Before I unveil our results, a few things I’ve learned over the past month:

  • Accountability is majorly important. To a spouse, a friend, the mirror. Accountability can carry you a long way.
  • Getting outside and getting some exercise cannot be overstated.
  • Some people will not be as supportive as you might think. Even the backhanded compliment can eat at your willpower. “Yeah it’s working, but you’re not being healthy.” Let’s all support each other!
  • Tortilla chips are the devil.
  • Emotional eating and comfort food when the day turns south … a very dangerous and slippery slope.
  • Life is short … enjoy it!
  • Out of failure often grows success
  • The wellness lifestyle is just that … a lifestyle change, not a one-time thing with a finish line.
  • The calorie debit card. It’s the easiest and best way for me to consider each and every decision I make throughout the day
  • News flash: I really, really like beer a lot.

Thanks for taking a ride with me this month, as I expose my inner demons and share with you the inner wrestling matches I have multiple times per day. I have learned so many things about myself, and they will all equip me to venture forward, hopefully maintaining and even increasing the positive progress I’ve made. (And if you see me in a Mexican restaurant, seriously, slap the tortilla chip out of my hand.)

The Results Are In!

When I started this challenge a month ago, I shared a real-life photo of my scale as of February 1. I was sitting at a way-too-big 232.8. Four weeks, lots of learning, and loads of beer later, today I do slightly less damage to the scale:

4.8 pounds lost in the last month!


It’s not a super-crazy, massive loss, but I believe that it proves the point I was hoping to prove.

YES! You can splurge for those nachos … but you have to be careful the rest of the day.

YES! You can enjoy girls’ night out on the town, but you have to budget for it earlier in the day.

YES! You can have the boys over for a bottle share, but you’d better stick with salad for lunch.

This is all about moderation. Living life to its extremes and excesses may work when you’re 22 and have the metabolism of an Olympic athlete. Once we get older and gravity starts to do its thing, we have to be much more cognizant of what we’re taking in. Cardio/ sports, exercise … calorie burn is a great way to offset this trend.


While the challenge may be over, the renewed commitment to living a better and healthier lifestyle is just beginning. Share with us your tips, tricks, and best practices for enjoying life … within reason.


Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

Or is it? Yes, my month long journey with the #DrinkAndDropChallenge reaches its conclusion today. A 28-day exbeeriment to see if living within some boundaries allows one to enjoy the finer things in life without turning into a massive sack of blubber. If you’ve been following along, you have seen me wrestle with days when I make unfathomably poor choices and days when life just doesn’t seem to work… which leads to even more poor choices. You’ve seen me hit ‘eureka moments’ when I feel like I get it, and days when I get so much cardio in – it seems impossible to fail. I’ll wax poetically tomorrow about what I’ve learned, but the main point is – there are good days and bad days; zeniths and nadirs … but we always need to focus on the next decision.

And that’s where I’m going with today’s post. It’s the end of this four-week challenge, but it is in no way an end to my renewed focus on living life within the margins. I know that I can still fully enjoy life, as long as I do so with some understanding of my limitations. It’s strangely liberating and almost sounds like a contradiction. “As long as I limit myself, I can live life more fully.” I have enjoyed the heck out of this past month. I set out to have “at least one beer per day”, but as you know, that quite often became 2 or 3 or …

So, while I have been living within the bounds of some form of moderation, I do not feel as though I have been limited. That knowledgethat I can have my beer and drink it too, is exceptionally liberating. Again – I’ll have the full synopsis available tomorrow. No spoilers today!

Last Day’s Food

  • Breakfast. It wouldn’t seem right to have anything other than my standard Fiber One bar, right?
  • Lunch. Had leftovers from the previous night: chicken fajita taco meat on iceberg lettuce with some salsa on top. I caved and had one serving of tortilla chips. I’m human. (Yes – 1 serving. I counted out 13 chips.)
  • Dinner. My daughter rocked her performance at the school talent show (singing Vance Joy’s “Riptide”) and so she was allowed to choose dinner. We went to CPK, which is a great choice! Not only do they clearly list their calories, making decisions easier, they also have some great and yummy lower-cal options. I opted for the Banh Mi bowl for 540 calories. Fabulous!

