My Health Journey — "Chattanooga Chew-Chew"

By Jim Lamb

 I can’t even tell you how many times when I was a kid that my Mom said, “Chew your food!”

 She also said things like, “Sit up straight!” “Get your elbows off the table!”  “Pick up your feet when you walk!”

 When I was 17, I smart-mounted my Mom, saying, “I don’t have to listen to you anymore.” Then I made the mistake of turning around and walking away. Before I’d gone two steps, she’d taken off her shoe and smacked me on the back of the head. Never mouthed off to her again.

 Moms. Ya gotta love ’em.

 My Mom was a great cook. I loved eating. Always cleaned my plate. Because, you know, all those starving kids in China—and who wants that on their conscience? Not me, that’s for sure.

 But back to Mom’s “Chew-your-food” mantra.

 According to Mike Adams, founder and editor of NaturalNews, “Chewing is the single most important step in the digestion process.”

 Who knew?

 Apparently Mom did.

 I mention this because deliberately and consciously chewing food is a key tactic in my Health Journey.

 How so?

 With smaller portions and fewer full-scale meals, I’m trying my to get the most out of eating—extending the experience, savoring each bite.

 The reason isn’t digestion, though. It’s taste.

 Here’s what I figure: Taste sensations last about 20 seconds, then they fade. So, after chewing and tasting, I sip some water to clear my palate. The result: Short flavor bursts followed by meditative pauses—Chew, taste, pause. “Hmmmmm.” Chew, taste, pause. “Hmmmmm.” Chew, taste, pause. “Hmmmmm.”

 By breaking up my meals into a series of distinct taste-bursts, two things happen: First, I avoid shoveling food into my mouth in a frantic food-frenzy, which creates (in me, anyway) anxiety. Second, it helps make the meal memorable and reinforces the fact that I’ve eaten. (That also helps keep my anxiety-level low.)

 Well, I hope this little chew-chew trick helps you—it certainly helps me.

 Until next time, take care, God bless.

My Health Journey—“Baby steps”

By Jim Lamb

 Lost just a smidge more than 9 pounds since starting my OPTAVIA “Health Journey.” (In my mind, it’s a journey rather than a diet.)

 Like many other people, I’ve tried a slew of diets over the years—some successful; some not: Atkins, South Beach, Slim Fast, Mannix, Nutrisystem, etc. Lost weight on each. Sometimes even a bunch. But, best I can recall, getting healthy was never my prime motivating factor in any of them. Just wanted to lose weight; look better.

 Not so now.

 Not that I mind looking better. The before-after photos that my coach, Jennifer Barna Crouch, posted on Facebook were a big factor in getting my attention. But the OPTAVIA approach factored in a transition period for after I hit my weight goal—that impressed me. (I’d hit weight-loss goals before. Then BOOM, ballooned back to where I started. Nope, mere dieting was not what the doctored ordered.)

 This time I wanted things to be different; this time they had to be.

 Detect a hint of desperation in my voice?

 Hope so.

 In a few days I’m 72. That’s old by most standards. (My Dad died at 59, so I feel like I’m living on borrowed time.)

 How many chances do I expect, not having ever taken care of my health in any meaningful way. The result: I’m at a “Now-or-never” crossroad: Do it or it does not happen. Period.

 So here we are. Three weeks in. Taking baby-steps. Down 9 pounds. My wife, down 12.2. We’re feeling better. Looking better. Plus, by taking this Health Journey together, we’re talking more. Encouraging each other. Running the race in tandem. Heading off into the sunset.

 As Humphrey Bogart quipped in Casablanca, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

I couldn’t agree more.

 Until next time, take care, God bless.

My Health Journey—7-11

By Jim Lamb

 When “My Health Journey” with OPTAVIA began, “health” was the focus. As those old preachers used to say, “I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

 Why health? Because other times I dieted it was to lose weight. Period. Great goal, right? You’d think so. Except for one thing: When I’d reach my ideal weight, I went back to eating the same old way. Result: Pounds piled back on—usually more than were lost.

 That’s how I ended up on my way to weighing 400 pounds.

 Something had to change. But first there had to be a spark. An inciting incident. A whack between the eyes. Something that would grab my attention and give me a slim, glimmer of hope. 

