The Cardiac Chronicles, Episode 1: Anatomy of a Heart Attack

Checking out of the hospital, April 11th 2023

Authors Note: As someone who fancies himself a writer, I’ve decided to chronicle my new journey into heart health here. These long-form posts will allow me to keep those interested up to date on my journey and, in years to come, help me look back on how much progress I’ve made. Heck – maybe there’s another book in here somewhere, too. Some of you have already heard this story, but committed now to the record… my own sort of journey there and back again.


On Thursday, April 6th 2023 I left the office looking forward to a long three day weekend – thanks to the Good Friday market holiday.

I don’t remember exactly what caused it, but for whatever reason my wife and I decided to fall out of synch with our recent diet habit and eat some junk. We settled on a local Mexican place – the meal was filled with crispy chips, ice cold margaritas, and fried burritos. I point this out not because I think this caused my heart attack, but because of all the decisions it influenced later. In any event, we ate our weight in chips, rice, and beans and then went home. I felt fine, obviously very full, but otherwise had no issues to report.

The next morning, my wife went to work and I ran some errands – casual adulting stuff for a day off, I guess. I got my oil changed, returned some books to the library, and hit the grocery store. Afterwards, I headed home to relax before going out again that night. Around 4pm on Friday afternoon I started experiencing the first instance of what I assumed to be heartburn. This was pretty close to twenty-four hours after I’d had all those beans, chips, and rice. To me, the fact that I’d have some heartburn after all of that made sense. I gave it basically zero thought. I popped a few Tums, the discomfort went away, and off I went. That night, we went to dinner where I had a lean grilled steak and with French fries (it’s called balance, look it up). After dinner we went to a movie and, naturally, shared a bucket of popcorn. I went home that night and felt great, I slept like an absolute rock.


Saturday, April 8th, was more of a mixed bag.

The plan that day had been to go to a late-afternoon church service, for the Easter holiday, and then spend a relaxing evening at home. That morning my wife and I went to the grocery store for Easter Sunday supplies (buttermilk coconut pies were on the menu) and, while there, the “heartburn” started to come back. Looking back, the discomfort had definitely increased with this wave. It was not hard to walk, stand, or see. The pain wasn’t, by any stretch, “blinding.” But it was…uncomfortable. And noticeable. When we got home from the store I was also starting to feel what I would describe as “sluggish.” I laid down for a nap and we resolved to watch church at home, instead of going out. Between the nap and some more antacids, the discomfort continued to go away. Later that evening, around 6pm, it was the same: heart burn came on and the Tums knocked it out.

At no point so far in this story – Friday or Saturday – did I think I was in any serious trouble. Since leaving work on Thursday afternoon I’d eaten a large plate of Mexican food, an order of French fries, a bucket of pop corn, and various other snacks. For four or five weeks prior to all of this I’d been eating very lean and light. Now, after two to three days of “falling off the wagon” it continued to make sense to me that I’d have some indigestion. I viewed it as sort of a “you get what you get” scenario. Want to eat like garbage? Well, you’re going to feel like garbage. I’d seen similar situations play out countless times before.

That evening, though, I felt… great. We had a lighter dinner. Watched TV. Hung out. Things were going well. At 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, 11pm… nothing unusual was happening. I was very relieved by this. I still did not believe anything more serious than run of the mill heartburn was happening. But it had been going on for a while and I wanted to feel good and sociable for Easter Sunday and all the festivities. I genuinely believed I was in the clear. As I got ready to head to bed that night, I resolved to eat as light as possible on Sunday (as to not reignite the heartburn) and even committed to calling a doctor that week to talk about getting on something for persistent heartburn. 


As the clock struck midnight that night, now Easter Sunday, I turned the television off and laid down to get some sleep. At the exact second that occurred, the heart burn came back. The sensation and the location – right in the center of my chest – was the exact same as all the instances before. This time, though, it was more… pronounced. The pain and discomfort were stronger, but still not pulsating or entirely alarming. I took some more Tums and waited for the pain to subside. By sometime around 1am the pain was still there. Still more Tums didn’t knock it out. I tried laying on my side, my back, my stomach, all hoping to find some sort of position that would provide relief. There seemed to be some sort of lessening of the discomfort (probably psychological) when I sat straight up. Hoping this would help, I got out of bed and sat on the couch all night long hoping for something to change. I drank a cup of ginger tea and ate some blueberries – foods associated with reducing acid reflux – but they, too, offered no help.

At 8am on Sunday morning I asked my wife to take me to an urgent care. The chest pain was still there, it had never gone away since it came back on at Midnight, and I hadn’t fallen asleep at any point in the night. I still wasn’t terribly concerned. More than anything I was frustrated and a little delirious. I’d been looking forward to spending a day with family, instead I was exhausted, had heartburn that wouldn’t go away, and was just… tired. 

At the urgent care I explained that I’d been having intermittent heartburn since Friday evening that, now, just wasn’t clearing up. I asked if there was any sort of prescription, super strength antacid that they could give me. The Physician’s Assistant also appeared to think this sounded pretty reasonable. “But, since you’re already here,” she said, “let’s run an EKG… just to be safe.” 

My first reaction to that statement was that this was overkill, unnecessary. If anything, I figured they were just trying to bill my insurance and get some extra cash flow. But, she was right, I was already there. Hook me up, let’s do this.

A tech came in to run the test. As he was hooking me up he explained that I had to be still while the test was actually running, and that they run two instances of the test to have something to compare it to. After the second test he says “Well… lets run one more.” That struck me as odd. But whatever, I’m not an expert on these things. The tech then packed up his machine and told me the PA would be back in a few moment to go over my results.

When the PA came back into the room she was accompanied by another lady I hadn’t met before. After forty-eight hours of on again/off again chest pain… this was my first inkling that things were accelerating. The new lady introduced herself (I can’t remember the exact title) as some sort of regional director for this particular chain of urgent care facilities. Bells were going off. She explained that, based on my EKG results, that they wanted me to go the hospital… and they wanted to send me in an ambulance.