What Beer Though?

  • thought I would end up having one of my very favorites. This place usually has Chimay Blue in the bottle. Alas, last night they did not. I went completely old skool and ordered one of my first loves – a Newcastle. It still doesn’t disappoint. Slightly sweeter than I remember, it’s still a really solid option.
  • I followed that up with a pint of Sam Adams Winter Lager.

And that’s a wrap. Weigh-in is unveiled tomorrow. Drum roll …

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

It’s going to sound a lot like I was cramming for the mid-term. There are only a few days left in the #DrinkAndDropChallenge – not a lot of time left to sway those final results one way or the other. However, I promise that today was just a really good day. And there were LOTS of opportunities for movement and activity.

Started out as a normal day. I had my standard, regular breakfast and then sat at my desk for my standard, regular work day. Lunch was … odd. I basically just emptied old containers of leftovers in the fridge. It wasn’t a bad meal, per se. It was just a weird combination of food. And then back to the grind at the desk. All the while, I had two potential plans for the evening that would each entail a good bit of activity. One – my kid had a baseball scrimmage, but the weather was on the iffy side. Two – my regular tennis crew was talking about getting together later, dependent on whether or not they could schedule a playoff match. So, this evening could be non-stop action, completely sedentary, or somewhere in the middle.

Weather held off, so the baseball game was a go. I’m the first base coach and then stand behind home plate in the other half of the inning. It’s unbelievable how many steps I can get in just walking the 60 feet between my two stations in a game. I put up about 5,000 steps in that hour plus (I think I pace a lot communicating with the kids on first.) Super fun and successful evening, spending time with my boy. On the way home, I get the text message that says tennis is a go. Home to change shoes and pack the cooler, and then back out.

We played for a little over 2 hours, and an additional 8,000 steps … bringing my total for the day to over 18,000. Had a blast, got in a ton of exercise … and I still hadn’t eaten dinner. Got home a little after 10 and had some chicken taco meat on lettuce with salsa as a ‘dressing.’ Really delicious and low-cal way to finish the day. It’s certainly far from ideal to eat that late at night, but it was still a great day overall.

Of course, I drank at tennis!

Random assortment of beers in the cooler tonight (2 of which have already been featured this month):

Tomorrow is the last day!! Weigh-in with official results comes the day after.

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

So, those of you who know me well know that my wife is pretty much a rock star. In approximately eleventy gajillion different ways. (Yes – that’s a real number, I promise.) Wife, mother, friend … that’s just internal to this family. She’s funny, brilliant, smokin’ hot, detailed, focused, organized … I could go on until the end of time, but I think you get the point.

So, juggling house, kids, work, activities, volunteer gigs, and so much more – she somehow has time to rock a side hustle. She’s a consultant with Rodan + Fields skincare. If you haven’t heard already – it’s pretty much the greatest pile of products ever. I’ll let you talk to her about that. So, she keeps killing it month after month, bringing in the side hu$tle, which allows us to do some extra cool stuff … trips, home upgrades, etc. And now, she’s hitting extra milestones with her team, and that’s getting us invited to extra special perk trips. Last night was a quick, fun outing to Top Golf.

Good times were had by all … but the food was not the sort of thing that led me in good directions. I mean … look at this spread:

I think there’s maybe a grape or a jalapeno slice in there somewhere that I could have had and stayed true to the regimen. So, I jumped in and enjoyed it, without getting too over-the-top. Sausage, sliced meats, cheese, nachos (in the background) … not my best job at dinner. The only silver lining here is that I didn’t overdo it. I still had that little angel on my shoulder reminding me to go easy on it. And then the stupid red devil on my other short kept trying to get me to go astray. I think I did okay … not great and not terrible … just okay. And I believe that we can have some ‘just okay’ days from time to time. Eyes on the longterm prize!

Last night’s beer selection was decent, but certainly not great. There was a grand total of one beer (draught or bottle/can) that I had never had before. New Belgium Brewing has apparently brewed a golden ale for use at Top Golf locations. It’s called Tap In (just give it a little tap. Tap-tap-tapperoo), and it’s not bad. Kinda like my day – not great or terrible – just okay.