 What was it?

 Facebook—actually an image on Facebook.  Two in fact. Of Jennifer Barna Crouch. One “before”; the other, “after.”

 Jennifer was smiling in both.

 I’d met Jennifer at First Baptist-Elfers some years back. She updates the church’s Facebook page; I update its website. 

 What struck me in the photos? In the “after,” Jennifer looked happier. Younger. The difference was striking.

 “What’s that about?” I wondered.

 Later, Jennifer posted other before-after images: Men. Women. Couples. All looked younger and happier—as if they’d been sprinkled with pixie dust from Pleasantville. 

 Somewhere along the way, I picked up on the word OPTAVIA.

 “Gotta get me summa that,” I thought.

 And I did—after talking with Jennifer and hearing her story. Told my wife about it, too. We made a decision: Jo-Lynn and I would give this OPTAVIA thing a shot.

Soon, two large boxes showed up on our door-step. Right before Christmas. Opened them up. Checked out the goodies inside: Soup. Shakes. Snacks. Breakfast bars. Brownies. Books. 

 And one more thing: Hope.

 Eleven days ago I started with OPTAVIA. Since then I’ve lost seven pounds. Seven pounds in 11 days. 7-11. Not a bad start. But that’s just the side benefit. My real goal is to get healthy—and I feel positive about my chances of getting there.

 What an interesting journey this promises to be. Baby steps. Baby steps. Baby steps. And I plan to share each step with you. Including before-and-after photos—once I drop a pile o’ pounds. (Oh, boy. Can’t wait.)

 Until next time, take care, God bless.

My Health Journey—“Sweet Nothin's”

By Jim Lamb

 No candy. No cookies. No cake.  No bites, bits, or crumbs. None. First Christmas in a long time. (Maybe ever.) What’d ya think of that, Santa? Does that put me on the nice list? I think so. I think so.

 When my wife Jo-Lynn and I recently told our doctor that we planned to start a diet (a health program, really) right before the holidays, she was a bit suspect.  But we figured, “Why add another five pounds to the weight we already had to lose?” Right? Right.

 Smart move.

 As of today, Day 8 on the OPTAVIA program, my lovely wife has dropped 8.2 pounds. Me? Down by 5.

 Like they say in the Marines, “Ooh-rah!”

 Back in 1959, Brenda Lee sang a popular little ditty called “Sweet Nothin's."

 Went like this:

 “My baby whispers in my ear.

(Mmmm sweet nothin's.)

He knows the things I like to hear.

(Mmmm sweet nothin's.)”

 Thanks to OPTAVIA, it looks like my wife and I will be whispering lots of  “Sweet Nothin's” in the days and weeks ahead—and I don’t mean candy, cookies, or cake.  No way. No how. Instead we’re tasting sweet victory—and, my o’ my, it’s hmmmm-hmmmm good. You should try it . . .

 Until next time, take care, and God bless.

My Health Journey—“Trash Talk”

There’s a song by the Coasters from 1966 that bubbles into my brain occasionally. It starts out like this:  

 “Take out the papers and the trash

Or you don't get no spendin' cash

If you don't scrub that kitchen floor

You ain't gonna rock and roll no more

Yakety yak (don't talk back).”

 Why does this pop into my mind right now? Because taking out the trash is one of my big motivations to get healthy. 

 Let me explain:

 For years, problems with my back, feet, lungs, and heart have left me immobile. About the only time I leave the house is for doctor’s visits. That means I’m mostly homebound with three dogs and a cat named Stormy.

 Until a few years ago, taking out the garbage was one of my weekly chores. No big deal, right? Except that eventually there came a point where I was able to waddle out to the end of the driveway, but couldn’t quite wobble back.

 Sad.

My wife, Jo-Lynn, ended up having to take out the trash, and that stunk. (She works full-time and really shouldn’t have to worry about such things.)

 My only other chore was filling the dishwasher, which turned into an amusing herky-jerky dance that looked as if it were choreographed by Rube Goldberg.  (For younger folks out there, Goldberg was a mid-20th century author, engineer, and inventor, best-known for his cartoons picturing goofy gadgets that performed simple tasks in crazy, convoluted ways.)

