You’re Not As Healthy As You Think

I’ve always considered myself “athletic” but never “healthy”.  Often times, many people think the 2 are interchangeable but I’m here to tell you they aren’t.  Sure, I’ve been able to play soccer but there were times that I jumped into a game only to feel the painful effects the following day or the next few days for that matter.  When I actually played a season, it would take me at least 3-4 games to get into game shape.

I mention all of this to you for a couple of reasons.  First, many of you might be aware of the lifestyle change I’ve been going through since September.  I’ve been participating in a competition at Oakland Christian set up similarly to NBC’s Biggest Loser.  In that time, I’ve lost weight, stepped up my exercise, and made lifelong changes to how I look at food and how I eat.  Second, as a country the trend is going in the wrong direction.  According to the CDC, over one-third (35.7%) of Americans were obese in 2009-2010.  If you look at the trend since the late 1990s, you will be even more alarmed.

I never really paid attention to these statistics before.  I assumed I was somewhat healthy and healthier than the rest of the U.S.  Boy was I wrong.  It wasn’t until I stepped on that scale in early September that I realized I needed to get serious.  I’ve done the up and down with my weight but was never able to maintain it for an extended period of time and when the scale registered 201.1, it was time to get to work but I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it.  Fast forward to November 9 with a weigh in of 176.3 and a total weight loss of 24.8 pounds.  In just over 2 months, I’ve been become the healthiest I’ve been a long time, I’m able to post good run times for me, and now I play soccer without worrying about “saving my energy” in games.  So how did I do it?

My Weight Loss Progress since September

WHAT?
You have to have a goal.  For me, when I stepped on the scale and saw a weight that disappointed me, the goal was to lose the weight.  In my head, I wanted to drop at least 20 pounds but as I got into the program, I increased the weight loss goal to 32 pounds for a goal weight of 169.  With anything you do, have a purpose or goal.  You have to know WHAT you want to accomplish and for me, I had data to back up the need for me to start shedding some pounds.

HOW?
Once you know why you want to lose weight, you can focus on the how but before I share with you the tools I’ve been using, I also wanted to mention that if you do a program like this, do it with other people.  Being in community with people holds you accountable.  It motivates you and if you’re in a contest, who doesn’t want to compete?  This has been one of the biggest motivators for me as I want to encourage but I also want to win!  Now on to the tools.

Nike Fuel Band

Nike released their Fuel Band earlier this year and I was hooked.  Not only was it a cool piece of technology but it tracks my activity with steps, calories and Nike’s own metric, Fuel points.  Each day, you set a goal for Fuel points and your activity earns points to achieve that goal.  On top of that, you can see how you rank with friends that also have the Nike Fuel Band with a fully integrated iPhone app and badges you earn for achieving goals and milestones.

My Fitness Pal iPad App

The My Fitness Pal iPhone app has truly become my best friend.  With this app, I was able to document the food AND portions I was eating to make sure I was achieving my calorie goal each day to support my weight loss targets.  Throughout this entire competition, I’ve learned that what you eat and how much of it contributes to the success you’ll have in getting healthy.

WHY?
I have 5 great reasons as to why I did this.  Their names are Julianne, Gina, Joshua, Jessica and Luke.  Since turning 40 this past March, you begin to notice the subtle aches and pains.  You notice it takes a little longer to recover from any activity.  You also realize, your kids are getting older and they want you to play with them and that means being able to keep up with their energy and participate in their activities.  I could do this before but I just couldn’t do it well.  What this also has done is given Julianne and I a “project” to do together!  We now can encourage each other by eating well, going on runs or bike rides, and enjoying the progress we are making by losing weight.

Finally, this experience will also be a good teaching opportunity for my kids to value their health and what they eat. If we as parents are modeling a healthy lifestyle to our kids, they then have an example to follow (hopefully) that will give them the tools they need to live and eat healthy and hopefully pass that on to their kids and future generations.

THE TAKEAWAY
I’ve learned a lot about myself in these 2 months.  Yes, exercise and diet are the main focus but you also need to be motivated and don’t give up easily.  It’s not a quick process and as they say, “results very”.  Since I’m all about sharing my experiences with you, this is what I’d like for you to take away from this rather long blog post about my health kick.  It’s pretty simple.