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

If you’re my age-ish, you’re singing that chorus in your head now, aren’t you?

The kids are back in school, The crazy, bright, orange ball in the sky has returned. It’s just a normal day back to reality. But the real reality is that I can’t go back to what was the norm. This #DrinkAndDropChallenge will soon end, and I cannot just fall back into my old ways. And I think that’s the #1 demise of anyone who embarks on a new weight-loss journey. “I dumped carbs and lost 50 pounds.” And then that person adds carbs back to the diet and gains 51 pounds. “I went to the 6 tiny meals per day challenge and lost 25 pounds.” That became the 4 massive meals per day complex and the weight came back in a torrent. There is a difference between a diet and a lifestyle change. It’s like the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is fleeting and influenced by external circumstances. “I’m happy that my team won last week, but I’m unhappy that they lost tonight.” A diet is like happiness – it’s not built to be sustainable.

But joy … or lifestyle changes … this is where real, perpetual success comes in. Bad things may happen to me, but my joy is internal and cannot be swayed by what happens around me. A health-based lifestyle change is designed to be something I plan on staying with. A Whole 30 diet is usually followed for 30 days and then dropped. Many people experience weight gain after ‘completing’ the 30 days. But if it’s seen as a lifestyle change, results can last and continue to grow. My plan is to make this new calorie experiment a lifestyle change. This will be my joy, not my happiness.

Today’s Food

  • Breakfast. Yup.
  • Lunch. We had some leftover chicken nuggets in the fridge. I am the KING of leftovers for lunch … for 2 reasons. One – I hate throwing food out. And two – why waste $10 driving somewhere to buy something when we have food at home? I ate them because they were there, and I didn’t allow myself tons of time. Still, only 500 calories!
  • Dinner. I made spaghetti for the family. By my best calculations, the meat sauce I made over a small am0unt of zucchini noodles (zoodles) comes to about 550 calories. If you’re doing the math, I still have truckloads of calories leftover. And that’s a good thing, because …

Tonight’s Beer

I’d been saving this one. Yeah, it’s the monster in the photo above. It’s a Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, Aged in Bourbon Barrels. Goose Island releases several varieties of this beer every year, and almost all of them are illegal to buy in Georgia. We still limit the ABV of a beer to 14%, for some reason. Doing some Google work, I found that this one came in at 14.7%. And at 17 ounces … yeah. I’m guesstimating somewhere in the 550 calories range for this monster. But …. O. M. Goodness. Sweet, beautiful, boozy, heavy, I want more … now. There is a reason that this one carries a 4.5+ rating on Untappd (virtually unheard of.) Yes … that same Goose Island that sold out to AB-InBev. I would argue that the everyday beers from Goose have diminished in quality since the acquisition … beers like Honkers and 312. But their Barrel House series each year is straight fire. I just need Georgia to change the limitations on beer, or I need to do a lot more travelling to Chicago.


Only 3 days left. The challenge is nearly complete! What will the results be?

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

Freedom, for so many reasons. First – my kids were on Winter Break last week. For those who aren’t familiar with my local school district’s calendar, let me give you the Cliff’s Notes version. Apparently, kids here need to have a full week off every hour and half or so. We start at the beginning of August and then get at least a full week off in September, November, December/ January (2 weeks), February, and April. The kids love it … the parents, not so much. Fortunately, my wife and I both work from home, so we don’t have to pay crazy $$$ to put them in camp or hire a college kid to watch them. Unfortunately, we’re both home with  them full time. And that causes … friction. But wait, there’s more.

Atlanta is now SEATlanta. It rains here more than it does in some tropical forests. Last week, with the kids home, we had monsoon-ish rain every day but one. So – imagine a bunch of energetic kids locked in a house with two people trying to work … and they have nowhere to go to expend energy. This caused a decent amount of … friction.

Fast forward to today, Sunday the 24th. Mark it down as a day with actual, real, honest-to-goodness sunshine. Not a cloud in the sky. Idyllic conditions. Freedom. Freedom from the week of no school (because they go back to some level of sanity starting tomorrow), and they were able to play outside. Calgon, take me away.

