Tuesday, July 21, 2020

So, I've Dropped a Little Weight. Here's How.

Somewhere around the middle of April, a few weeks into the COVID lockdown and after a gluttonous period of comfort eating, I participated in a family Zoom meeting in which we wished Catherine's nephew a happy birthday. I sat in from of the computer in her office transfixed by the person looking back at me, a cartoon character like moon face playing along with the frivolity while I considered how bloated I was.

I think the eating spree was born of a sense of uncertainty about COVID--that there was no way the lockdown was going to last very long, so I might as well make hay while the sun shines and eat things I love that aren't that good for me. I was exercising each day, but pretty much lying to myself on that front too.  More on that in a second.

As the lockdown continued and so did my expansion, I think I realized that we were in this for a long haul, and that I needed to get my act in gear. So, on April 19, I weighed in at 198.7 pounds, tied with a late autumn 2014 measurement of the same magnitude. I keep a spreadsheet with weight measurements from much of the last 20 years, but this photo from my phone tells the story. 

In it, you can see the earliest entries from late October 2014. At the time, I was anticipating an early 2015 (second) hip replacement operation, I had ceased exercising due to the discomfort, and I ate myself through the holidays. Shortly after Christmas 2014 and in conjunction with the year of my 50th Birthday, I settled on a plan in which I was shooting for "150's by 50"-- that is, by June 27, 2015, I would once again be 159.9 lbs or less. I worked hard, cataloged some of it here in this blog, and was successful in reaching my goal.

Weight loss is a funny subject, as losing it is sometimes the easy part, with keeping it off more difficult. That said, I spent the vast majority of the next three years between 155 and 175, not great, but not horrible either. Then from the fall of 2018 through April of 2020, it was a steady climb back to all time rotundity.

Obviously, the question worth all of our consideration is whether five years from now, I will have another graph that shows yet another five year climb and attempted decline. I hope not. So, in response to absolutely no one's request, here's how I have lost 30 lbs during the COVID outbreak, with no real sense of what the eventual goal is. 

Take the Long View. I don't think any diet goal horizon worth pursuing is less than six months. I said to myself, "I am going to do this and stay with it through mid-September and see where it leads." By keeping my eyes on the far horizon, I am less tempted to fixate on predictable, constant, setbacks that happen along the way. 

Weigh Myself Every Day. This may seem counter-intuitive based on what I just wrote, and it is the source of considerable angst due to fluctuations, but it is another part of the discipline that I have to impose on myself to make this work. Yes, I have had NUMEROUS two or three day periods in the last 90 days in which my weight actually INCREASED--even though I had done the diet and exercise consistently. I don't know why this happens. Lots of people have views on it. But it happens--so you just have to ACCEPT IT and keep your eyes downrange on the 6 month point. But--and this I know from my spreadsheet--I cannot find a single one week interlude in that 90 days where I did not lose weight. PERIOD. No matter what day you pick, look a week later, and there is loss. So you may say, why not weigh yourself weekly. My answer is that the daily reminder is part of the discipline and is part of the inducement to stay the course.

Buy a Good Scale. They aren't that expensive, and none of us have the eyesight we once did to enable precise weight estimates on analog scales. Get a niche digital one that weighs to tenths of pounds. Mine has personal settings so that I get what I weigh, what the average of my last 3 weigh ins DIFFERENCE from what I weigh is, and what the average of my last 7 weigh ins difference is. Then it shows me my Body mass Index (BMI) and how many net calories I can eat at this weight in order to maintain this weight. I love all of these things because as I lose, I get to see multiple signs of it--weight (obviously), BMI (a slower/less responsive measure, but worthwhile) and calories. The number of calories to maintain body weight declines as your weight does, and you need to factor that into your eating. Weigh yourself at the same time every day. Every day. Every day.

Record every calorie. I use Myfitnesspal.com. It really doesn't matter which you use, although some have better databases than others. Most have the ability to use a product code reader if the product isn't in the database. Again, not a big deal which you use, but use one. Account for everything. If I eat five cherry tomatoes while making dinner, they get counted. Weigh stuff if you don't how much you're eating (we have a little kitchen diet scale). Don't lie. If you've had four dinner rolls, claim four dinner rolls. The more honest you are with yourself, the better. I tend to lie more when I am not trying to diet, than when I am dieting, because when I am not dieting, I am a pig.