  1. Have a goal
  2. Track your goals
  3. Be in community with people to hold you accountable and encourage
  4. Don’t give up
  5. Pray and give thanks to Him for your success.  I wouldn’t have been able to do this without God’s help and the people He put in my life to encourage me.

This is serious business everyone.  The health of our country is going in the wrong direction.  If you live in Michigan, you will be happy to know that we are the 5th most obese state in the country.  My hope is that you will think about what I’ve shared with you and not be accepting of these trends.  You can still eat what you want but you also need to balance it with exercise and how much you eat.  Once you’re able to get past this being a “diet” but rather a “lifestyle” you’ll succeed.

As we approach the end of 2012, why not consider making a drastic and healthy change for 2013?

A Father’s Day Poem from John Wooden

Don Cousins spoke at Kensington yesterday.  If you don’t know him, he is the father of Michigan State University quarterback, Kirk Cousins who also gave an awesome message as he reflected on things he learned from his father.  This was a great example for dads everywhere to remember our kids are watching every move we make and every thing we say.  Dads, be a leader to your kids.  If you do, you’ll see the influence you had on them as they grow and mature.

A careful man I want to be,
A little fellow follows me;
I do not dare to go astray
For fear he’ll go the self-same way.

I cannot once escape his eyes.
Whate’er he sees me do he tries.
Like ME he says he’s going to be –
That little chap who follows me.

He thinks that I am good and fine,
Believes in every word of mine.
The base in me he must not see;
The little chap who follows me.

I must remember as I go
Through summer suns and winter snows,
I am building for the years to be –
That little chap who follows me.

出生證明書 – Chūshēng zhèngmíng shū – Birth Certificate

It hit me once again 7 months ago, when I was staring at Emma’s birth certificate and I couldn’t understand a single word on it.

Let me start by saying that I am Spanish and that my second daughter, Emma, was born in Shanghai, China. So, no, I don’t understand my own daughter’s birth certificate. It is written in Chinese characters.

Because of my job, I have lived and worked, and therefore, had permanent addresses in Madrid (Spain), Stockholm (Sweden), Zurich (Switzerland), Miami, FL (USA) and now Shanghai (China).  My first daughter, Olivia, was born in Miami in 2008. And my second daughter, Emma, was born in Shanghai in 2010. These 2 little ladies have already been to more places in the World that many of my adult friends. How cool is that?

Apart from the fact that Olivia has dual citizenship (Spanish – American) and that Emma has her birth certificate written in Chinese traditional characters, there are so many great things about raising a kid in such an international environment.

  1. Although it is a tough thing to do over and over again, moving places and meeting new people makes them more adaptable and flexible. Also more social. Olivia never had a problem making new friends and she is quite open, social and interactive with other kids. I believe this trains a kid to be more resilient.
  2. They are growing up surrounded by kids from all over the World, which will make them used to interact with other cultures, races and backgrounds from an earlier age. I believe this is critical in fighting against intolerance and racism, which are rooted in ignorance and lack of exposure of individuals to others that are different.
  3. I have to admit I drool in admiration (and envy) when I listen to Olivia speak Spanish, English and Chinese words and phrases. Some say that multilingual environments slow down a kid’s ability to start talking. While it might be true (not in Olivia’s case though) we all eventually learn to talk, so whether you are fluent and articulate at 2 or at 3 doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you have already programmed in your language skills learning ability the basics for more than one language. We will probably be leaving China before Olivia is fluent (she is not even 3), so she will probably forget all she learns, but if she picks it up again in the future, I believe it will be much easier for her.
  4. Olivia is developing the ability to make friends that will live around the World, and thus, building an International network of friends around the World. Who knows, one of her childhood friends might become the president of some country. All good contacts to have…

It also comes with great responsibility. When making professional decisions on what assignment to take next, now I have to factor in my family’s well being too. So in addition to evaluating the new job and remuneration package, I now have to consider things like the quality of International schools, language spoken, weather conditions, outdoor activities… Things that didn’t play a big role when I made decisions on where to live next back when I was single but that now are as important, or sometimes even more, than the actual content of the job or the compensation package.