Today’s Food

Yes, even though the fields were a swamp, my kid’s baseball team decided to swim through practice. So, I got a bunch of additional activity in today. That, coupled with tons of work in the yard in the sole window between torrential downpours, gave me a massive headstart on the day.

  • Running out the door for church this morning, I grabbed the ole standby – my Fiber One bar.
  • Lunch – I kinda assumed that practice would be cancelled because it rained all night. Alas no, we still met. I barely had time to get home from church, change, and get to the fields, so I just had another Fiber One bar. Yeah … if you’re scoring at home, that makes two for the day. Definitely getting my fiber in. On the way home, I caved and got myself a small bag of Doritos. It was a small fail, but at that point, even those disgusting looking hot dogs on rollers in the gas station looked appetizing.
  • Dinner – it was soup and grilled cheese sandwich night for us. But to be honest, the grilled cheese sounded gross – just because of the calorie and nutrition value. I’m almost excited to be thinking that way. Yes, they’re delicious, but my sole focus right now is on having one good day after another. I made some stovetop Kung Pao Chicken – not low cal at all, but it wasn’t over-the-top either. Today has been a good calorie day.

Beer. Beer is Good

See the sunshine in the background??

As mentioned above, the sun was out. It was beautiful, truly. I coached my youngest in baseball, I played basketball with my oldest, I did some work in the yard. It just felt good to be outside. Today was a day for day-drinking. I started off with some Wild Leap Alpha Abstraction Vol. 4. They now have 5 different versions of this beer. I’ll admit that I’ve only had Vol 3, 4, and 5. And this is my least favorite … I still love it. It’s a delicious beer, and it makes me happy. Imagine how much I liked #3 and 5!

But wait, there’s more. I then turned to Nashville’s finest … Bearded Iris Homestyle. I am winning Sunday. Hazy, citrusy, smooth, delicious, consistent. This is a fantasttc beer. And then, yeah. I added a DFH 90-Minute IPA, just for good measure. THIS was a great Sunday!

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

No, I’m not wishing myself happy trails. Read the dinner portion to learn more.

  • Breakfast. In the haste to run out the door for errands, I forgot to grab something. So, 0 calories, but not so good for the metabolism.
  • Lunch. Hehehehehehehe. The kids have been trained well, and so we went to Taco Mac. Hehehehehehehe. I worked my new strategy of getting half-size nooner pours. More on the beer below. For lunch, I ordered three chicken fajita tacos. At only 192 calories each, it’s not a bad option for lunch!
  • Dinner. A dear friend (initials M.E.) has recently retired and will soon move to the coast. So, our group of three couples met for our annual tradition of oysters. Raw oysters are surprisingly more caloric than I would have thought. In the neighborhood of 40 calories each, not including the cracker and horseradish. But I only had three and then opted for blackened grouper over basmati rice. And several people ordered dessert – I abstained.  Small victories.

Today’s Beer

At lunch, I had three nooners. At only 5 ounces each, they’re enough to get a nice taste without going too far.

  • Founders Blushing Monk. Boozy. That’s all I have for you. Boozy and boozier.
  • Left Nut Exotique. Really nice and smooth. It’s a Belgian Golden Ale, and it had all of the maltiness and complexity that you might imagine. Really nicely balanced. It was the best of the three I had at lunch.
  • Elysian Men’s Room Red. Just meh. It was fine. After boozy #1 and really complex and smooth #2, it just became … the other beer I had at lunch. Not bad, but nothing special either.

And then for dinner:

I was so excited to see the tap list. They had Sweetwater Festive and Second Self Mole Porter. THOSE would be my two beers of the evening. SCORE!! I ordered the Festive first, and then was met with the eventual sentence we all hate … “I’m sorry; we’re all out of that one.”  Oh well, I can move onto to the next option. As I was set to order the Mole Porter, she said, “And we’re also out of that one.” Sigh.

I had two pints of Basement, but I was kinda sad about it. What to do when the restaurant doesn’t have the beer you’re dying to have?

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

We have one week remaining in the #DrinkAndDropChallenge. One week to prove the doubters wrong, or hang my head in shame at a failed experiment. It’s the last weekend of the challenge, so the next three days are pivotal.