Eat Less. Any of these diet programs will give you a guide. You'll enter some combination of your current weight, your goal weight, and a time horizon. The program will then give you a recommended number of net calories per day that you can consume to lose weight on the slope that you have determined. Some people say, I want to lose a pound a week. Some people say they want to lose 20 pounds in four months. Whatever you enter, the program will tell you how many calories you must eat (net, after exercise is accounted for) in order to track to that weight goal. When I say eat less, this is where the trouble comes in--as there are tons and tons and tons of different diets out there that will result in lowered caloric intake. I truly believe that you have to pick one that you can sustain. I really love pasta and bread. A diet that restricts them is somewhat difficult for me to sustain, but not impossible. If you told me that the diet I had to pursue dramatically reduced red meat, chicken, fish, seafood, pork, lamb etc--I would be unable to pursue it. Period. I know myself, and I won't live without those things. Therefore, I pursue a low carbohydrate approach, with less than 10% of my calories each day coming from carbs, with the rest coming from fat and protein. To the extent that I eat carbs, they come from vegetables. I don't want to be a missionary for low-carb eating. I only want to point out that this is a way for me to eat the things I REALLY like -- although less of them -- while dramatically cutting out carbs and sugars which I like, but can live without. In order to remain below my daily caloric intake goals, portion control is necessary. Here's how it works. Yesterday at lunch, I ate 8 old bay chicken wings (I skipped breakfast, don't @ me), and was looking in my freezer at the steaks available. I knew I was having roasted eggplant and asparagus, and so there was budget left for the main course. A 12 oz ribeye brought me in under calorie budget by 100. A 19 Oz cowboy ribeye would have busted it by a couple of hundred. I picked the 12 oz. I was one tenth of a pound less this morning than yesterday morning. Bottom line, I don't care what you eat, just eat less of it and eat enough less of it to get under your calorie budget. There are other important reasons to eat a low carb/sugar diet, but then I sound like an AMWAY salesman and so I'll leave it at this.

Move More. For the longest time as I gained weight...I walked on my treadmill. More days than most, but I missed plenty. I can alter both speed and elevation, and so I did, for a combination that (with my weight entered into the machine's computer) produced a 300 calorie burn in 30 minutes. And so I would dutifully add 300 calories burned into the afforementioned MyFitnesspal program, and then eat as desired. But--I was lying to myself and the program. Because when I was at 3 degrees or six degrees or any elevation for that matter, I held onto the safety rails of the machine. It changed the free-body diagram suggested by the exercise (thank you Mr. Evangelista 12th grade Physics) and so the energy I was using was considerably less than the machine was telling me. I knew this. It is no different than the calorie lies I was telling myself. But when I got serious again about dieting, I let go of the rails and walked as long as was required to get to 300 calories. This took about 40 minutes, rather than 30. As I lost weight, I began to add in periods of running, first a minute, then two, then five, then ten and now I run for 20, take a one minute walk, and then run for nine more--burning 350 calories or so along the way at zero elevation the whole way. I get that I have two metal hips and you're not advise to run after getting them, but there is give in the treadmill and it is far less stressful than road running. Point is, you can burn calories that enable you to eat a little more and still be under your daily net requirement. So move. Move more than you do now.

It Has to Work for You. My calorie budget today is 1580 calories to maintain the weight loss slope I am on. I will eat probably 1100 of them at dinner. I love dinner food (we've discussed this already) and so I "save up" calories during the day. I'll have an apple for breakfast. A little chicken salad on some greens at lunch. And then two nice pork chops, roasted brussels sprouts, and salad (no dressing) for dinner. Catherine cannot eat like this. She's more comfortable with more, smaller meals during the day. Do it however works best for you, but stay under your budget. Now, I am prone to "hangriness" and so mid afternoon I'll have a few cherry tomatoes, or a hard boiled egg, or something to cut the edge off. Also, I eat dinner around 5 or 5:15, so I don't extend the agony (Catherine has kindly decided decided to join me at my dinner, so I have company). I'll return to the kitchen later on when the Kittens gather to make whatever vegan joy it is they are making, just to participate in the family dinner hullaballoo. But I'm not hungry anymore, and I don't get hungry throughout the evening. Of course I'm usually abed by 10PM, so there isn't a whole lot of time to be hungry. Again, do what works for you.

Why not start today on your own plan? Maybe you won't do it at the pace I'm on, maybe you'll eat a lot of grains and lean meats, however you decide to do it is ok with me. 

1 comment:

John said...

Sage advice all the way around, especially the quality scale and tracking app. Accountability is the supreme motivator for me. I would also suggest adding some appropriate vitamin supplements to fill in any gaps not being sufficiently supplied by the diet itself. After learning that obesity was a significant co-morbidity for COVID, and having survived a horrendous "unknown virus" in January that mimicked the respiratory distress of COVID but was "confirmed" through testing at a much later date not to be COVID, I decided to lose some weight during the pandemic. I have always found the low-carb route to align with my eating style: 1) I can eat food I like, repeatedly, without a need for wide variety and fortunately, I like meat, cheese, and eggs, 2) I can eat quality and quantity in frequency, meaning my meals satisfy, rather than deprive. Salad? Sure, please add egg, bacon bits, and shredded parmesan with the creamy dressing for 2 grams of carbs, 3) As ketosis evolves, my appetite decreases and portion size naturally decrease, which contributes to more progressive ketosis, a wonderful cycle, 4) I can see results with or without exercise, however, exercise is a clear catalyst to weight loss. I currently walk 5.5 miles a day with a pace anywhere from 15 min/mile to 13.5 mins/mile over a total elevation change of about 1,000 ft., 5) I have become a bit of a low-carb culinary aficionado - I have learned to create amazingly tasty fat bombs, breads, chaffles, and entrees, that are really very satisfying. And staying satisfied while losing weight makes losing the weight seem more effortless. I am down only 24 pounds with another 26 to go, but the inches have fallen away quicker as I suspect the exercise is creating a little muscle. I am already no longer considered "obese". Whoever said "Nothing tastes as good as weight loss feels," may have been on to something. Wishing you continued success on your weightjourney, Bryan.

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