Obviously, there are some drawbacks.

  1. The distance with the (extended) family. Every kids needs to be spoiled by their grandparents and in a Latin society like mine, staying close to your family is a core component of a child’s development. It is hard for my daughters’ grandparents to only see them once or twice a year.  But it is also hard for me and my wife to be missing out on many things back home. Thanks to the Internet and technologies like Whatsapp, Skype and Picasa, we stay in virtual touch. It is fascinating how these things suddenly become a core part of my daughters’ life.  At the end it is a trade off. But what in life isn’t?
  2. Moving from one country to another is a traumatic event. And not only because of all the things you have to sort out, but also because of the friends you leave behind. And for a kid, this can be even more traumatic. Saying good bye to good friends, having to adjust to new schools…
  3. Kids that are brought up in this ever changing environment are probably more likely to end up having a similar lifestyle, which means that, as my parents and parents in law are suffering from not spending time with their kids and their granddaughters, we will end up living apart from our kids.

Some American friends that might be reading this might think all this sounds familiar. I have learnt to appreciate the Americans in their resilience and their adaptability. They are more used to moving  from place to place than the average rest of the World. But this is not that common for Latins and other societies where the extended family is at the very core, and having your family members scattered around the World is a very hard thing to deal with.

All in all, I believe that, as my daughters have given me the best gift a man can receive, I am giving them back the gift of traveling around the World, learning languages, making lots of friends and, ultimately, making them more diverse, open, resilient and, hopefully happy.

I met Jaime at SXSW this year.  Although he currently works on the other side of the world, I feel like I’ve gotten to know him through our conversations on Twitter.  The man is a world traveler and there is a part of me that is a little envious of all the things he’s been able to experience.  Not many people can say they have been in 35 countries through work and vacations!  One thing I know for certain is that Jaime is father who is passionate about his kids and I’m so glad he is here to give you his thoughts on raising a family abroad and away from family.  You can follow Jaime on Twitter at @jaime_del_valle, check out his blog and connect with him on LinkedIn.  Thanks, Jaime!

Happy Birthday, Gina!

Gina Fe Reyes - 2007 (age 4)

My how time flies!  8 years ago today, Julianne and I were sitting in a delivery room at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan with a 9 pound 12 ounce baby girl named Gina Fe Reyes.  What I distinctly remember is being woken up at 6am when the nurse brought Gina into our room from the nursery and said, “she is hungry and needs to be fed.”  Um…what?  Now Julianne and I took all of the parenting classes needed before Gina was born but you are never really prepared for having a precious life to care for until you are sitting in that seat!  We were able to successfully get Gina fed…thankfully God instills parenting skills we never knew we had and they just kicked in!

Gina is now 8 years old.  I can’t believe it.

What I do know is that my time with my children is precious.  I loved the post that my friend Justin Brackett did last week on my By Dads For Dads series.  The purest form of discipleship is the way we love our children.  I said this before but it’s worth repeating.  Many of us talk about change and making our society better.  If you’re a parent, look to your immediate circle of influence…your family and children.  Change the world by raising children that learn to love and care for others.  That is the best way to pay it forward and be a catalyst for change.

Happy birthday, Gina.  Mommy and Daddy love you bunches!

The Currency of Fatherhood is TIME

Justin Brackett is up next in By Dads For Dads.  I’ve gotten to know Justin really well over the last year.  We have so much in common, I knew from the start, a great friendship would develop.  We finally met in person at CES in January.  He is a quality guy and passionate about his family and 2 kids.  You can find Justin on Twitter at @justinthesouth.  You can also find him at Social Village, Develop Socially, and Abiah!

A few weeks ago there was a story about a career day at a middle school on local TV . Near the end of the story, the crew found a young boy to ask the question of the hour: “So, when you grow up what do you want to do?”  The boy without hesitation said “A state highway patrol man.”

