You Can Wear The Mask Pt 1

Motivation is everything when it comes to unlocking the superhero in you. Having a goal and seeing yourself at that point while you give your blood and sweat to the cause is critical to the success of this. I wanted to spend this post talking a bit about something that has become a bit of a new obsession for me and a driving factor in my successful health changes. That thing is cosplay!

For those who don’t know – cosplay at its most basic level is dressing up like someone else (‘costume play’). More often then not it is a character from pop-culture works such as comics, movies, anime, or games. You see a lot of this stuff happening at pop culture related conventions. There is an enormous culture around doing it.

When I first started on this journey my initial inspiration was Into the Spiderverse. The movie’s message resonated with me: “You can wear the Mask”. To me this meant that I could be a hero to myself. I could be the one who swung in and saved me from…well..me! I’ve always been in love with hero myths and those so awe inspiring hero moments in film and books. I could channel that energy into myself and use it fuel me going forward. At the end of December 2018 I was determined to become a hero.

With my heart full of unstoppable energy I pushed into this new life. With the support of everyone around me and most importantly myself, I started to show progress. When I hit 20 lbs down for a some random reason I thought about cosplay. I always had an interest in it but never thought about actually trying it. For some reason I found myself looking up “Miles Morales Cosplay” and seeing what options were out there. The second I saw some of the costumes, I knew a mission had been laid out in front of me. If I hit my weight loss goal – I would buy a miles costume and dress like the hero that initially inspired me to become one. I would wear the mask. At first this seemed like I was cracking but the more I thought about it the more it made sense: the costume was a reward that was celebrating my physical changes. Instead of thinking of food at the end of the tunnel – I was thinking about embracing the new lifestyle I was creating. I knew in my heart this was the right thing to do.

I finally decided to share this crazy goal on social media and immediately my friend Meghan demanded that I go with her to Wizard World Austin. I accepted. This was real now. This was going to happen. This was in April and the convention wasn’t until November. I had many months to prepare. I started seeing myself in the costume in my mind. I used that vision to fuel me when I got tired or would just not be feeling it. It always worked to bring me back on focus. I saw myself standing tall and proud in a way I had never been before. Seeing myself in cosplay literally saved my life. Day by day, month by month, pound by pound. I fought with everything I had. I was going to be Miles Morales dammit. I had come too far to quit.

I used Halloween as an opportunity to test the waters. I ordered a Spider-Man Far From Home suit. I still remember slipping it on and mentally preparing myself. I was preparing to for the suit to show me how far I had not come and how I had left to do.

A slightly lumpy Spider-Man

I think I can say, without being to egocentric, that I was wrong. I didn’t look half bad and I can tell you that wearing something slim and having it not look wrong almost broke my mind. My wife said it felt like a complete stranger was in the house. At that moment, I knew I had found something to keep me going.

I ordered the pieces to Miles and with a little trial and error I finally found the costume. I want to emphasize how much the vision of me being in this costume got me through that first year of weight loss.

From here…
…to here

Halloween provided my first opportunity to wear the costume in front of total strangers (well I knew some of my neighbors). Several kids would clearly stop when they saw me and their parents would have to push them forward “look it’s Miles! You love Miles!” One neighbor who knew me stopped by with his kid and yelled out how he couldn’t believe it was me. “So this is what you have been doing! You wear it well man!” I’m so glad that mask was on cause I was damn near close to bawling. With that night under my belt, I was confident about the con. Well I thought I was. I mean I was going to go downtown wearing a body suit for crying out loud.

lil Caps are the best Caps

Well this post got long and I have more to say! Part 2 will cover the life changing experience that was convention and me embracing a new chapter in my life.

You can wear the mask

Whatever it Takes

I recently had a friend reach out and ask me a question I get a lot.

“Do you still get those days when you just don’t wanna do the workout or cook the meals? What gets you through that?”

There is one core rule to creating a healthy lifestyle and that is consistency. One day of healthy eating and one hour at the gym are meaningless unless you continue to come back and do those all the time. So it is obvious that the greatest enemy is anything that will work to make you inconsistent. The problem my friend asked me is one that will eventually come up. How do you really just keep going? I mean you are tired. You worked hard. You’ve got a lot of stressful crap going on. Can’t you just skip this crap for one day? two? a week? a month?

