Fresh coats of paint.

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New colors and painting can change a perspective, can change an outlook, can change a demeanor, can change an aura.

So refreshing.

Who knew ‘Africa Violet’ would be as calming as it sounds? (Note: Photo above is not my apartment. Salmon is not a color I’d ever use.)

Life is good. This abode is starting to feel like a home lived in. Work is expanding and exciting. A sense of wholeness. A sense of happiness. A sense of satisfaction, however usually fleeting before I’m on to my next mountain to climb and self-imposed hurdles to jump over to attain a better version of myself.

But for now…just peace. Just calm. Just mirth. And letting chips fall where they may when it comes to getting that icing-on-the-cake kind of guy.

Semi-fatty never forgets: a story about a juice cleanse

ellenjt

Sorry, Ellen. I had to use this picture. But believe me, you look far better in this than I do. This was when we both used to wear all black to work because we were in mourning for ourselves.

But believe me that this photo is much better than this one:

kim and jt at bdubs

I’m pretty sure both of these photos are circa 2006/2007-ish. What I like to call my “Klump” years. (Sorry, Kim. But the good news is – she’s lost weight and looks great now, too!)

It’s time to finally tell you about my fat years, which were essentially from the ages of 15 to 25 I think. Now, when I say ‘fat,’ let’s be fair – never was I morbidly obese. However, I was not within a healthy weight range for my 5’9″ frame. As you can see, I carried (and still do) a lot of weight within my face/neck area. I chalk that up to pure genetic misfortune that no amount of weight loss would reveal a chiseled jaw line.

At my heaviest, I’m pretty sure I probably weighed at least 180lbs. Again, laughable by other people’s standards in terms of being overweight. The fact is, I ate a lot of junk throughout college. Woofing down buffet meal plans, binge drinking, having 4th meals because of Taco Bell and Waffle & Steak’s around-the-clock convenience, and not exercising all led to a chunky Justin.

You can scour the internet and find every gay man talk about his fat years and how once he came out or realized he was actually gay, he lost a lot of weight. I think there’s some truth to that within my own story, but overall coming out wasn’t the impetus to change my lifestyle or my appearance. However, the results did bolster my self-esteem, but more on that later.

Time to make a change

It was probably around the holidays of 2008 that I had a moment where I couldn’t stand looking at myself.

Granted, I never really did like looking in the mirror. All I saw was a big fat kid who wasn’t attractive. And to fit the other stereotype, I probably developed my humor as a result of not being attractive or fitting in based on how I looked, dressed, etc. Much less that I was weird…and gay.

So as I finished my Christmas meal, I became very aware of my own body. Not so much what I saw in the mirror but more aware that this was something I was doing to myself without even realizing. I recalled how we ate as a family and there weren’t a ton of fruits & veggies. We were a meat & potatoes kind of clan and my best friend after school was Little Debbie.

I had heard of this book called “Eat To Live” and I found it at a used bookstore and snatched it up. Some consider Fuhrman’s book to be filled with scare-tactics, but I think it really aligned with my desire for a complete overhaul of my relationship with food. The concept that food was less about pleasure and more about fuel was perfect for me at the time. Many great insights about how eating more vegetables and fruits can truly impact your health and how many nations that are less developed that have a more organic and less processed diet have far less chronic healthcare issues such as heart disease, cancer, etc. It’s not a diet. I REPEAT – this isn’t a book about how to diet. It’s for someone who needs to do something big when it comes to taking control of the relationship with food.

So I started the changes outlined in the book – more veggies, less refined sugar, no meat, very little dairy and I noticed amazing changes. I didn’t work out for the first two months because I knew I needed to change my behavior more than I was wanting to see physical progress, although that happened naturally.

As I dropped inches and pounds, I noticed that I started having more confidence, better self-esteem and was feeling amazing. Then I noticed that other people were noticing me. Me! The fat kid getting eyed up at the bar or just strolling out in public? Wow. Not expected and I still don’t know how to react/deal. But it felt good to be ‘seen.’ I slowly added a new running regimen and yoga to my life that went in tandem with this new dietary change and the results were great – both mentally and physically.