I’ll never know if they were saying this to keep me calm OR if they were actually feeling as indifferent as they sounded. The PA explained that they weren’t actually “concerned” and that the EMT’s (they’d already spoken on the phone, they were on their way) weren’t concerned either. The test had showed an abnormality, and they wanted a hospital – with their more advanced imaging abilities – to check me out. I saw logic in this. I still believed I was suffering from a severe case of heartburn. Like the EKG a few minutes before, I still rationalized that this was unnecessary. But hey… whatever. Let’s do it. 

When the EMTs arrived they hooked me up their EKG and ran more tests. They looked at the results and seemed to explain (again, paraphrasing) that where there should be four evenly spaced heartbeats that I, in contrast, had two… then a gap where the third should be… and then the third and fourth in quick succession. The EMTs seemed calm about this. They gave my wife and I choice of which hospital to go to, we picked one that was actually a little farther away. They didn’t seem concerned by the additional delay.

In the ambulance (we didn’t even have sirens on) the EMTs started giving me nitroglycerin spray, which is known to reduce chest pain and offers other assistance when a heart attack is suspected. Other than making my mouth taste like peppermint, I never noticed a difference. The whole ride there, the EMTs were very relaxed. There wasn’t a lot of alarm, similar to the PA and staff at the urgent care. In retrospect, this could have likely been a tactic to keep me from freaking out. At the time, though, it reinforced my belief that I really wasn’t in any sort of danger. This was all a lot of caution, “just to be safe.” I was happy to be safe, but it still felt unneeded.

Forty hours after I had first experienced chest pain on Thursday afternoon, and after nine consecutive hours of zero relief… that blood test told the story.

At the hospital, the first medical professional I saw, reviewed all of the EKG results. He, too, didn’t seem too worried. He asked “Has anyone ever told you that you’ve got a Bundle Branch Block?” I told him I’d never heard of that. A Bundle Branch Block, he explained, is (again, paraphrasing) basically a blockage in the heart that can delay electrical impulses in the heart. He explained that this is usually benign and can usually be treated with medication.

Someone was finally making some sense, I thought. There was, it seemed, something happening. But some meds and speaking to a specialist about how to move forward… all of that sounded like exactly what I expected to hear – albeit a somewhat different approach than antacids and less greasy food. Nevertheless, I was rolled into a more private room for additional analysis. They took a few vials of blood to run some tests, I figured be out of there before too long.

Forty hours after I had first experienced chest pain on Thursday afternoon, and after nine consecutive hours of zero relief… that blood test told the story. Troponin is a protein in the heart that usually does not appear in the blood stream. When someone has a heart attack, though, Troponin is released into the bloodstream and is typically the bellwether that someone is in the middle of an active heart attack or that they’ve experienced one recently. I don’t remember all of the numbers and technical jargon – but my Troponin level was dramatically high. With that result, I was – quickly – prepped for a cardiac catheterization. 

In the operating room the doctors “went in” through a tiny hole in my right wrist. From there, they inserted a thin, flexible tube into my heart. Once there, they discovered that my left anterior descending (LAD) artery was 100% blocked. They inserted a stent that allowed the flow to resume. 

It wasn’t until after I woke up that I heard the term “heart attack” used for the first time in reference to my condition. At first, I couldn’t really wrap my head around that statement. Heart attack? I was only thirty-three years old, was relatively healthy, I didn’t smoke, and didn’t have any of the normal bellwethers of heart problems. But then, within just a few moments, I realized that my chest pain – though still lingering – was dramatically reduced. Whatever they had gone in and done, it had worked. If they told me it was a heart attack, I believed them.

Hospitals are notorious for being challenging places to sleep. Between the noises, the constant tests, the lights… everyone always complains about the lack of quality sleep. That night, though, after having been awake for close to forty-eight consecutive hours… I slept like a newborn puppy. I’d never slept as well before that, I don’t think I ever will again.


On Tuesday, April 11th I walked out of the hospital. I learned later that the American Heart Association estimates that only 12% of those that suffer a heart attack in the LAD survive. Those that make it to a hospital have somewhat better odds, their survival rate increases to 25%. For these reasons, the LAD is commonly referred to as The Widow Maker. At the time, and even to this day, I still contemplate that fact a lot. What was special about me? What twist of fate put me directly in harms way but left me, miraculously, capable of absorbing the blow? From a medicinal standpoint, those answers are likely unknowable. But, ultimately, I believe I know the answer. The height of my pain hit right as Saturday turned into Sunday – Easter Sunday. On a day known for miracles, I definitely needed one. I’ve thanked God every day that I got it. And I’ll continue to do so.

COVID Chronicles Part Two: The Weight and The Wait

Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland was a ghost town the morning of the park’s public opening on July 11th

A few weekends ago, Crystal and I went out to one of our neighborhoods nicest restaurants, a steakhouse, for a spur of the moment night out. We had been “out” to dinner a few times in the time since the State of Florida began to lift some restrictions, but this was the first “fancy” night out since, probably, my 30th birthday last November. When I went to get dressed – opting for a pair of pants I had worn on my last day in the office in March – a problem presented itself: they didn’t fit! In March, the navy blue chinos were almost too large, now they were the opposite: too tight. I quickly shifted to a pair of fashion forward jeans that were far more forgiving and still plenty acceptable for the steak house in question. A great, delicious evening was had by all.

My quarantine weight served as yet another example of all the impacts that isolation has had, on me and plenty more. Crystal and I intentionally ate poorly at the onset of all this, which I admitted in my last post, but even as I reigned in my habits I still wasn’t seeing the scale follow suit. I spent a few days brooding over this, especially considering I had committed several weeks of effort into a rough draft of a book about weight loss and now couldn’t fit into my own pants. For years I’ve been a champion of not being too hard on one’s self, now more than ever. The episode with the pants, though, served to challenge my own narrative. A new wave of anxiety ensued.