In that moment your heart can’t help but swell with pride and joy that this young guy at such a young age know without a doubt what his calling was.

Then, he followed up his comment… “Then I can see my dad!.”
It hit me. That young middle school aged boy, the future of society, was speaking out for the millions of children out there… who were aching to see their dad. He was telling the story of our potential future. When we become busy, noisy, distracted- we spend less time with the investment in our children, our legacy.Did you know that the American Camping Association reports that parents have less than 90 mins a month, in meaningful conversation with their kids! A MONTH!! When did it become acceptable to be passively shirk your responsibilities? Is parenting really not a big deal? Are we really that busy?

What is motivating your kids today to make decisions that will affect them the rest of their life?
Until you read this you may have not been aware at how often the iPhone is in your hand or how often your attention is with something else… maybe you did not realize that your child, no matter how young notices your behavior. We lead by example, our character is not a part time, multi tasked gig- it’s a full time lifestyle.My buddy Michael Jr. has a term for that “Lack-a-daddy.”
It’s the term describing absent fathers- those who are physically or even mentally present.

You can even look at the news headlines- there are tragic stories of parents choosing Farmville or Facebook over caring for their children. It doesn’t have to be that extreme to impact your child’s life. Are we living our love for our children? Are we showing them in action that we are passionate about their growth and place in this world?

What would a generation look like if a handful of us fathers banded together to make a commitment to have healthy boundaries and priorities? To choose to love and protect our kids before that task or job or email or app or device… to give our children the attention they deserve. Do we trust God enough to allow Him to align our priorities? What legacy are you leaving in your children? Is it distracted, impatient, diluted, unhappy? Or is it focused, honorable, loving, generous?

Are we willing to become Fathers and men by living with character and leading our families? Are we courageous enough to shatter the status quo of being busy with intentional living and leading? If we do, and are present and listen, it will be one of the most gracious acts of love we can give anyone, especially our children. Are we willing to sacrifice that email, blog comment, retweet, traffic to our site for the love of our children? Does any of that really matter in comparison to our future and legacy?

The way we love our children is the purest form of discipleship. Today, I put down my phone, close my laptop, and press the big ignore button, nothing matters more than my kids. Today I choose love. Who is with me?

Thoughts On Fatherhood

As with many of the people that have contributed thus far to By Dads For Dads, I met Todd through Twitter. I had the pleasure of meeting him in person at 14o Conference Detroit last year and instantly knew we had a ton in common. Todd is the VP of Operations and real estate agent at Professional One but more importantly a passionate father of 2 boys that he is leading and raising to be men. You can follow Todd on Twitter at @toddwaller. He also co-founded and co-authors the blog P1Fran.com, and he co-founded and co-hosts the talk radio show BlogTalkRadio.com/RaiseTheBar, both of which focus primarily on the issue of “raising the bar“ of professionalism in the real estate industry.

Growing up, I never gave a thought to having children.

You see, I am an only child.

I looked around at my friends with brothers and sisters and thought that having siblings would be messy, disruptive and downright inconvenient. On top of my contentment with being an only, I thought it unwise to bring children in to such a fouled up world. I was going to be content being married to a great gal where we worked hard and played hard.

When I met my lovely bride in college, we were pretty honest in our hopes, dreams and aspirations, even as we were just dating. So, she knew early on that kids were not on my radar screen. In fact, when we would go to family functions or were out with friends, it became an ongoing joke that the kiddos would run, literally screaming, from me!

Fast forward sixteen years and I am the tremendously proud father of two extraordinary young men. Granted, they will be five and seven years old this year, but they are our young men.

Did I mention I am proud of these two?

What happened? What was the shift from no kiddos to raving about two yellow-haired monkeys?

I Blame My Wife

You see, much like Charlie Wollborg mentioned in his video, I too believe that being the best father possible means being the best husband possible. As I dated my wife and learned more about her, her family and what was important to her, I could see that family was where she drew a huge portion of her identity. Simply put, I love my wife. I want her to be happy, fulfilled and experience all that life has for her. Selfishly, I also want be a part of her life. This meant that I needed to change my stance on the kid question.