The good news is that when you change your lifestyle, you increase the likelihood of keeping off your weight and I’ve done just that. My weight generally stays between 135 – 140lbs, but I’ve also been adamant about never denying myself. I have an incontrollable sweet tooth so I don’t keep anything like that in my apartment. I do my snacking/grazing mostly at work but then do have a lot of greens & veggies for my meals and have just recently been more cognizant of my caloric intake. Because when uncontrolled, I will be a Hungry Hungry Hippo and eat everything in sight.

Why the cleanse

I decided to try out a 5-day juice cleanse from Peeled Chicago.

So why the cleanse? Well, I’ve wanted to try one always. And it’s said that it gives your entire digestive system a rest, improves your skin and flushes out excess toxins. I figured – nothing wrong with that, especially after some indiscretions over the holidays. And there was a deal – and that’s always appealing. I picked up my first 18 bottles of juice on Saturday and started on Sunday and this recaps the process:

Day 1:

The cleanse is setup to have six juices in a day; one juice every two hours. And lots of water and green tea.

The first juice is a ‘Green Lantern.’ Lots of greens, some ginger and apples – it’s tasty and the ginger adds a zing but isn’t overpowering. I’m used to this kind of flavor and taste.

Then there was the ‘Haute Lemonade.’ I’m not a fan of lemonade anyway but to have a more tart drink with cayenne pepper was not a great moment to experience mid-morning. It’s far less sugary than whatever you’re imagining with lemonade.

The third concoction is called ‘Maroon Five.’ Lots of beets & carrots with a touch of lemon & ginger again. It’s a little sweeter and more palatable. Only three juices in and and I’m already wanting to EAT something. Not out of hunger but I just want to chew something for flavor.

Juice 4 is another ‘Green Lantern.’ It’s still weird I’ve not chewed anything all day. I must have an oral fixation.

Juice 5 is another ‘Maroon Five’ and even as I retrieved it from the fridge, I stared longingly at a chicken breast and I was equal parts angry and sad. So, food rage has partially begun.

The last juice of the day, #6, is a ‘Cashew Milk,’ more protein rich & loaded with vitamin E. IT’S FUCKING DELICIOUS. After going through a day where you feel nearly bloated on liquid, this was just what I wanted. It was a little sweet and had some cinnamon/vanilla spice to it. A comfort drink, if you will. It makes me realize how I will crave this every day.

Throughout the day I felt at times energetic and then I’d hit a wall and want to sleep, but I powered through knowing that I’d never make it through the night. I also had a concert to attend, where the odds were stacked against me. The singer, Jessie Ware, hit the stage at 11pm. On a Sunday night. I wanted to cry. I thought, “I’m hungry, I don’t want to go out into the freezing cold much less be around people drinking/eating.” But I thought she might never come back so I had to go. And I love her.

I just hope my ass gets some sleep.

Day 2:

Woke up energized and did fairly well all day. The desire to chew something still remains. I just want to CHEW something and then spit it out. I guess I am orally fixated when bored.

I did find that my energy level dipped in the afternoon but that could have been a result of staying out late last night. But the Ware was worth it.

I’m also craving the ‘Cashew Milk’ like no other. Probably for the protein and sweet, filling nature of the consistency.

Day 3:

Most normal people would have only done the three-day cleanse. Not me, no. Not the masochist that I am. And today I had to stop to pick up the final two days of juices.

The day started off sucking because it was 3 degree outside and I had to go to the dentist before work, where I learned I have a small cavity that I will have to fill on Thursday (yes, faithful reader – Day 5, the final, of the cleanse).

Today I was a bit hungrier than the prior two days and started to just get more loopy or out of it. Could be because my juices were spaced out too far apart or it’s just typical of day 3. Each day I hit my ‘wall’ around 2 pm, and then typically again around 5. I’ll blame it on waking up earlier today and the weather.

I will say that today I sniffed dark chocolate & peanut butter cupcakes someone brought into the office. I sniffed them several times. I’m already contemplating what textures and flavors I want in my first meal after this is over. Sushi sounds good. So does steak. So does Mexican food of any kind. Hell, I want a Big Mac.