My renewed anxiety was furthered by a revolving door of “hurry up and wait” narratives, both in my own mind and in the public consciousness. We learned this week that our honeymoon cruise, scheduled for late September, is now cancelled. This capped a months long personal saga spent trolling internet news sites for headlines about the cruise industry and whether or not our ship would sail. Elsewhere, I’ve labored over whether or not my loved Tampa Bay Lightning will get another shot at the Cup this year or whether the Buccaneers signing of Tom Brady will even ever matter. As a sort of barometer of progress against the virus, I’ve followed the ups and downs of the release date for Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet”; nearly every day there has been news that the release date was going to be moved back, it’s been moved 2-3 times, two weeks a pop. I’ve asked, endless times, will this be the week that we see a turn towards normalcy? What about this one? How about now? It’s been a season of hurrying to wait further still.

Finally I resolved to put all that aside. Saying nothing of making the best of a bad situation, I opted to focus on the little things. The things that, when this is all said and done, I’ll sit back and say I miss about this era. Here are a few:


I’ve written extensively on this blog about my love of reading. With nowhere to go, no lengthy commutes, no new movies, and the heat of summer, my rate of consumption has exploded. I hadn’t thought of keeping track early enough, but I’ve probably read 15 books since leaving the office in March, the majority of them in the last month and a half. Both out of a desire to keep my budget in check and a lack of any more shelf space, the majority of these books have come from the library, a resource I’ve been neglecting for years. I imagine my reading will continue at elevated levels when this is all over, but the pace I’m on will be unsustainable once we’re back to normal.


Traffic is something nobody complains about anymore. Even those among us that leave for jobs in essential fields don’t experience much of it. Meanwhile, we never have to wait for a table at our local breakfast spot anymore. We had a similar experience at Walt Disney World: wearing a mask in that heat was a real bitch, but waiting no time at all for attractions that normally garner two hours lines was a rare treat. These and other businesses, of course, cannot survive like this for long. But being able to come and go so easily has had for me, a consumer, a relaxing effect.


I never could have guesses that we’d be beginning our lives as homeowners and a married couple like this. That said, spending so much time waiting for something else has left plenty of time to be…together. We’ve burned through all seven seasons of New Girl (a show that predicts COVID-19 in it’s final season, it’s true!). There’s been plenty of time in the morning for coffee together. More than ever there have been opportunities for after-dinner walks, lunch by the pool, and sunsets on the back patio. 

What could be better than that?

Stay safe everyone.

The Covid Chronicles

Corona Camouflage: The Virus Can’t Get You If It Can’t See You, Right?

My last post here was published on January 31st, the Friday before the Super Bowl. That morning I tackled the subject of what low carb snacks to consider serving during the Big Game, this seemed like an important topic in those days. That weekend I also shot, edited, and posted to Instagram a whimsical video on the same subject. In the time since those posts, everything – the whole world – has changed. I’ve always considered myself something of a wordsmith, but I’ve struggled in the time since March to cope with and grasp what was happening well enough to put coherent thoughts on paper. Since the pandemic came to the States in March I’ve bought a home, postponed my wedding and honeymoon, moved, transitioned to a completely work-from-home lifestyle. Everything, like for so many others, is different. Here, finally, are my collected thoughts on three and a half months of quarantine.

Control and Flexibility

If the quarantine has taught me one thing it’s that the view that we are in control of our lives is an illusion. Think about it, even in The Land Before Covid, would you have agreed that the weather, traffic patterns or train ride delays, the songs your favorite radio station played, the actions of your co-workers, and your boss’s attitude had generous impacts on your day? I know I would have, they make HUGE impacts on five out of seven days a week. Yet, we’re in zero control over these things. The virus has magnified this reality. Crystal and I had been planning our April wedding and honeymoon for over a year and we were weeks away from both when, with much agony, we had to postpone.

The additional lesson that this reveals is that life and love demand flexibility. Things worth having are worth waiting for. I remind myself that, in the scheme of living together another 50+ years, an additional five months won’t seem like so much looking back. But time isn’t, of course, the only factor: the collective weight of being so close to one of the biggest days of our lives to see it fall into uncertainty is devastatingly traumatic. One cannot help but ask “What did we do to deserve this?” The inconvenient answer: Nothing. Things like these are out of our control, like with so much else in our lives. 

We can control, though, two things: How we prepare and how we respond. If we are merely paddlers in the river that is life, we can nevertheless make sure we have a sturdy canoe and a strong paddle.


One of the first things Crystal and I decided to do, in the wake of working from home and postponing the wedding, was to – temporarily – indulge in a little careless eating. Taking some control back from the virus and diving into snacks and foods I hadn’t eaten since childhood brought nostalgia in waves sufficient enough to help me cope with what was happening. Reese’s Peanut Butter cereal, grilled cheese sandwiches, grilled Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches, chicken tenders, Pop-Tarts. It was a culinary trip through simple, non-satiating carbs. For all the reasons I shouldn’t have made that choice – for all the reasons I should have doubled down on my healthy habits – it was fun, it was comforting. We’ve since corrected our ways and are very much back to our Pre-Wedding Diet. But it was fun, innocent, escapism. We could all use a little of that these days.


Equality, as an American and as a Christian, is not something I have spent enough time thinking about in my thirty years of life. Plenty would not be surprised to hear that. Throughout American history, plenty of great words have been written: The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. For a long time, though, the promises therein were legally precluded from applying to many. Too many. Even as the letter of various laws have changed, the application of justice and equity has been slow and/or incomplete. Many companies and plenty of my peers took to social media to point this out, the efficacy and authenticity of this sort of thing has brought on much of its own debate. During this time I chose to engage in private, productive conversations with friends, family, and peers about their perspectives and how, at the individual level, we can influence change. I also set out on a journey through a familiar source: Reading. I recognized at the beginning of the protests over the murder of George Floyd that there was so much I didn’t know. To remedy this I dove into books to gain context, perspective, and knowledge. 