I hate to say it but there is really not a straight forward answer I can give you to this problem. What I can do is take you through the mental training I underwent to eventually conquer this.

One day at a time

When I first got started my older brother gave me this great advice: just take it one day at a time. Just make it through this day eating in the calorie limit. Just make this one day where you don’t eat that slice of pizza. Just get through this one hour of exercise. Do not think about the fact you have to do this tomorrow or that this is your whole week, etc. When you find yourself wandering into those thoughts just focus on clearing your mind and just finishing this one day. Do not let yourself evaluate the big picture.

I know that is all way easier said then done but it is crucial you practice this daily. You will see mental gains slowly accumulate where each day becomes easier, each workout becomes common, and when you pass from a day to a week to a month to months, you will have the biggest mental guns you can imagine…bro.

This is the Way

There are going to be times where you will need to give yourself a pep talk. Where you will need get yourself to remember why you need to get off the couch. Now you could sit and go over a deep, detailed account of why this is important but I found it more helpful to try and summarize that into a simple expression – a mantra if you will.

When I got started I was very focused on improving my life for my future family. I started saying “Fight for the Future.” When they brought those cakes in for birthdays at work or pizza for late night work sessions and I found myself reaching for it – I would close my eyes and just repeat to myself “Fight for the Future.” I know it can be cheesy but that one line had so much weight to it. The nerd part of me connected with the movie like expression. As time went on I found new mantras to keep it fresh but keep me focused. The one that I found so much success with came with the release of the teaser for Avengers: Endgame – “Whatever it takes.” I said that to myself a lot to keep me turning down those treats and adding 1 more minute to my run.

Be a badass like these badasses

I’ve pitched ones at friends getting started. My new favorite is “This is the Way” from the Mandalorian. In the show it represents and unbending practice of their code. When you have to turn down the fries and are hit with that gut punching sadness of not getting to taste that delicious basket of fried carbs just tell yourself “This is the Way” and remember the code you adhere to that is bigger then you.

Find the right mantra for you. Think of any movies, music, tv, or literature that mean something to you. You don’t need to keep it to pop culture either – go to history, to famous figures, or religious texts. Find something that will remind you of the spirit you need to keep fighting. Make it the tagline to the movie about your life – about the fight you are going through.

Showing up

Consistency is the real way you are going to win here. If the deficit in your diet is causing massive problems and is damn near unbearable then adjust the numbers to make it more reasonable. If the exercises you’ve been recommended are not working for you but another less effective method is then stick with that! Even though your progress will slow you are more likely to keep doing it and that is what matters the most in the end. You have to keep showing up!

Think about this as volume of practice. To get good at something you have to keep trying at it. You will stumble in this but the more you are willing to climb back up and give it one more day, the closer you are going to be to changing yourself forever.

Mantra

Meal Prep 101

Time to get to work y’all

I cannot emphasize enough how important the practice of meal prep was to losing weight and working towards a healthier lifestyle. At the most basic level, meal prep is preparing meals in advance of when you eat them. For me this means preparing lunches for the week – specifically work lunch. When you are at work you don’t have a lot of time or ability to create a healthy meal on the spot. If you do the work in advance you can take comfort knowing that regardless of what else happens nutrition wise that day – you got lunch covered. I’ll go over a couple of simple tips then dive into a super basic meal I’ve done for almost a year.

Come ready for battle

To make this easier I highly recommend the following gear:

The containers are designed to take measuring out of prep. Just fill up each compartment and be done with it. The Instant Pot is a super easy to use pressure cooker which will speed up cooking of a whole host of things – for me I find it clutch with preparing things like lentils or black beans.

What foods should I eat though?

There is a whole helluva lot you can make but I found this guide early on and it has been a great source of help:

Darebee Modern Hero Meal Plan

While I did not follow this plan to the letter I found it gave me a lot to work with. I try to follow the 4 hours between meals but I added a simple snack at the 2 hour mark. If you don’t like how this reads feel free to expand. Make the meal prep something you want – just be reasonable about nutritional content.

