another story). It had slowly grown, but in late 2012, it really took off. For the next 4½ years, I was pedal-to-the-floor busy with my law practice. It was good financially, but it took a toll on my body. I slipped out of my regular running routine and ate & drank as I pleased. Each year added a few pounds, slowly and gradually.

Even as my law practice slowed down in 2017 & 2018, though, my regular exercise routine didn’t return. As a result, by early 2019 my belly had grown quite large and my weight had climbed to 213 pounds.

Tipping the scale at 213 in April in Rome

My Travel-Related Inspiration

In early April 2019, Philly and I traveled to Italy with Middle Age Miles son and daughter-in-law Dylan & Alli. We spent a couple of days in and around Rome, then headed down for several days on the Amalfi Coast. We stayed in the spectacularly beautiful town of Positano.

As you can tell from the picture that’s the featured image for this article (if you didn’t already know), Positano is very hilly – pretty much built into the side of a cliff. Everything is a massive uphill climb (or downhill, if you’re going the other way, of course).

One day during our stay, we were wandering the streets of Positano, stopping in various shops. At one point, a runner, going uphill, clipped past us. The guy looked great, like he could be a professional athlete – tall, slender, athletic, probably in his late 40’s, maybe 50. Philly and I were impressed. We gave him some words of encouragement as he passed, and he nodded to us appreciatively.

Philly and I talked about the runner for a minute and then went on about our shopping business. A few minutes later, we encountered the runner guy again. He had finished his run, and he had just picked up something to drink. We sat down on a street-side bench with him and chatted for a few minutes.

Turns out the runner guy was British, and he said he wasn’t a professional athlete at all. In fact, he said that just 90 days beforehand, he had been a total couch potato, doing no exercise at all. He said that he just decided to do something about it. He enrolled in a plan called “Six Pack Revolution,” which he described as involving regular short-but-intense workouts, plus a specific meal plan. He told us that he had lost “two and a half stone” in the past 90 days (translated for Americans, 35 pounds!). On the day we met him, he had decided that he would run 5k up the hillside in Positano (a positively brutal run). He made it, and he looked none the worse for wear afterwards.

I was blown away by this guy, incredibly impressed. And, inspired. Over the last few days of our Italy trip, I vowed to myself that I would get back into a regular exercise habit and commit to losing some weight.

My Plan and My Initial Goal

I shared my inspiration and commitment with Philly and asked her to help me craft a plan that would be workable for me. She sets a great example by exercising regularly and eating well, and she’s a great nutrition coach. Unfortunately, she was going to have to work with one hand tied behind her back, because I’m a terrible eater – I don’t like any vegetables, and very few fruits. And we knew that we needed to create a plan that would be sustainable, because “crash” diets don’t work long-term. You need to create habits that are sustainable.

We worked out a plan that had 3 key parts:

  • Regular exercise
  • Significantly reduce carbs
  • Portion control

On the “regular exercise” piece, I decided to start riding a stationary bike on most of my exercise days. I like running better, but there are always excuses not to run, and it’s hard on the body (especially at my age). I generally exercise 4-5 days a week, usually first thing in the morning because it works best with our schedules. I still run sometimes, but more than 80% of my workout days are on the bike now, and I’ve actually come to like it.

Significantly reducing carbs, for the most part, has meant not eating very much bread. Instead of sandwiches, I eat tuna or some other kind of meat, straight off the plate or out of a bowl. I also eat a fair bit of dairy, especially cheese. This satisfies my unusual food tastes. My friend JBTx also provided a helpful phrase, “fat is not the enemy.”

Portion control is mostly about awareness. Left to my own devices, I could eat the entire bag of chips almost every time. On this, it’s just been a matter of being more mindful of how much food I eat. In a similar vein (this could be a 4th point, but I like strategies with just 3 points!), I’ve also been mindful of eating food that’s a little “better” – like getting tuna back into my diet; eating baked or popped chips instead of regular chips; having lower-cal after-dinner sweets (there are some Healthy Choice fudgesicles that we get at Sam’s Club that taste great and are 100 calories each).

I started my plan on April 14, the first day after we returned from our Italy trip. On that morning, I weighed in at 213 pounds. I set an initial goal of getting under 200 pounds (I had not seen a number starting with a “1” in at least 3 years) by the time we left for our summer trip to Switzerland & France on July 2.