 A few weeks ago, when my soon-to be-coach Jennifer Barna Crouch told me about OPTAVIA, I immediately envisioned myself walking to the end of the driveway with a trash bag in each hand: Back straight. Head up. Strutting like a rooster on a Kentucky chicken farm.

 I don’t know what your goal is, but I can tell you (from personal experience) that goals help you get over and through barriers, blockages, and barricades. For that reason, choose them wisely. As Muhammad Ali once said, “What keeps me going is goals.” They’ll help you stay on course as well.

 Until next time, take care, and God bless.

 

My Health Journey—New Beginnings

Just finished my Puffed Ranch Snacks. Crispy. Tasty. (So satisfying it’s hard to believe I can have them.)

 Several hours ago, munched through a great lunch: Sardines and spring mix salad with baby lettuces, greens, and radicchio—which Google says is “a perennial cultivated form of leaf chicory sometimes known as Italian chicory because it is commonly used in Italian cuisine.”

 Going back to breakfast: Started the day with a bowl of Red Berry Crunchy O’s and a hot mug of just-made Starbucks Caffè Verona, dark roast.

 “Hmmmmm.”

 Does life get better than this? I think not.

 That’s one reason why, for the first time in a long time, I’m looking forward to the New Year. In 2017 I’d made some New Year’s Resolutions, none of which were kept. By February, I was slogging through the same rut-ditch I’d plowed the previous year. And the year before that. And the year before that.

 Why’s my attitude different now? For one thing, OPTAVIA.  For another, my coach, Jennifer Barna Crouch. Plus, my wife joined me on this journey to better health. Makes a difference. Big-time.

 Let me share something that may sound crazy. Few weeks ago, with a bunch of health issues beatin’ me down, I prayed. Wasn’t fancy. Something like this: “Lord, I gotta lose weight. I wanna feel better. I can’t do it myself. Please help.”

 Like I said, not fancy.

 Why that little prayer would make a difference, I have no idea. Seems like I’ve prayed something like it many times before. Nothing happened.

 Anyway, like I said earlier, first time in a long time I’m looking forward to the New Year. Things seem a little brighter. Change is in the air. Anticipation’s on the rise. Can’t wait.

 Meanwhile, take care, God bless, and have a great holiday weekend.

 PS: After talking with Coach Crouch, I’ve decided to post updates on my health journey about three days a week—probably Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays. If you have questions, let me know. I’ll try to answer them.

My Health Journey—Day 3 “Splat!”

I remember going to a Sunday picnic as a kid and signing up for the sack race. (For the uninitiated, that’s an outdoor game where you place both legs into a potato sack, grab on to the edges, and hop like crazy to the finish line.)

 Things started fine. I took the lead and was within striking distance of winning—until I got excited and threw my hands in the air like a football Referee after a touchdown. You can guess what happened: The sack dropped to my ankles, and I fell flat on my face.

“Splat!”

It was like déjà vu all over again way at my weigh-in this morning when the digital scale flashed 376.1 pounds. (It read 375.3 the day before.)

 Splat!”

 As the song sung back in the 1960s by The Shirelles says, “Mama said there'll be days like this. There'll be days like this mama said.”

 Oh, Mama.

 Six months ago, my little weight bump might sent me into a downward spiral, but thanks to my keen coach, Jennifer Barna Crouch, I was prepared. (Those encouraging videos she sent really helped.)

 By the way, Jennifer is one of the main reasons I signed up with OPTAVIA. First thing that caught my eye was her before-and-after photographs on Facebook. Dramatic. Then there were the testimonials she posted. Powerful. Finally, when we talked on the phone, she answered my questions clearly and simply. (What can I say: I’m a simple guy.)

 Tomorrow is Day 4 of my health journey. Can’t wait to find out what happens. (I’ll share it with you: The good, the bad, and the ugly.)

 Well, I’ve got chores to do before my lovey wife gets home from work. (I’m retired; she’s not.) Plus, it’s close to Christmas, and I want to get on Santa’s “Nice List.”

 Until next time, take care, and God bless.

My Health Journey—Day 2, Pound 2

The clock on my iMac says 6:42 a.m. Allison Krauss & Union Station are playing in the background. (I still remember the day I bought that CD; it was at Cracker Barrel.)

