Group Day, American Idol Season 8 (2009)

Find my latest American Idol Article here.

Group day is like the drunk uncle that shows up once a year to ruin everyone’s Thanksgiving.  I started to cut the producers of the show a little slack, and defend the need for them to be sure the contestants can function in a group dynamic, but that has little to do with it.  Their purpose in this show is to engineer a train wreck because they know that no one can take their eyes off a train wreck.  It has nothing to do with making the final product better or helping the contestants.

This year, they got exactly what they wish for.  By putting less talented people with obvious social deficiencies through in the early round, they created the perfect storm of conflicts between a group of self-centered young people who want nothing more than to have someone else to blame for their personality failures or lack of talent.  In fact, I would say that this was the biggest ill conceived coming together since Michael Vick tried to play match-maker with a bunch of pit bulls.

I have made a few predictions up to this point, and I may have to do some early backtracking on my David Osmond prediction.  However, if I am going to take the hit for that, I am going to take credit for predicting that social misfits like Tatiana, rat haired Rose, Tatooed Emily, and Bikini Girl would have problems functioning in a group dynamic.

To prove that the train wreck was the point of the show, Idol spent about seven minutes of the show actually showing people singing.  So, I will address the train wreck.

Tatiana- She is obviously a clinical psychopath.  It took her about five minutes to begin to destroy one group, and then she decided to destroy another.  I do not believe she could ever be mistaken for a team player.  She is her team, and the only reason that she was able to function in her group at all was because she loved herself too much to allow herself to fail.  At the end of the show, she showed that she may be the one person on the planet that is more egocentric than Paris Hilton, when she thanked everyone there, and announced that they were “all part of me.”  I can’t wait till that personality of hers fails to get her one vote if she makes it to the top 24.

I felt a little sympathy for Tatooed Emily as real tears flowed down her face after she forgot the words to her song.  I found her quote, “This is the only thing I know how to do” to be a little odd.  Having your two days on Idol as your only aspiration and the only thing you can put on a resume is probably not a good thing.  I recommend the GED, hard work, and perhaps college as a way of learning how to do something that is both profittable to yourself and society.  But alas, this would be infinitely more dificult than singing a few times, being famous, and being given lots of money.

Rose climbed to the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs when she looked in the mirror with complete self-actualization and announced, “I look like a big pile of crap.”  In that moment, she indeed saw herself as she actually was, and she left her room without changing a thing.  Her loner attitude was a red-flag for the group competition, but she got lucky when Bikini Girl join the group, and became the focus of everyone else’s angst.

Speaking of Bikini Girl (also a psychopath), it’s a toss up between her and Tatiana when it comes to egocentrism.  She showed her ass to America when she would not even congratulate Jasmine, the only nice person, and the only good singer in the group.  At least we do not have to look at her crossed eyes and Rose’s ratty hair any more.

Finally, the ironically named ‘Team Compromise’ showed that every now and then a group has no hope at all.  The guy was a useless crier, and the girls hardly even tried to get along.  However, in the end, the problem with the group was apparent, and it was Nancy.  Her very aggressive, passive aggressive attitudes early in their practicing were a truly destructive force.  And, in the end, she needs to look around, only one person in the group did not go through to the next round, and it was her.  She was the weak link in the group, and she only has herself to blame, but don’t count on that ever happening.

So, at this point, it’s best to put last night behind us all, and act as if it never really happened.  We’ll move on and hope that the judges can effectively separate the wheat from the chaff.

p.s. Evil Paula was funny.

The Long Haul

I have definitely come too far at this point to turn back as far as my weight is concerned, but the heady and unrealistic goals (maybe more accurately said as dreams) that I had of the weight continuing to fall off rapidly are not meeting the harsh reality that it just does not work that way.

I want to preface this by saying that I am very pleased with my accomplishments so far, and in no way feel let down.  I have consistently met and exceeded my goals throughout this program.

I have lost an incredible 94 pounds in the last 17 weeks.  Tomorrow will mark the four month point since I began the diet.  That means I have averaged losing 23.5 lbs a month for four months.  It’s great, but it is no number for me to set my goals by.

The harsh reality is that with all weight loss programs there is a certain degree of diminishing returns as you go along.  Broken down into four week increments, I lost 33, 22, 16 and 20 lbs respectively over the first 16 weeks of the diet.  The last four weeks, I did a little better than the four weeks before it, but overall, there has been a significant decline in the amount of weight that I have lost.  This week’s three pound loss after a week of working out fairly hard, underscores the point, that I cannot keep using the amount of weight I lose to set benchmarks for the coming weeks.

I have increased both the time and the impact of my workouts, but I am getting to the point where they are what they will be.  I cannot work in any more time, and they are getting pretty strenuous.