I stuck to the plan and dipped under 200 pounds in mid-June, a couple of weeks ahead of our trip. I made it down to 197 by the time we departed.

Hanging out with a Swiss cow in Lucerne in early July, at sub-200 pounds!

Keeping It Going

I’ve continued with my plan and the habits I’ve developed to this day. I may not be quite as disciplined as I was during the first couple of months of my plan, but I’ve continued along the same trend line.

One thing that’s made the plan sustainable long-term is that I haven’t deprived myself of the fun stuff. I still eat and drink on date nights and on our trips to Vegas, just being slightly more mindful around the edges.

It certainly helps to have Philly here setting a good exercise example and being a sort-of “accountability partner” (she’s my partner in every way, so I guess “accountability partner” works too!).

I’ve continued to slowly but not-very-steadily drop weight over the past few months. Of late, my weight varies a bit within about a 3-pound range. This morning, I weighed in at 190.2 pounds. So, I’m down about 20-23 pounds overall since I kicked off my plan on April 14. I haven’t had any days below 190 yet, but I think I’m getting close! And not quite “2 and a half stone” but I’ll take it. I wouldn’t mind losing a few more pounds, maybe down to the low 180’s. I don’t think I want to drop further than that, though.

Visiting the River Jordan (Jesus’ baptism site) in November, in the low-190’s

Before I sign off, I wanted to share one side benefit to the weight loss that’s been great, not to mention very helpful for marital harmony. I had gotten to where I was snoring pretty badly. It hasn’t completely stopped, but it’s been dramatically reduced as I’ve shed the pounds. I’d guess that I snore 90% less now than I did when I was at 210+. Needless to say, that makes Philly a happier bride.

And beyond that, I just feel better about myself at the lower weight. Clothes fit better, and modesty aside, I look better. For what it’s worth, physically I don’t feel as much better as I expected to. But, I didn’t physically feel particularly bad at the higher weight. In any event, it has to be much better for my body and for my health in general to be carrying around less tonnage. I want to be around for a long time and be able to enjoy lots of fun travel for many years to come!

Wrap-Up

Thanks to Middle Age Miles readers for indulging my personal – albeit travel-related – story. It makes me feel better to tell it, especially after publishing my AA lockdown data point earlier today! And maybe, just maybe, it helps motivate someone else and pays forward the inspiration that the British runner guy in Positano passed along to me.

What unexpected inspirations have you found in our travels? Please feel free to tell us a story in the Comments!


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18 thoughts on “Inspired by a Travel Encounter, I’ve Lost 20+ Pounds!

  1. Stephen

    Congrats! I’m in a somewhat similar position – I’d gotten my weight down to about 175 lbs and ran a half marathon about 6 weeks before we set off on our road trip at the start of 2018. Up to that point I had a pretty set routine which included walking a few miles every day with our dog and jogging 4+ miles on the treadmill every other day.

    The road trip played havoc with that though as we no longer had a routine. I put on close to 30 lbs in that first year (although all the Cincinnati chili and BBQ in Alabama was somewhat worth it 😉 )

    Anyway, I’m back on the treadmill every other day and now that I’m exercising more, I’m eating a little better as a result. I still want to lose at least 20 lbs more to get back to where I was in 2017, so your post is some additional motivation, so thanks!

    Just as a quick tip, I highly recommend Ole Xtreme Wellness High Fiber Carb Lean wraps. They’re only 50 calories and don’t contain many carbs. They’re surprisingly tasty and I actually like them more than regular tortilla wraps now. They’re good with tuna and most decent-sized grocery stores seem to stock them.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Thanks Stephen! Needless to say, this is much more fun to talk about than the AA lockdowns. Great job getting back on the treadmill. You’ll be on the half marathon course again soon!

      Yeah, Cincy chili and southern BBQ are worth it for sure. Need to cut out some other stuff, not the really awesome yummy ones!

      I’ll check out the wraps you mentioned. Really appreciate the tip. For some reason, I do tend to find myself in grocery stores pretty regularly – often needing to add 1 item to my checkout total 🙂

        1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

          Excellent! That would be a very cool race to do. We’ve never actually run a half overseas, although we’ve done a couple of shorter races. Way back in 2012, we were signed up for the Dingle Marathon in Ireland, but we had to bail on it because of logistical difficulties – wouldn’t be able to do the race and get back to Dublin to the Notre Dame football game in time (which was the main purpose of the trip). Maybe I’ll get back in good enough running shape for a half again before too long. Philly could roll out of bed and do one any day.