 I’m about three-quarters through my Drizzled Berry Crisp bar. Outside my Florida room, the emerging sun radiates wispy layers of pastel coral and pink into a Wedgwood blue sky.

 Today is starting off well: At my morning weigh-in, the digital scale blinked 375.3. (My starting weight was 377.2 pounds.) I’m smiling.

 My lovely, talented, and smart wife is joining me on my OPTAVIA journey, a fact for which I’m grateful. (At age 71, I’m apt to forget things. She’s much younger, with a lightning-fast mind—good cook, too. By the way, she’s lost 3.6 pounds so far.)

 Except for my afternoon snack, things went well yesterday: Breakfast bar in the morning. Chocolate shake about 9:30. Left-over salmon with a salad enhanced by Skinny Girl Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing. And water. Plenty of water.

 At 3 o’clock I picked out my snack: Olive Oil & Sea Salt Popcorn. I planned to start munching at 3:30, but when the clock hit 3:01, I had a panic attack. Why? Here’s my best guess:

 While serving in the Navy during the Vietnam War, I was assigned to VQ-1, a reconnaissance outfit based at Naval Air Facility-Atsugi in Japan. (Lee Harvey Oswald had been there during his time in the Marines.) The Navy routinely deployed our squadron to the Da Nang Air Base where we had lots of down-time because our aircraft (Lockheed Super Connies, P-3 Orions, and A-3 Skywarriors) flew long spy missions. Ground-pounders, like me, were on-call during the flights in case there were technical difficulties.

 Waiting can be boring, so sailors found ways to kill time. Playing Ping-Pong, for example. Me? I liked to make popcorn—with real butter. “Yum.” (Besides tasting great, popcorn drew a friendly, talkative crowd around my workstation.)

 For a moment, I flashed-back to those days, so many years ago, and got a slight tightness in my chest—feeling like I was going to hyper-ventilate. (Strange.) For some reason, I wanted to rip open the snack-pack and scarf down the entire bag. Why? I have no idea.

 A minute later, I was OK, but not for long. Every tick of the clock felt like a sledge-hammer smacking a giant stale marshmallow. Thump. Thump. Thump. By 3:25, I thought I was going to scream. Time seemed to stop at 3:29. To put myself back in control, I decided not to open the bag immediately. Instead, I took a deep breath. Then, at 3:31 p.m., I gently split open the top and ate the puffed-out kernels—one-by-one.

 I’m sure a really sharp psychologist would have a field day with this story.

 Well, that’s that. It’s 8:04 a.m. Only one-and-a-half hours until my morning shake. (Think I’ll have strawberry.) Looking forward to a great day—though I won’t have popcorn as my afternoon lip-smacker. I’ll try Puffed Ranch Snacks instead.

 Until next time, take care, and God bless.

My Journey Begins—Day 1, Pound 1

It’s 6:42 a.m. on a Tuesday. I’ve just finished chomping through a Carmel Delight Crisp Bar—“Naturally Flavored,” net weight 1.13 ounces (32-g). The bar contains 110 calories, 11-g of protein, and 2-g sugar. Its wrapper features grape-color ink on the top half and sports the word OPTAVIA in a san serif font below a circular, multi-faceted logo. Though small, this chewy-crunchy morsel is actually a weapon in my battle against morbid obesity—a depressingly accurate description of my current condition: I’m not just fat. Or heavy. Or big-boned. I am obese, a.k.a. “grossly fat”—and morbidly so, a modifier that takes fat to a whole new level: Ghoulish. Gruesome. Grisly. Just one step away from monstrous—a step that would no doubt leave me out of breath.

Being overweight has been an elephant in the room of my life for as long as I can remember.

Need proof?

 When I was a kid my uncle George in Pennsylvania called me Dumbo, the name of the flying baby pachyderm of Disney fame.

 “Flaps down, Dumbo,” he’d say when I entered a room.

 I wanted to run into the wind and fly away.

 That’s more than 65 years ago. It still hurts.

 Since about age 18, my weight has fluctuated wildly between 152 and 395. Up-and-down. Up-and-down. Up-and-down.  (I may have gone over 400 at one point, but I stopped weighing myself when I got close.) 