To that end, three books that I read stand out as particularly enlightening. They are at times uncomfortable, but they are powerful. Those are: How To Be an Anti-Racist, by Ibram Kendi, The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein, and White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo. I learned a lot from these sources. I was amazed to learn, just as one example, that black veterans returning from World War II were, as a matter of legally protected policy, denied access to affordable VA home loans. This is the sort of history that plenty of us don’t know and is the sort of context that Drew Brees, as just one example, might have benefitted from knowing. There were countless other nuggets from these books, and plenty of other books are out there. 

Knowledge, in these contexts, is so powerful.

Walt, Steve, and Others

After returning the afore mentioned books to the library, I decided to switch gears to something a little more light hearted. First was “Disney’s Land,” a thorough history of Walt Disney’s journey to breathe life into imagination and bring his idea for Disneyland into reality. Today we know The Walt Disney Company as a multi-billion dollar monolith, but Walt was far from flush as he set out to build his park. Walt had plenty of people around him that genuinely believed him to be brilliant and talented, but he very much felt an anxious isolation about his work – something that resonates with me as an “aspiring writer.” Reading about Walt also served to scratch the itch of my deep rooted Disney addiction, something that’s been put on hold during the Pandemic. I’ve since started a tour of American CEO’s, starting with Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. After that I’ll return to Disney history with autobiographies from Michael Eisner and Bob Iger. There’s plenty to learn from successful leaders, regardless of what your own pursuits are.

The More I Read, The More I Write

Time and time again I’ve been told that if I want to write, I have to read. My ravenous consumption of written word over the past two months has served my writers mind and helped me get back to the table. I’m twenty or so hand-written pages into a rough draft of a book that will blend my memoir of an adolescence spent dealing with obesity, the path I took to change that, a social commentary of the environment that made both possible, and tips for those looking to make a transition similar to mine. I’m not an expert on these matters, but I hope that my personal narrative will inspire someone…even just one someone. To that end I am very optimistic and I’m passionate about getting the story out there. Keep your eyes open for details.

In any event folks… Whatever cruel reality the quarantine has cast upon you, it will pass. Eventually we’ll be back to concerts, weddings, and family vacations. Keep your head up. We’ll all be better and stronger on the other side.

Big Game Snacks: Wreck Your Opponent’s Dreams, Not Your Weight Loss

Low-Carb Can Be Delicious

I couldn’t tell you exactly why, but tailgating is one of my all-time favorite ways to spend a morning or afternoon. I love tailgating before football games, every January before the Gasparilla parade, I’ve even tailgated before a Christian comedy show. There’s just something about drinks and snacks with friends alongside the anticipation of the days events that make what boils down to just sitting still bearable…I’m convinced the PGA survives based off this fact alone. 

You can’t always attend the big game though, a fact that KFC looked to remedy with their “Couchgating” spot a few years back…the concept being that you can do all that eating and drinking in the comfort of your own home. 

Wherever you’re…gating(?)…this weekend, one thing is certain: Tailgates are minefields for folks on a low-carb diet. But they don’t have to be. 

Full Disclosure: I had a lot of grand plans to meticulously detail and photograph my process for these three recipes. But…I ran out of time. Here, instead, are three low-carb recipes that are sure to be a hit during your Big Game festivities this week; I’ve included my own commentary on these recipes at no additional charge. 

From Sarah, at LiveEatLearn

I include this dish first because it happened to be the first thing my Ninja air fryer made on its maiden voyage. This is a delicious, guilt free way to incorporate a timeless, unmistakeable flavor into your Big Game snack program. A few tips: First, buying a full head of cauliflower and trimming it yourself is significantly cheaper, buying pre chopped is easier…your call. Second, I sprinkle some garlic powder on mine as well for some added savory depth. 

From Shannon, at Fit Slow Cooker Queen

This bad boy WOULD be killer with some of those rustic, blue corn tortilla chips. But, in the interest of being low-carb, regular flavored pork rinds act sort of like Fritos Scoops. Carrot chips and celery sticks would also work. In a pinch, this could even go over cauliflower rice. I prefer to make this dip with leaner ground beef or…gasp…ground turkey.

Barbecue Meatballs

From Sarah, at The Magical Slow Cooker

The combination of barbecue and onions in this recipe takes me back to my old love, the McRib…but in a good way. This recipe is not, as published, a low-carb option…swapping the “regular” barbecue sauce for a sugar free option will accomplish your low-carb goals, however.

Note: These recipes are intended to be low-carb alternatives to other “carb-forward” standards. That said, I wouldn’t expect you to see any weight loss progress after a day full of these options. Be that as it may, I’m a supporter of cheat meals…especially if they’re intentional AND low-carb.

But what to drink?! No Tailgate or Couchgate is complete without a cold beverage. Here are some options to consider:

For the Beer Guy: 

The two leaders in the extra-low-carb beer scene right now are Bud Select 55 and Miller64 (the recently re-branded version of Miller Genuine Draft 64). Neither of these hold much favor among the beer community at large – holding less esteem than drafts like Mich Ultra or Corona Premium. That said, these two crispy boys replicate the macro-brew experience with even fewer carbs than most light beer options. 

Which is better? Well, they’re pretty similar. Lately I’ve leaned more towards the Miller, which could very easily be a subconscious reaction to their fresh look. Also, the Miller gets extra points in my book as I’m able to find them in glass 12 packs sometimes, most stores in my market (Tampa/St. Pete) only carry these two beers in 24 packs, which is way more than I need to buy at one time.

For the Vodka Queen:

Ocean Spray makes a wide variety of Diet Cranberry based drinks. CranPomegranate, my personal favorite, clocks in at just 3 carbs per serving, keep in mind also that most vodka drinks will call for less than a standard serving of juice. You also can’t go wrong with vodka, seltzer/soda water, and a splish splash of lime.