What I am going to do now is to change my focus a little from how much I have lost, to how much I have left to lose.  Losing 94 lbs is great, but looking at what’s left, I only have 45 lbs to lose in order to reach my reevaluation goal of 220 lbs.  I will now concentrate on chipping away that 45 lb pound number until it gets to zero.  If it takes three more months to get there, so be it.  I am not going to let my attitude change.

 

Accountability

Much has been made of accountability in exercise programs.  The effectiveness of accountability has been documented by many substance abuse programs including Alcoholic’s Anonymous.

When we began our weight loss programs, my wife and I made commitments to one another.  We have held each other to our commitments and have expectations that each of us will keep up our ends of the bargain on a weekly basis.

Accountability helps us because neither wants to have to admit failure to the other.  We encourage each other every week, cheering on a good week’s total weight loss, and consoling a bad week’s weight loss because we know the effort that we both have put into it.

I also feel accountable because I have decided to write about my attempts to lose weight on this blog.  My little girl also holds me accountable though she does not even know it.  Seeing her refer to the hefty male figures in her books sweetly as ‘daddy’ reminds me of my commitment to her.  All of these accountabilities have added up to help me hold myself to a successful program.

However, true person-to-person accountability is only as good as the commitment of the people who decide to be accountable to each other.  Don’t be afraid to hold people who make a commitment to you to their commitments, and don’t be afraid to ask them to hold you to yours.

 

Update: I lost 8 pounds this week and am now at 272 lbs.  That is 87 lbs in 15 weeks, and I am 62.5% of the way to my goal.  I am seeing the 100 lb mark on the horizon.  I hope to be there in three weeks.

 

Exercise

I probably should have written about this aspect of my weight loss program much earlier.  I feel that exercise has been an indispensable part of my successful weight loss up to this point.  When I started this program, I also started walking about 30 minutes a day.  Soon I increased that to 45 minutes.  Now I try to walk every day that I can between 45 minutes and 1½ hours.

At first, I had to make myself get out and do this every day, but now I feel jittery if I have not had my daily walk.  I have also increased my speed.  Eventually, I would like to turn this into a jog or run, but at 280 lbs, and with a history of knee problems in my family, I will hold that off until I am a little thinner.

Because I have a responsibility to take care of my child in the afternoons and evenings, and she takes late naps, I do not have a lot of time after work to get in exercise.  I use my lunch and breaks at work to get my walking done.  I am lucky to work at a place that has a large area where I can get out and walk.  I have a cell phone, and am always on-call when I am in the facility.  This works for me because the director has also been nice enough to allow me to take my lunches early before it gets too hot.  If I get a call while I am walking on my lunch, I simply put the walk on hold and service the customer until I can continue the exercise.

Another way I have found to get exercise is to walk to where I am needed at work.  I work at a large facility that has several large buildings within the same complex.  I can get called to assist someone anywhere on the grounds.  I have a cart at my disposal, but I have been walking to my calls lately.  It really does not take me any longer, because I do not have to wait for the cart to warm up, and I get exercise through the walk.

Finally, on the weekends, my family (me, my wife and daughter) go to the park on Saturday and Sunday.  There is a large greenbelt that is interconnected throughout the city.  We take our little red wagon, and park at the City Hall.  This allows us to walk 1½ miles on nice shaded trails to a park with recreation equipment where my little girl can play.  She loves it, until it is time to leave, and we get to spend some quality time together.  When we leave, we walk back to the car, and get that much more exercise.

I have had a lot of success so far with this program, and I hope you can find the time to walk also.

 

Update:   I lost only 1 pound this week.  These weeks are always a little disappointing.  I put in the same effort, eat the same things, but do not get the same results.  I guess that is just the nature of any weight loss program.  I will do as I have done in the past.  I will continue the program as is for another week, before I make any changes to what I am doing.  In the past, these bad weeks always seem to be followed up by a good week with no changes to what I am doing.

As of today, I have lost 79 lbs in 14 weeks.  I now weigh 280, and am 60 lbs away from my goal/reevaluation weight.

Motivation and Positive Self Image

I actually had a revelation watching Paul McKenna’s show.  I don’t think it had anything to do with his point this week, but as I watched the program, I began to reevaluate my own program and motivations.  His point this week was to help people to stop criticizing and start loving themselves (I like the way I said it better).  I do not think I personally have an issue with this.  I have a strong self image that comes partly from my religion and partly from my own ego.  However, there have been all of those failed battles with weight in the past.  What is different about this one?

I think that writing this blog has been a part of it.  I have committed to chronicling what is happening this time.  I also have kept statistics on my progress (See my other blog entries for more info on how I’ve done and what I am doing). 