It is ALL about Community

Growing up, as small as my family is, taught me a lot about responsibility, caring for your family and self-sufficiency. My own father is a beacon of self-sufficiency. He spent nearly 35 years as an engineer with Ford Motor Company. Through his hard work, planning and execution of his duties, he provided for our family. Provided very well. Today, Mom and Dad enjoy a great life in the midst of retirement.

It was my father’s example of being a husband that provided the platform, the base upon which I pursue my own family. Add to that platform my expanded view of family as community that came from my bride’s family (did I mention that I married Italian?) and my view of being a father is much more than being simply a provider of resources.

This expanded view of family requires, at least for this father, a larger set of responsibilities in today’s world. Fathers are so much more than simply providers of resources and security for the family. Those are the minimum standards, if you will.

Being a Father means:

… being my children’s parent first, then friend.

… being an example of the behavior we expect our children to have.

… showing our children how to handle adversity and conflict.

… being responsible for our children’s spiritual, educational, mental and physical growth.

… loving our children, especially when they jump up and down on our last nerve.

… being there, even when they push us away.

… encouraging them to be in community with others, in spite of the pull of pop culture and our media towards isolation and narcissism.

… treating our children as the adults they will become.

… listening to our children. Not just hearing them, but delving into their minds and helping them learn how to think and feel.

… allowing our children to see us vulnerable & human.

I can never claim to have figured out how to “father” best. Heck, I am still hoping the instruction manual for my boyos was simply lost in the mail. But I know two things, for certain, about being a Dad:

  1. There are very few things in life like having your kids charge you at full run to give a hug and kiss.
  2. There is NOTHING like watching my sons just love on my wife, their mother.

As much as I am supposed to be the parent and supposedly know all there is to know about life, I am constantly amazed at the insights, comments and discussions with my boyos. I love seeing the world through their eyes! Their perception is untainted and innocent at this age and helps to peel back my cynicism and jaded view of the world.

To be a father is to see the world differently, through your children’s eyes.

Seeds of Change

This post originally appeared on the Michigan Dads blog in October of last year.  Given my immediate focus on By Dads, For Dads, I thought it would be worthwhile to share with all of you here.  Be a leader dads.  Be a leader.

Isn’t it a great feeling when like minds come together? Over the past couple of weeks, this has happened for me in conversations that I’ve had with Matt Eder,Dave Peckens, and Elena Wollborg.

Let me give you some background. On September 29, TEDxDetroit was held at the Detroit Institute of Arts. In typical fashion, the Detroit blogger community stepped up and shared their thoughts on what TEDx Detroit meant to them, myself included. As I read through some of them, I came across this post from Matt Eder on Michigan Dads.

At that moment, it hit me. I’ve been trying to figure out “the thing” that I wanted to do to help metro Detroit. It involved my kids and it involved helping people. We can all talk about changing Detroit or renewing the city but in the end change really only happens when you can influence and encourage people to jump on board and help you.

Reyes Family

In my immediate circle of influence is my family. My kids are at an age right now where they are soaking in everything. Complete sponges. My thoughts immediately turned to volunteering in the community in order to teach my kids a lesson in humility and serving. So that’s what we’re going to do with Matt, Dave, Elena and our families. We’re still developing the idea and the platform so stay tuned for more details.

Our larger hope is that people will see what we are doing as leaders of our families and see the value in what we are doing and want to join us. Can we be that mustard seed that encourages others to take the next step of action? I really hope so because when something small can blossom into something huge, people take notice.

Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.” ~ Mark 4:30-32 (NIV)

For me, my future is solely dependent on the foundations that I lay for my kids. I believe this is what God expects from all of us that are parents. The only way for us to lay this foundation is to invest our time with our kids. We need to be there and lead them or else someone else will and it might not be down a path we want.

So I encourage all of you parents, especially the dads, to lead your families before someone or something else does. You have a tremendous influence whether you know it or not.

Just for fun, I thought I’d share with you a video from last weekend as I was hanging out with my boys on a Sunday afternoon at The Village of Rochester Hills. We had a blast running around and as you can see the smile on their faces made it all worth it.