For the Pirate and Southern Gentleman Alike:

I’m a big fan of soda, a habit I tend to reserve for weekends and parties. I’m also incredibly sensitive to caffeine. When I plan to do some drinking during evening activities I reach for caffeine free Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, the artist formerly known in the States as Coke Zero. This pairs well with my two favorite mixing liquors: Evan Williams (Bourbon) and Captain Morgan (Spiced Rum).

For the DD:

Bubly Water. Full stop. This Pepsi branded carbonated water has zero sweetener and zero calories. There’s tons of flavors out there, my favorites are Watermelon, Peach, and Mango.

One Chapter Ends, Another Begins

A major season of my life, highlighted by growth and self improvement, came to a conclusion this week with a major promotion at work. What started three years ago, with a simple attempt at weight loss, sparked a major overhaul of my life…in the time since I’ve lost 95 pounds, proposed to the most beautiful woman on the planet, left one job for another, and finally accepted the previously mentioned promotion. In November of 2016, when I started my weight loss journey, I never anticipated any of these things, individually, could happen…that all three have happened is a blessing beyond measure. This new promotion, the product of an emotional, month long process has brought me to reflect on the past three years and the journey I took to get here. Here are my thoughts… 

You Are The Product of Your Actions, But Mostly Your Thoughts and Attitude

Prior to November of 2016 I was obese, unhappy with my job, and stuck in a revolving door of dead end relationships. All of this was the product of my own action or inaction: I could have been eating differently, I could have been working harder or have been applying for jobs, I could have held out, instead of settling, for better love interests. But these truths, also, were the product of my own thinking. I thought fat was all I’d ever be. I didn’t believe I was smart enough or talented enough for a better job. I didn’t feel I could attract the type of woman that would make a healthy, long term partner for me. I resigned to lifestyle choices that perpetuated the characteristics of my life that I was most unhappy with. So, yes, my actions were the driving fore of my unhappiness, but my thoughts (about myself, others, the world around me) were the driving force of those actions. 

Set Goals, Don’t Stress Over The Specifics

In November of 2016, like I mentioned, I knew what I was unhappy about. My weight however, true or not, was the only thing I felt I had control over. I initially set out to try the Paleo Diet, described to me by a buddy over beer and football one day, with the aspiration of losing 15-20 pounds. I figured, accurately, that losing even 20 pounds would be a significant improvement over the status quo, so I set out to see what was possible. The results of that journey included dramatic changes in ways that I never could have imagined – which is the joy of the process. Had I, on the other hand, tried to plan and link every step from fat, single, and unhappy to slim, married, and professionally empowered…I might never have gotten started. The point here is… Don’t worry if you don’t know how you’ll accomplish all of your goals. Get started on what you can, you’ll be amazed where the momentum of good choices can take you. For example, how much time have you spent in front of the computer chasing weight loss advice compared to how much time have you spent actually changing your diet? Not starting a diet because you’re not sure it will return positive results is like never asking someone on a date because you’re not positive you want to marry that person yet. If you want to see actual results you’ll have to take actual steps. If that doesn’t work out? Oh well, try something else. 

I resigned to lifestyle choices that perpetuated the characteristics of my life that I was most unhappy with.

Not Everyone Will Like The New You, And That’s Ok

Major, transformative life changes will, at least at times, require sacrifice, selfishness, and a dramatic change in habits. There will be some…whether family, a once best friend, or an acquaintance…who will decide not to come on your journey with you. This point has been brought up by many others and plenty has been said about it, but here’s my take: Don’t Take It Personally. Say, for example, you’ve been going out for beer and pizza every Wednesday night for a decade with the same friend. This standing appointment may be something you’ll gladly sacrifice in the name of your goals, but maybe it’s what your friend looks most forward to all week. So if this friend decides, no, he doesn’t want a “red wine and steak friend” and decides instead to replace you with a new “beer and pizza friend,” wish him luck. Additionally, your own self improvement can be seen by others as a measuring stick of their own failures, inaction, and laziness…if they cannot get over this to cheer you on, wish them luck in life as well. A variety of minute differences boil down to two types of people: People that are rooting for you and people that aren’t. Surround yourself with the former, don’t lose sleep over the latter.

Don’t Forget To Show Gratitude

I don’t know a single person who would say “I feel sufficiently appreciated, at all times, by my family, friends, peers, and superiors.” People love to feel appreciated, encouraged, and validated…do your part to help them feel that way. To the buddy that turned you on to your successful diet, thank him. To the mentor at work that spoke highly, yet fairly, on your behalf, thank her. For the parents, siblings, and friends that stuck by your side, thank them.For the spouse or significant other that puts up with your shit every day, thank him or her. Life is all about choices. The people that chose to do those things for you could have just as easily chosen not to, don’t forget that. Expand this practice of gratitude throughout your life. The teacher working the carpool lane at your kids school hasn’t been thanked enough. The dude working your favorite Eli counter hasn’t been thanked enough. The cop working traffic after a concert or football game hasn’t been thanked enough. The solider sitting on a flight next to you sure as hell hasn’t been thanked enough. Put gratitude into the universe…it’s free to do and there can never be enough of it. 

So what will the next chapter hold? Well, most importantly, there is my wedding in April. More than anything, I’ve always wanted to be a husband…I can’t wait to see what we will accomplish together. This chapter will include our honeymoon, with God’s blessing there will be adventures in home ownership and starting a family. Everything that has happened over the past three years, directly or indirectly, has lead to these moments. The past three years have taught me that when you combine a goal driven mentality with the willingness to bust your ass, great things happen. So that’s exactly what I plan to do.

Get started on what you can, you’ll be amazed where the momentum of good choices can take you.

On Cancer, Twenty Years, And The Things Time Can’t Take Away

Eleven days into the new Millennium, my grandmother…I knew her as Memaw…lost a brief fight with cancer. Always an introspective and nostalgic person myself, this morning’s 20th anniversary of her passing has brought much reflection: about death, grief, disease…but mostly about her. I spent the majority of my first five years of life living with her and, as a result, I see her fingerprints on my life every day. This is true despite the fact that the two decades she’s been gone make me three times older now than I was then. As much time has gone by, time reminds me how much a part of me she still is. 