          1. Stephen

            I had no idea there was a Dingle marathon – that would be a beautiful place to do it, so long as it doesn’t take you up into the surrounding hills & mountains!

            Shae did the London Marathon about 13 years ago back when we lived in the UK and I’ve only ever done that lone half marathon in North Carolina as I’d never been a runner until 2017. We were planning a trip to Europe in the fall anyway, so we figured we might head over a few days early to do that first.

          2. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

            Dingle Marathon and Half is in early September each year. It always sells out quickly. And yes, there’s a fair bit of the course – especially if you do the full marathon – that’s in the surrounding hills. The half looked like the sweeter spot to us as you get the good stuff along the coast without suffering so much in the hills.

            I was thinking that it’s awesome that you and Shae are doing this together. Fantastic. And very cool that she’s run the London Marathon!

  2. Rob

    Congratulations! That is great! And you are inspiring me to get off my lazy ass. Hopefully I can stick to it as well as you have. One thing I wanted to mention…go easy on the tuna, maybe mix in some grilled salmon or something. My neighbor dieted on cans of tuna every day for lunch and about a year later got diagnosed with mercury poisoning.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hey Rob – Thanks! You just made me laugh out loud – the part about getting off your lazy ass, not the tuna part. Good heads-up on eating too much tuna. That’s a scary story about your neighbor. I don’t think I’m eating nearly enough to have that issue but very good to be aware. Glad to hear you’re inspired and I look forward to hearing a good success story from you in a couple of months! ~Craig

  3. SB

    Dude I LOVE this. Keep it up. No reason not to be able to indulge and travel and not keep up the healthy lifestyle and physique

  4. Connie C

    Congratulations! I appreciate your openness about this. Can I also suggest Yasso bars? Very carb friendly dessert as well. It’s especially hard for me to eat mindfully when I’m traveling since that’s more than half the fun.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Connie – Thanks for the tip on Yasso bars! Looks like they’re widely available and hopefully as tasty as they look.

      I totally agree about enjoying the food & drink part of traveling. Life is too short and the wonderful travel opportunities are too few and fleeting to not enjoy them fully. I haven’t changed much while traveling except for trying to stay somewhat mindful about portion control and passing up that extra piece of bread. You can’t feel deprived or cheated, or you won’t sustain the plan. ~Craig

  5. CSF

    Great story and congratulations on your progress. I had also been eating poorly due to being busy with work, but finally got so disgusted with myself that I hired a personal trainer. Initially only intended to use the trainer for a few months to learn correct form and whatnot, but have enjoyed it and plan to continue indefinitely. If the trainer is good they will know how to push you to your maximum ability (but will also know where your limit is and stop pushing at the right point) and also provide nutrition counseling. I work out way harder than I ever would on my own or with a non-professional “workout buddy.” My trainer also taught me that the goal isn’t to lose weight; it’s to lose fat and gain muscle. Muscle is heavier than fat so you might not lose as many pounds but still end up healthier. Many trainers offer introductory discounts (mine offers two free sessions), or you could buy a Groupon – there are many low-cost/risk ways to try one out.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi CSF – Thanks for the comment, and good suggestion on the personal trainer. It’s very interesting to me how different approaches can work for different people. I would never be happy with a personal trainer because I’m stubborn and don’t like being told what to do 🙂 – but on the other hand the personal trainer approach is exactly the right touch for some people. Congrats on your progress and thanks again for reading! ~Craig

  6. Kelly

    Hi Craig – thanks as always for a great variety of articles. This is totally unrelated but this post reminded me of something I have been meaning to ask for a while – can you do some content on what Philly wears when traveling/her packing lists? She always looks put together yet comfortable in all of your pictures. I know it is a bit of a stretch for a miles blog but I am sure I wouldn’t be the only woman who is curious. 🙂

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Kelly – Many thanks for the comment and compliment. Philly is very flattered. We talked, and she’s generally on-board with this. The challenge will be finding time for her to put something together as she’s still working full-time and in the midst of her busiest time of year. We’ve certainly added this to the list of articles to aspire to writing in the near future. ~Craig

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