When you do meal prep, you are basically making a huge amount of food at once then dividing it up to access later. Since you are making so much and will need to do it every week you should make sure you pick something that is fairly simple and not a huge hassle to make. Of course that means the food itself will be simpler but as you progress in skill you can keep finding ways of jazzing it up. I’m gonna say it again though: keep it simple. Make sure the ingredients you use are easy to get each week and more importantly you kitchen tools are always available on your meal prep days. That last point is critical: do not let anything be held ‘hostage’ by the dishwasher.

Captain Browns’s Baked Chicken and Lentils

Trust me. This is really basic. I’m a whale biologist.

Ingredients

  • 3 lb (ish) of skinless chicken breast with rib meat (I’ll often try to get as close to 3 lbs with a 4 breast packet as I can)
  • 1 lb packet of Brown Lentils
  • 5-6 Vegetable Medley Bags (10oz per bag)
  • Salt, Pepper, and any rub you think looks good (just explore your spice cabinet)

This will make six meals.

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 F
  • Place some foil on a pan and spray some oil on it. Place the chicken on the pan.
  • OPTIONAL: using a Ziploc bag with a little oil in it, pound the chicken breasts to an event size. This is messy and kind of pain if you haven’t done it before so maybe skip the first time.
  • Put spices in a cup and place it next to the pan. Pour or spray a little oil (you won’t need to if you pounded it flat) and rub it on the chicken. Generously cover the chicken in the spice mix you made. Try to keep one hand clean and handling spice and one dirty which is handling the chicken. Do both sides.
  • Place chicken into the oven for about 30-40 minutes or until the chicken reaches about 165 F internally
  • Get another pan(s) and put foil down and spray some oil. Pour all the veggies onto the pan(s) and then spray lightly on the top. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on them. Place them in the oven as well for about 40-50 minutes.
  • Wash off the lentils and place them into the instant pot along with 2 cups of water. You may feel free to add spices here. Lentils are highly absorbent and will take on the flavors just be generous with the amount you put in to make sure it shows up.
  • Set Instant Pot to high pressure for 15 minutes and seal.
  • Let Instant Pot run its course and then do a ‘natural release’ for 10 minutes – that means don’t touch anything when it is done until the timer goes from 15 -> 0 -> 10. At that time, put on a cooking mitt and release the pressure (watch out for the steam!)
  • Turn off the instant pot and open that sucker up.
  • Remove the inner pot and place it on towel on the counter. Lightly stir to help heat release and aid in cooling down. Don’t over do it or else you will mash your precious lentils.
  • When the chicken is done, pull it out and set it on the stove to rest for about 10 minutes to reabsorb some of the juices.
  • Pull the veggies out when they are ready (keep an eye on em, don’t let em get too burnt).
  • Once the chicken is rested, get out a cutting board and start hacking it up and putting it into each container. I like to take one breast for 2 containers and split it up. Since I usually buy 4 breasts and am working with 6 containers I will have the 4th breast be the ‘back fill’ and even out the others.
  • Put lentils in the containers.
  • Fill each container with as many veggies as you can. Remember that veggies are more or less free when it comes to calories. PACK IN AS MUCH AS YOU CAN!

I make this on Sundays and will take 3 of the meals and put them in fridge and other 3 in the freezer.

When I eat this meal, I microwave it for about 4 minutes and prepare a simple dressing with 1/2 an avocado, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, ground mustard, and sriracha. It adds more calories but makes the veggies a lot more enjoyable. I recommend starting by making a simple vinaigrette and then experimenting form there.

That is it! If you have any basic cooking skills this should be laughable. If you were like me and the idea of baking chicken was scary just know you can do this and the more you unlock in the kitchen, the easier this is going to be and the more you are going to enjoy it.

My final advice with Meal Prep is not fear the kitchen. Taking that first step will always be a challenge. Keep pushing that goal post forward. Go forth and fear no darkness!

Ride! Ride to ruin and the world’s ending!