When I lived with her, so far as I can remember, Memaw worked at a local library. If I wasn’t at daycare I was probably posted up in some random corner of that library with a book in hand. Books: I was surrounded by them as a child, a trend that has continued into adulthood. Nowadays I always have something…printed on actual paper…nearby and I’m quick to recommend a good book or article. All of this reading as a child and a teenager has lead to a dramatically larger vocabulary than my peers, so I’m told. My familiarity with history, pop-culture, and the like is more vast. These two traits show up daily and lead me to my truest passion: writing. As a student, finance professional, and occasional blogger this ability to communicate ideas through written word serves me every day. I have that youthful fascination with books and imagination to thank for that, my identity would be completely different otherwise. 

Speaking of identity… Prior to my birth, fractions broke out when my parents suggested my name would be Blake. Blake, to me, seems like a reasonably strong name, but the family broke into camps over it. Memaw, by then an avid fan of a hit primetime trivia show, emerged with a potential solution: Alex. The rest is history. Time went on and, during the years I lived with her, we watched Jeopardy almost every night. I don’t watch the show as often as I used to, but my love of random bits of trivia…important or otherwise…continues. In the 20 years since her death, the occasional episode of Jeopardy has helped me keep her memory alive and allowed me to still feel close to her. Alex Trebek, with his graying hair and authoritative demeanor, has enveloped a sort of “grand-fatherly” place in my heart. That he now faces a fate similar to my grandmother is a cruel irony. 

More than anything, the time since her death has reinforced one thing: how much I miss her. Man do I miss her. I missed her during the times cancer took her away from me: At my high school graduation, my college graduation…in April I’ll miss her at my wedding. The passing of time is interesting in that it magnifies and subtracts at the same time. I remember funny quirks – how she taught me to buckle my seatbelt by refusing to turn on the AC until I had done so — but I can’t seem to remember the smell of her perfume or the exact sound of her laugh. She would remind me, though, to be thankful for the time that we did have…for every person that had a grandparent when I didn’t, so too was there someone without a parent, or sibling, or spouse. Missing her has reminded my how much control we lack. 

If Memaw were alive today she’d be approaching her mid-80’s, putting her still 20+ years younger than her own mother who ended up surviving every one of her children. If Memaw were alive today she’d love that my family eventually moved from Atlanta to Tampa, closer to her home in Sarasota. If she were alive today she’d love that I never lost my love for a good book and that I was using my writing to try and help and inspire people. If she were alive today she’d probably wonder why I took up the drums instead of a more timid instrument, like the acoustic guitar or the piano. She’d probably hate my tattoos and my growing collection of firearms, and she’d probably wish I’d cut back on the whiskey. If she were alive today she’d love the man I’ve become and who I’m working to be. She’d love, more than anyone else, the woman I’m marrying; our wedding would be the date she looked most forward to all year. If she were alive today I’d have two extra decades worth of photos with her, with any luck there would be high definition videos of her and I on my phone. I’m left, though, with only what I have…it’s less than some but more than plenty of others. I’m fortunate that Memaw and I created the memories that we do have. I’m fortunate, most of all, for her continued influence on my life. 

That’s something Cancer can’t take away. 

Room For Cream?

What’s a good morning without a good cup of coffee?

In November I posted a tweet looking for thoughts on switching from regular, black coffee to Bulletproof. Popular in the Keto community, Bulletproof coffee is typical coffee made creamy through the addition of butter and MCT oil…it is said to aid weight loss efforts and increase mental clarity. The optimism from my twitter community towards switching or sticking to what I was already doing was mixed and I was hesitant to fork out ~$15 for MCT oil based on the lack of a clear recommendation. In the end I decided to split the difference, opting to try incorporating heavy whipping cream into my morning coffee routine. After 6-7 weeks doing that, here are my thoughts:

First Impressions

First off, I find the addition to be absolutely delicious. I shake the carton every morning, pour a bit of that creamy goodness in my mug, and then brew a Keurig pod. The result, typically, is something resembling a frothy latte from Starbucks or Dunkin…for a fraction of the cost. All other factors aside, this is a delicious cup of joe.

But what about the more important stuff, like…

Weight Loss?

I started this experiment prior to the onset of the holiday season, some cheating definitely overlapped. At times, though, it appeared that my weight loss WAS accelerating, perhaps tremendously so. At other times there appeared to be no positive impact and may have even been causing a plateau. There are a myriad of factors that go into gain, loss, and maintenance — the best I can say is that the anecdotal evidence is inconclusive and requires more testing. 

Mental Clarity and Appetite

A lot of blogs and tweets relating to Bulletproof and/or coffee with added fat use phrases like “dialed in” and “crushing it.” Have I felt more focused? I’d tend to say yes, I have felt more focused and have experienced less “mental fog” during this time. The weather has also been cooling lately (my favorite time of year) and I’ve taken some time off for the holidays…so other factors COULD be at play. Consider this though: I’ve definitely felt a reduction in morning and afternoon hunger and I’ve been able to extend my fast by at least 25-45 minutes, on average. Does this reduction in cravings create this clarity on its own? Or are they separate factors? I can’t say for sure. What I can say, affirmatively, is that my cravings and mental fog have decreased. Take that for what you will. 

So What Now?

I believe the reduction in cravings and mental fog are real, genuine benefits of adding full fat dairy to my coffee. That said, weight loss is the lens through which I judge all of my eating decisions, and I don’t have enough evidence to yet say this is or is not working for me. My plan is to continue the experiment, perhaps indefinitely, until I’m able to conclude that adding the dairy is detrimental. I’m leaning towards the assumption that the full fat dairy is creating a “value add” scenario, but we’ll have to see. In any event, it’s definitely been a delicious experiment and I believe it’s worth trying for those that are curious. 