 Today I weighed in at 376.5 pounds—one day after beginning my OPTAVIA adventure.

 Why OPTAVIA?

 Here’s why:

 Jennifer, a friend I met at church, had posted before-and-after photos of herself on Facebook. The contrast was striking.  But it was more than the weight-loss results. It was the way she smiled in the after photo—a smile generated from within.  Confident. Happy.

 I wanted that smile. I wanted what she had. And what she had was OPTAVIA. I gave her a call. Signed up.

 Yesterday Jennifer suggested I keep a journal. This is my first entry. A new day has begun. Let’s see what happens. In the meantime, take care, and God bless.

PS: Lost almost a pound the first day. Not a bad start. Not bad at all

Former NFL Star Finds a New Path: Acting

LaDainian Tomlinson was a record-breaking running back for the Chargers, having led the NFL in rushing yards from 2001 to 2011. Plus, he set a single-season rushing touchdown record on the way to winning league MVP for the 2006 season. The former NFL star is now drawing on his experience as a pastor's kid to play Pastor Williams in the new faith-based film "God Bless the Broken Road." For more about Tomlinson’s new adventure, click here.

New & Improved

Most of my writing is available at Medium.com. I used to post items there & then link to them on this page.  At some point, linking each individual write-up seemed redundant, so I created two primary categories (Poems & Sunday Meditations) and linked to those pages. (See below.) This seemed a more efficient approach. At the very least, it's more timely. Why?  Because I often ran weeks behind trying to keep things updated. I hope you enjoy this long-overdue adjustment.—jsl

Poems

As a journalist, I never gave much thought to poetry. Five years into my retirement, I began to play with words the way a child toys with floating letters in a bowl of alphabet soup. Some word-plays ended up as poems.  LINK

Sunday Meditations

Each week I conjure up a mix of words, thoughts & emotions. Though I often mention Jesus, the Bible & other spiritual connotations, the write-ups aren't overly religious—nor should they be. Though many have built an ominous wall between spiritual & secular, I haven't. For example, I don't just pray at meals & in the evening. Prayer for me is my ongoing conversation with God while his Word is His ongoing conversation with me. May you be blessed & enjoy these little excursions. LINK

BLOG: Sunday Meditation 19

"Time spent with cats is never wasted."—Sigmund Freud

Cats have been a big part of the Lamb household for years. From Kodak, the quiet critter who started it all, to Tid-Bit, the bossy Siamese who not only governed our home, but also a nearby city park. The latest in our line of felines arrived recently. Her name is Stormy.—LINK

BLOG: Wordsmith

I wanted to be the Julia Child of writing . . .

More than a decade ago I developed a proposal for a show about writing. Of all the ideas I’ve ever had, it was one of the best. I hand-delivered that proposal to WUSF, the Public Broadcasting Station owned and licensed by the University of South Florida, where I graduated.  Sadly, the show was never produced, but I think the idea is still solid.—LINK

BLOG: Made-up Words

'You have the right to remain silent'

Sometimes I make up stories. Just for fun. This is one of those times. It's the tiny tale of a fella who gets pulled over by a guy he thinks is a policeman. You can imagine what happens next. Or you can read this fabulous little fable.—LINK

BLOG: Stuart Haygarth’s Trashy Book

The British artist took random rubbish and presented it as art

In 2011 British artist Stuart Haygarth walked along England’s southern coast for 500 miles picking garbage he found along the way. He then took the trash and presented it as art in a book called "Strand" . . . which reminds me of a funny story.—LINK

BLOG: Sunday Meditation 18

‘One needs more courage to live than to kill himself’—Albert Camus

When I hear about a young person dying of overdose or suicide, I ask myself, “Why?” Since I’m well on my way to 70, “young” is a relative term. To me, 30 seems young. Or even 46. That's how old Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was when he was found dead in his apartment, with a syringe in his arm.—LINK

BLOG: Tarzan

Making my case for who’s the best Ape Man ever

More than a dozen men have played Tarzan since Edgar Rice Burroughs launched that jungle-savvy literary character back in 1912. The most recent is a Swedish guy named Alexander Skarsgård. My favorite Ape Man of all time was Johnny Weissmüller, probably because he was born in Windber, PA, where I went to high school.—LINK