Regardless of what the scale says next week, however, I will look back on this little exercise as a beneficial one for me long-term. Lose a few or gain a few … whatevs. The main thing that I have gained this month has been perspective. I more fully understand what my drivers and weaknesses are; I know what to try to avoid at all costs (please keep the basket of tortilla chips on the other side of the table); I have learned the resources I need to help me be more successful. For these reasons, and so many more, this month has been successful. Now – to see if the scale agrees!

This was a day where I really go to know the concept of the calorie debit card. If I tell myself that I start the day with 1900 calories on my debit card, I know I have to subtract (or debit) from that ‘account’ each time I eat or drink something. I can always deposit into the account with more exercise. But the key here is to know what the balance is at all times and understand that we have to budget for future withdrawals.

Case in point, we were going to meet friends for dinner at a local burger joint, and that is fraught with all sorts of temptations. (They have fried pickles and fried zucchini sticks that are stupid good.) And a really good tap list of local brews. But I had to be smart throughout the day in order to budget for my dinner.

The Food

  • Breakfast. Bi-weekly men’s group meeting. I opted for the turkey sausage platter: two patties of turkey sausage, one scrambled egg white, mixed fruit, and wheat toast. Less than 400 calories off the debit card.
  • Lunch. This ended up being the key to the day. With proper calorie budgeting, I knew I had to take it easy here. I went with my standard chicken/raw veggie salad. Only about 450 calories. I’ve got more than 1,000 left in the day!
  • Dinner. I planned ahead. With menus online, we can almost always plan ahead. I got the black bean burger (don’t laugh – I think they’re quite tasty) in a lettuce wrap with onions, relish, and sauteed mushrooms. For a side, instead of the fried stuff, I opted for feta, cucumber, tomato salad. Only about 450 calories. Which left me plenty of budget room for  …


Sorry – no photos tonight. I forgot to take them. I had two small pours of the Scofflaw Neapolitan Milkshake Stout. Just … so … good. My bride even had a sip and remarked, “This is the best dark beer you’ve ever had.” And doesn’t like the darker heavier beers. Hints of just what the name suggests: chocolate, vanilla, strawberry. So flipping good.
And then we went back to the friends’ house and they offered me a Gate City OTP DIPA. I can’t say no to that. It was a great way to finish the day – and I still had a positive balance on the debit card. A nice way to start the weekend!
Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

I’m on a roll. I mean, not a literal roll … ya know those are full of butter and fat and deliciousness. I can’t have that going on. I mean that we’re on a roll with a few good days in a row. Maybe it’s just taken me some time to get used to this whole thing. Don’t get me wrong – I have no delusions that a few successful days in a row mean that I’m in the clear and finally ‘get it.’ But I think it’s okay to celebrate the small milestones and victories.

Side note: it’s been extra difficult to be good this week. It has rained, I think, 847 out of the last 848 days in Atlanta. We’re starting to mold. And when cabin fever sets in, sometimes the knee-jerk reaction is to either have an extra drink or to head to the pantry for some good quality useless junk food. I take extra pride in the fact that I have not done that. Yet. Silver linings!

Yesterday’s food …

  • Yes, I broke with tradition on my typical breakfast once again. Total rebel, I opted for a banana. And that’s it.  Good start!
  • Lunch was another of my relatively bland salads. About 500 calories of roasted chicken and veggies. Slightly less cheese this time. Really small victories?
  • Dinner. I was in charge of figuring out dinner. Now, I’ll be transparent and tell you that I was given a list of potential ingredients for the meal. But I did the combinations and flavors myself. Kinda happy with how it came out. I basically used some frozen veggies, cauliflower rice, and steamed shrimp to make a stir-fry. A little bit of avocado oil, soy sauce, and lemon juice … we had ourselves a crazy low-cal dinner that was actually quite tasty.

And then there’s beer

Basking in the glow of dinner and a pretty solid day, I allowed myself two beers. Two yummy beers.