New Books For The New You

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get paid a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you. Want more info? Check out the Affiliate Disclosure on my About Page.

In days of old before the internet, weight loss programs like Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers thrived by offering two things that the internet did not yet exist to provide: Consumable Information and Community. 

It isn’t the days of old anymore. 

Information and community, today, comes in a variety of shapes, colors and formats…for a fee and otherwise. To that end, a commonly cited benefit of a low carb diet is the low cost of entry…you could conceivably lose 50+ pounds thanks to information gleaned from the high cost of exactly one book, or perhaps based solely on online blogs and discussion boards. Being an old soul myself I chose to pour over books with a pen and a highlighter in tow when I was starting out. If you’re like me and you prefer a book printed on, you know…paper, here’s a list of books to get your “New Year, New You” started off right. There are two categories here, I recommend at least one from each.

Category 1: The Procedurals 

The New Primal Blueprint, Mark Sisson

Much admired and beguiled, depending on who you ask, The New Primal Blueprint is probably the book most associated with low carb eating. I love this book because it is equally informative as it is approachable – this one is packed full of information, colorful charts, and practical advice while still being a plainly readable text. That said, this isn’t a book you’d carry with on the subway, maybe not even in your carry-on. The hardcover edition, weighing in at 3.2 pounds per  it’s Amazon description, clocks in at 568 pages and is printed on the type of thick, glossy paper you see in fancy catalogues. 

In ‘Blueprint’ Sisson introduces his 10 laws to guide us, the first two being “Eat Plants and Animals” and “Avoid Poisonous Things,” which sounds like universally sound logic to me. He goes on to describe philosophies on everything from exercise, to alcohol consumption, to how often you should “play,” be it basketball, or kayaking, or anything else.

The Obesity Code, Dr. Jason Fung

While ‘Blueprint’ is a treatise on overall healthy living, ‘The Obesity Code’ deals strictly with one theme: losing some damn weight. Fung, an endocrinologist, presents the weaknesses in the “Calories In/Calories Out” approach to weight loss and presents an alternative approach, namely a diet low in carbohydrates. 

The key takeaway, for me at least, is Fung’s assertion that we’ve spent decades asking “what” we should be eating but basically zero time asking “when.” Fung does this, primarily, by attacking the notion that a morning breakfast is “the most important meal of the day.” I never thought I’d be “that guy” that would switch to, even promote, intermittent fasting, this book made me a convert.

‘Blueprint,’ again, is Sisson’s complete guide to wellness. Fung’s ‘Code’ is more of a quick and nitty-gritty approach to eating-directed weight loss. For these reasons, if you can only read ONE, I recommend Fung’s ‘Code.’ That said, both are incredible resources…read both, starting with The Obesity Code.

Category 2: A “Brief” History of Low Carb Eating

Good Calories, Bad Calories,’ and ‘Why We Get Fat, And What To Do About It,’ Gary Taubes

I put these two together because, quite literally, they’re the same book. 

‘Calories,’ in my opinion, is Taubes seminal work and is highly regarded in the low carb community. The paperback edition that I have, similar to ‘Blueprint,’ clocks in north of 600 pages that are covered in fine print along side the occasional picture and graph. Taubes uses these pages to dive deep into the basis of the “Carbohydrate Hypothesis” and the effects of modern eating patterns on society and the so called “diseases of civilization.” The work expands on emerging opinions about cholesterol, it’s connection to heart disease, weight gain, and more. The science in this book is complicated and thorough, but Taubes…aided by the number of pages he has to work with…takes the time necessary to explain it to an audience NOT fresh out of medical school. 

‘Why We Get Fat,’ by Taubes own admission, is essentially an abridged version of ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories.’ This is the version of the book that you’d recommend to a casual reader or give as a gift…at least if you don’t want to look like a crazy person. All the major points and research from ‘Calories,” can be found here.

All that said, I have read both ‘Calories’ and ‘Why We Get Fat,’ maybe I’m the crazy person. I’m an avid – perhaps rabid – reader, though, I don’t suspect that most people would read both, or even need to. If you’re an average Joe with zero background in biology, dietetics, etc…I’d recommending sticking with ‘Why We Get Fat.” If you plan on being separated from friends, family, television, internet and electricity for a few…weeks…then I’d consider picking up the longer ‘Calories.” Whichever way you decide to go, they’re both great.

Which books are you reading right now? Which ones would you recommend? @ me on twitter, let’s strike up a conversation! 

In Defense of Cheating, Sort of…

To Nog Or Not To Nog… What a stupid question.

The holidays can be hell for a variety of reasons, perhaps most for what they can do to your well laid plans to eat well. In the past three weeks I’ve personally been victimized by Dunkin’s Egg Nog Latte, requests by co-workers and family to make my famous buttermilk-coconut pie, and a bowl of festive mints by my desk at work. The holidays are synonymous with two things: spending and eating. In light of this I know people, and know of plenty more, that set out each winter to avoid ALL sweets, treats, and indulgences. That said, however, I know of very few that succeed. So what’s to do?

Well. Sometimes… you just have to cheat.

Many critics of low-carb eating patterns point to a shiny, well intentioned word: Moderation. Adherents to low-carb eating are depriving themselves, they say, and should instead eat anything their heart desires, so long as it is in moderation. In the 60’s the USDA, in their ill-designed Food Pyramid, suggested that some foods could be easily and safely incorporated into your diet, so long as they were consumed in moderation. To this day, “experts” receiving corporate subsidies continue to tell us that sugary treats are perfectly safe and healthy, so long as they’re enjoyed in this moderate state. A big problem presents itself though: The Food Pyramid, then, and the experts now make little, if any, indication of just what exactly “moderation” means in this context. What, for example, is a moderate amount of ice cream? Or pretzels? Or gummy worms? The USDA and the experts on the take of snack and soda companies have been resistant to define it. “Moderation,” in their view, must be some sort of magical, ambiguous state of enlightenment, the sort of destination you’ll know only by suddenly realizing you’re already there. 