Day 4:

I just can’t talk about it. Tired. Hungry or rather I’m wanting to chew/eat something with a different flavor.

Day 5:

Energy returned, either because I’d gotten used to the juices or I was so excited that I only had hours left. I became aware of how heightened my sense of smell was. And how I could smell things (like peanut butter dark chocolate cupcakes) and willingly walk away. I have the inkling that whatever I eat tomorrow will be so rich in flavor & texture. I think I’m going to go light though, so as to not completely destroy my digestive tract after it’s week of rest. Salads, legumes, maybe some sushi.

The end of the road & the beginning 

Woke up this morning and didn’t really think/care about food. I had some oatmeal and got a hot chocolate from Starbucks but after about 3 sips, knew that it was too sugary/milky/fatty. I think that as a result of this cleanse, I’m going to be more aware & picky about what I eat. For instance, I do crave salad & vegetables – not necessarily fruit or anything sweet.

For those who are all about the weight loss component – I lost roughly about seven pounds, which put me at 133. I can already hear the gasps and groans of some of you going, “That’s sick.” To be honest, I don’t think I look much different. If nothing else, the cleanse really does just lean you out – takes off the extra water weight and ‘fluff’ you may have. But I already know the danger of this sort of thing – you then immediately want to eat everything after the fact and you’ll put on all the weight & inches you lost.

So today – and going forward – is more about being conscious of what I’m putting into my body. For instance, drinking is of no interest. Dairy is basically not of interest. That bloated feeling is so much more apparent to me now and I’m more cognizant of how to avoid it (not overeating/drinking).

I think counting calories and restricting yourself to a certain number a day is a great place to be if you’re looking to truly be more aware of your diet. Read nutrition labels – pay attention to fat, sugar, sodium, cholesterol. Eat more greens & vegetables of various colors. Them’s my marching orders.

However, let it be known: I’ll never not eat buffalo wings.

Before & afters (bitch face is permanent)

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Wowed by Jessie Ware.

Jessie Ware

Despite being on my juice cleanse and her stage time being 11pm, I ventured out last night to see Jessie Ware, the British darling of the music world last year with her debut album Devotion. The album is certainly one of my personal standouts from 2012 and I cannot wait for her to fully expand her prowess in 2013.

As part of the TNK festival at Lincoln Hall, Ware took the stage promptly after 11 and apologized for the lateness and couldn’t believe “the fucking cold.” That’s Chicago for you in January, though.

With only one album under her belt, Ware tore through a 50-minute show with more guts & gusto than is found on the album. With a 3-piece band behind her, Ware was vocally stronger and showed off a range that feels a little understated within the electronic hum of the album.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YyY5upiRO8Q

Songs like “Taking in Water,” dedicated to her younger brother, truly came to life with more gravitas. Her biggest hit, “Wildest Moments,” inspired couples in the audience to clutch to one another despite the song having somewhat of a bittersweet lyric.

> Watch a rendition of “Taking in Water” below:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGkPx4gxvn8

My favorite moments would have to be the interpolation of Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You” laid atop “No To Love,” one of the album’s funkier tracks that I just love. “Sweet Talk” also just had that delightful groove of late 80s Anita Baker gone pop.

> Watch a rendition of “Sweet Talk” below:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0TrD96ry4w

Ware, decked out in trademark crop-top and high-waisted harem pants, was absolutely charming and a gracious singer. My friend Anthony told me before the show that her sister had a breakout role in the Chicago-based television series “Boss,” featuring Kelsey Grammar. So imagine how much we shit ourselves when she herself brought up the same reference. Ware was a cross between the demeanor of Tracey Ullman and the style of Lisa Bonet in a chunkier, Dee-Lite style heel.

> Check out Anthony’s photos from the show.

The other standout moments for me were “Swan Song” and the cover of Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do For Love,” which can be found on the new E.P. IF You’re Never Gonna Move. Oddly enough, Ware’s album had been on iTunes but she herself made a joke last night that it was ripped off the store and should be ‘officially’ out in the states in April.

You can pick up the EP below on iTunes and scour the web for Devotion if you’re down for such things.

If You're Never Gonna Move - EP - Jessie Ware