But as I stated earlier, Paul McKenna’s program this week prompted me to look even deeper.  I looked at and evaluated my attitudes toward myself.  I asked myself, “Why do I have a positive self image while all of the other people in his audience have a negative self image?”  I began to think of the areas that give me a positive self image.  I’ll just deal with a couple of the biggies.  Since I am being completely honest, I think I am a pretty smart guy.  I don’t want to deal too much with this, however because I am quickly destroying my sense of humility which I feel is another good point.

These points are good, but they were no real eye openers.  I hit the nail on the head when I thought about being a father.  I’m a good dad, and I put most of my efforts into this.  As I’ve stated before, my wife and I work different schedules.  This has forced (allowed) me to be a much more integral part of my little girl’s life than a lot of fathers.  Helping her to grow into a good and happy person is my biggest obsession.  And, this is where I hit pay-dirt.  I realized that I have compartmentalized my weight loss.  I moved it from just being ‘how I take care of myself’ to ‘part of what it is for me to be a good and responsible father.’  I gave myself a burden when I began to realize that taking care of her is my biggest responsibility.  I want to be there for her, to see the important parts of her life (for myself), and to make sure that I can meet all of her needs.  I do not want her to have the burden of a 50 something sick parent that forces her to drop out of college to take care of him, or be guy that has the fatal heart attack and is not at her graduation or there to walk her down the aisle.

She is my motivation and my self esteem.  I am already a thin and healthy person in my mind for her, it’s just going to be a few more months before I get there in reality.

 

Tuesday Update:  This week I lost 7 pounds.  This puts me at 78 pounds lost in 13 weeks.  I am at 281 and am 61 pounds away from my reevaluation/goal weight.

 

Coffee

I have taken up a vice as I started this diet.  In the mornings, I have started drinking a four cup pot of coffee.  I think this has been a big part of my success.  I have always liked coffee, black with cream, sugar or both, but I have always been able to take or leave it, and still feel that way.  However, I find that having the coffee when I get to the office in the morning has several benefits.

First, I am able to put something hot and refreshing in my stomach at the beginning of the day.  I do not eat breakfast (I know this flies in the face of most dietary wisdom, but it works for me), and this keeps me from getting hungry before lunch.

Second, the energy that I get from the caffeine is nice in the mornings. And three, I feel that drinking something with zero calories in the early mornings wakes up my metabolism and helps me to start burning calories (I am not a physician, and this is just my opinion).

As far as liquids in general go, I am drinking Coffee, iced tea and water.  Recently I have started drinking an occasional Diet Dr. Pepper.  I don’t know if it’s just the passing of time since I have had anything with sugar in it, but I really like the Diet Dr Pepper.  I do not drink milk, juice or anything with sugar in it.  These drinks are a great way to ruin a diet.

 

Update: I lost 4 lbs. this week, and am now at 288.  This puts me at 71 pounds lost in 12 weeks, and more importantly, I am more that half way to my goal.

Mom’s Vegetable Soup

I thought I would share some of the recipes that have helped make this diet a success. I am a soup lover.  There are few things that are heartier than a warm bowl of soup, and many soups are big on flavor while being low on caloric intake.  This is just the kind of food that can make a diet successful.  I like food that is filling and big on taste and at the same time low in calories.

Three things that I have found to be indispensable in cooking for my diet are, a pressure cooker, a large slow cooker (6 quart or better) and a large cooking pot.  I have a nice 11 quart porcelain model (they are expensive, but great for soups and such).

My mother makes a great vegetable soup that I have made a staple of this diet.  It is the kind of thing I could eat everyday, and I have made it for my lunch at least every other week since this diet began.  I hope you like it as much as I do.

Mom’s Vegetable Soup

2 lbs of stew meat

2 15 oz. cans tomato sauce

4 beef bullion cubes

1 bag of baby carrots (chopped up small)

3 medium sized potatoes (small cubes)

1-2 small bags of mixed vegetables (carrot, green beans, corn, peas, lima beans)

1 ½ large onions (chopped)

Salt

Pepper

Red pepper flakes (optional)

Water

Canola spray

Take your stew meat and drop it in the pressure cooker (it doesn’t even have to be thawed).  Salt and pepper the meat and put about ½ inch of water in the bottom of the pan.  Pressure the meat for about 40 minutes.

While that is cooking, spray a little canola spay in a large soup pot and add your onions, salt and pepper.  Cook onions for about 5 minutes.  Add carrots and cook for about ten more minutes.  Deglaze with water if it begins to stick to pan (a little browning is a good thing, but don’t burn). Add tomato sauce, bullion and vegetables.  Add enough water to bring the level up to the top of the vegetables.  Also add red pepper flakes at this point (I like a lot).  Cook for about 20 minutes.  Add stew meat, and the potatoes (be sure to add the liquid from the stew meat- tons of flavor).  Salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for 30 minutes to an hour, until the potatoes are tender.  Enjoy.  It also freezes great.