In a manner of thinking, though, it makes sense that the USDA wouldn’t prescribe what exactly a moderate amount is given that a plethora of variables like metabolism, activity levels, and genetic factors exist….all great reasons the federal government shouldn’t be in the business of dietary advice in the first place. But the Food Pyramid DID suggest such a state exists, it just never defined it. Short of this definition, or even some solid guidance, the majority of Americans committed to define it for themselves. Obesity rates have exploded in the time since.

But anyway… back to the afore mentioned critics and their fight for treats and sweets in moderation. Let me be clear: I agree, whole heartedly, in the notion that indulging every now and then is healthy and even necessary. In fact, the only people I know that have sustained weight loss over multiple years are those that indulge every once in a while. I say that to point out that I do not agree with a zealous, zero tolerance policy against sugary snacks. The problem is that no real definition of “moderate eating” exists to guide us. So yes, by all means, drink some egg nog, eat pie, drink and be merry. I do believe, though, that moderation IS necessary, but if the government and the experts haven’t given us a rigorous example of what moderation is, then the only recourse we have is to define it for ourselves. How do we do that? Well, I have some thoughts, so I’m glad you asked. 

“Moderation,” in their view, must be some sort of magical, ambiguous state of enlightenment, the sort of destination you’ll know only by suddenly realizing you’re already there. 

Some nuance is important here so, first, I think it’s important to consider all eating choices through the lens of how they effect any weight loss goals you have, which is pretty easy to do on a low-carb diet. Ask yourself also “How much will this choice set me back? Am I comfortable accepting this setback? Am I willing to work hard to overcome this setback in the next several days? We all have different goals and a universal definition of moderation just wouldn’t be able to account for this. It’s safe to say that “the occasional treat won’t hurt you.” Just how occasional is “too occasional” should be a personal, goal driven question. 

To that end, take a long game approach to cheats. Very frequently I’ve willed myself to avoid someone’s store bought cookies at work in “trade” for getting a fancier, hand made dessert at Disney World that weekend. Sustaining weight loss through “cheat management” can help you plan around parties, cook outs, every day events, and the like. The hard truth is that you won’t be able to cheat as often as you’d like, otherwise it wouldn’t be cheating. Somewhere you’ll have to make some tough choices. 

Also consider finding indulgences that are low carb and not stocked full of sugar. I’m talking here about things like lobster tail, an expensive whiskey, a filet mignon. These are are all foods we can use to treat ourselves that won’t derail our progress. A baked sweet potato heavy on butter and ground cinnamon also comes to mind. You CAN use food as part of your celebrations and rewards but you DON’T have to equate high reward with high carb.

Finally, if you do decide to have some pie, or egg nog, or bread, or all of the above… enjoy it. Take your time eating and don’t rush. My personal preference are homemade and/or bakery made sweets as opposed to mass produced stuff…but go with what you love. And do not, whatever you do, let anyone shame you or guilt you for your choices. Pick your spots, eat your treats, enjoy the hell out of them…and then get back to work.

Anyway, i’ve gotta run…I’ve got some buttermilk coconut pies that need to come out of the oven. 

Happy Holidays!

Adventures in Intermittent Sobriety

Bring Your Own… Bubly?

Earlier this year I committed to being “dry,” alcohol free, for a full 30 days…I called it an Alcohol Fast. At the end of 30 days I decided to hold out a few more weeks until after my Series 7 exam, the fast eventually ended after 47 days in mid-August. Fast forward to today and I’m coming off of a month and half long stretch filled with two weddings, a trip to Savannah, Thanksgiving, some work parties, and my own 30th birthday; these all lead to my admission last week that my weight has been creeping back up. So, this week, I decided to launch a quick 14 day break from booze. Earlier in the year, during my more extended break, I was scribbling notes about the experience but was not actively blogging, here now are some of my collected thoughts on temporary, intentional sobriety… 

You Are Your Own Uber

The first thing that hit me as remarkable about “not drinking” is that you never have to worry about getting anywhere, at least not like before. How much can I drink and still drive? How much would Uber cost to get there and back? I wonder if I can crash on John’s couch? These are never things you have to worry about when you’re sippin’ on soda all night. This may not sound like much, but I found this to be a uniquely freeing feeling. I wasn’t bound by my ABV or the cost to get home… I could come and go as I pleased.

A Bar Tender of a Different Variety

Speaking of which… don’t hesitate to bring your own sodas and “mocktails” to a get together. Most folks hosting a party will, if you’re lucky, keep Coke, Diet Coke, and Sprite on hand (if your friends stock Pepsi products, find new friends). I found having the soda that I wanted (Diet Root Beer for me) helped me feel less like I was missing out by not having booze like everyone else. I also brought materials for a low-carb “mocktail” (find that recipe here) to a party where I knew three other people weren’t going to be drinking either. I was surprised to find that I, the guy mixing drinks WITHOUT booze, was the life of the party. 

No More Security Blanket

Speaking a little more philosophically, it’s amazing how much a of a social blanket a drink can be. For example… how many times have you been at a bar or work party and, to avoid an awkward silence, someone has shouted “how ‘bout another drink!” before scampering off to the bar? How many times has that person been you? A drink in hand can be a fidget spinner for adults…something to mess with to help from feeling awkward or otherwise sedentary. In both of these examples, and plenty of others, not drinking can force you to, I don’t know, talk to people. Which actually works out…some people are pretty cool.

The Bennies

Speaking more pragmatically…fasting from booze has plenty of benefits. The most noticeable, for me, during my 47 day fast was the quality of my sleep…I was a champion sleeper. Additionally, though I’ve never been one to make a habit of going to work hungover, not drinking anything at all definitely leads to more clarity and less “mental fog.” Also worth mentioning…alcohol, particularly at bars and resturants, can be incredibly expensive. Cutting off the sauce, even for a brief period of time, can also be a great savings in your budget.