First was a special beer that I actually ordered and had shipped to me. If you follow this blog at all (of course you do, if you’re still reading this far) you know that I love Trappist beers. So, when Spencer became the first Trappist brewery in the US, I was hooked without ever having had the product. Initially, they only brewed a patersbier (much lighter in color and flavor than a traditional dubbel) which was quite good. Fast forward a few years and they have added tons of new beers to the arsenal. Last night, I had a grapefruit IPA from their ‘fruit series.’ Beautiful nose of citrus (duh) and a nicely balanced taste. It was a little dry on the finish, but not anything that detracted from the experience. High marks for this one.
The second choice was a 2016 Pannepot Vintage Old Fisherman’s Ale brewed by De Struise Brewing in Belgium. (Speaking of Trappist beers and Abbey-style beers …). This one is a quadrupel, weighing in at 10%, and it is TREMENDOUS. Ohmagoodness, this beer was smooth, slightly boozy, and full of flavor from an array of spices and a raisin-y taste. Oh so good. I only had one in the fridge. Must. Find. More.
Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

Death … taxes … banquet chicken with green beans and a salad. Sorry, Ben Franklin … but there are three certainties in life.

You’ve been to this meal. Hundreds of people crammed into a round table with enough plates and silverware for a small army. The salad (usually with things that resemble weeds pulled from the yard) is pre-set, and the dessert is there too, sitting just north of your plate … mocking you. I do not fault the organizers, the facility, the planners … really anyone at all. I cannot imagine what it must be like to prepare a meal for that many people at the same time.

The issue I have is, once again, an internal demon. The salad is fine. I can eat the weeds with some balsamic sprinkled on top. But then, the only choices left are 1) eat it or 2) don’t eat it. I don’t get a menu and, with it, the ability to make sound selections. It’s only a series of binary reactions … eat or don’t eat. Rolls with dollops of butter … passed around the table. (That dessert is still mocking me. “One little bit pre-entree won’t hurt.”) They clear the salad, and a pregnant pause ensues … the entree isn’t here and yet the dessert continues to laugh.

Finally, a respite. The entree arrives. Chicken with squeaky green beans, all slathered in a sauce that is equally good and caloric … and a starch. Mashed potatoes, mac n cheese. Something I shouldn’t have. And still, the dessert seems to say, “Skip all that nonsense, and jump straight to me.” What to do. It’s all about will-power (or in my case, and extreme lack thereof.) I’ve learned a few tricks in the eleventy-four bazillion banquet meals I’ve attended.

  1. Eat the salad. It’ll start to fill you up, and is certainly the best option for you the entire meal.
  2. Skip the bread. 99 times out of 100, it will be okay, but it’s not going to be hot and soft and delicious. You’ll be disappointed and then angry that you wasted the calories.
  3. Entree time … eat the protein and the vegetable. Try to leave some of the starch for the staff to take away. Just don’t finish everything.
  4. Dessert. Yeah – it’s going to talk to you. A few options here
    1. Finish your entree and then literally cover it with your napkin. It can’t mock you if you don’t see it.
    2. Ask the server to take it away before you give in temptation.
    3. Eat 2 bites. ONLY 2 bites. That way, you can still satisfy the sweet tooth, but you’re not breaking the calorie bank in doing so.

How’d We Do Today?

  • Breakfast. Not sure why I even list the meal anymore.
  • Lunch. Banquet time. Yeah … roasted chicken, mac n cheese, green beans, salad, and a collection of brownies. I’ll admit that I had a 3rd bite, breaking the aforementioned rule. But I was still not all that bad.
  • Dinner. Grabbed a grilled chicken salad later in the day. Super lite dressing. Feeling pretty good about decisions so far.

Wednesday’s Beer

I didn’t get home from baseball practice until 9:00 … and still needed to eat dinner. So, it was a 1-beer night. I found this little gem hidden in the depths of the beer fridge. Unibroue (pronounced you-ni-brew; NOT as though someone has a single eyebrow) is one of the best, if not THE single best, brewery in Canada. Located just east of Montreal, they have long been producing some high-quality beers that are true to the Trappist traditions of Europe. And that’s completely my jam. Today, I enjoyed their dubbel, Maudité. It’s a little boozier tasting than some dubbels, but the flavors are absolutely on point. I don’t know why I tend to overlook Unibroue, because their beer is exactly the style that I love, and it’s pretty readily available. Shame on me. This will change.
And tomorrow ends the penultimate week in the #DrinkAndDropChallenge. About to enter the home stretch. Results will be coming soon!
Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington