Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Derby Day Weigh In and A New Kind of Goal

A Quick Recap
On February 28th in a post entitled "The Initial Weigh In" I resolved to weigh in at 250 lbs by Kentucky Derby Day (this past Saturday).  This would require a total weight loss of 28 lbs, which would mean an average weight loss of 3 lbs per week.  On April 7th, weighing in at approximately 260 lbs, I got bored with my exercise routine and decided to stop logging endless miles on the elliptical and concentrate on weight training.  That day I began a "mass building" routine, but remained steadfast in my goal to drop the remaining 10 lbs in less than 1 month.

Well... Did you make it?
The answer to that question is...

Yes, but barely, and it wasn't easy.

It wasn't easy at all, my friends, and there were more than a few obstacles to overcome, the first of which was illness.  For one whole week our entire family contracted some sort of virus.  Nothing too serious, but the kind of bug that comes with a nasty cough, congestion, fever, and a general lack of energy.  After doing a little research I decided that while ill it was best to avoid the gym, even though it would hinder my weight loss.  I did, however, manage to keep my calorie intake fairly low which allowed me to avoid any weight gain.

The second challenge that I faced was one I knew was necessary due to the new work out routine... an increase in daily caloric needs.  I had decided to increase my daily calories by 300-500 (to approximately 2000 per day) to aid in building muscle.  The increase in calories was more of a challenge than I had anticipated for a few reasons.  The obvious reason is that it could potentially stunt weight loss. To compensate, I have cut cheat days down to one per month.

The less obvious issue was finding a way to intake 2000 "clean" calories each day.  If you have never tried it, you may not realize how much healthy food you would have to eat in order to reach 2000 calories.  Here is a sample day to help you visualize:

Breakfast: 380 calories
2 slices turkey bacon
1 cup of coffee with skim milk
2 eggs
1 egg white
1/2 cup whole grain oats
Post Work Out:  210 calories
1 Zone protein bar
Lunch: 310 calories
1 can chicken breast
1/2 can black beans
4 tbsp salsa
Dinner: 452 calories
1 cup spaghetti squash
4 meatballs
1/2 cup spaghetti sauce
2 cups baby spinach
1 serving lite balsamic vinaigrette dressing
Snacks: 600 calories
2 servings  unsalted peanuts
2 tbsp hummus
1 Carbmaster yogurt
2 cups celery
1 serving deli turkey breast
2 slices natural cheese
Before Bed: 160 calories
1 cup fat free cottage cheese
Grand Total: 2123 calories (174 g protein)

Yes, that is a lot of food.  I feel like I am constantly eating, and I know the people around me have to wonder how I am losing weight, but most of this food is about as healthy as you can get. It all contains lots of lean protein, fiber, healthy fats, and the good kind of carbs.

What's Next?

I also stated on February 28th that on May 4th I would choose a date to reach my final goal. Well... I lied. While I would still like to weigh 195 lbs eventually, I am still not comfortable putting a date to it.  This is mostly because of the change in my work outs.  With my focus on weight training I hope to start packing on some muscle, which will obviously alter the way the number on the scale changes.

I am currently in week number four of a 10 week mass gaining program.  During the remaining 6 weeks I have resolved to only weigh myself once each week, simply to ensure that I am not gaining too much weight from the increased calories.  Although it is already proving difficult to keep from weighing myself daily, I know that the best way to judge my progress at this time is with the mirror, not the scale.

I took selfies
As embarrassing and terrifying as it was... I had to do it.  Before and After pictures are going to be the most accurate way to track my progress during my weight training program, but I can assure you... they aren't pretty. They are so horrifying, in fact, that I am no where near ready to post them on here.

Until the ten week program is over, I will continue to update everyone periodically with the number on the scale.  If I survive the program, and there are any sort of results, I will post before and after pictures at that time (June 21st will mark the end of 10 weeks.)

Posting pictures for the whole internet to see shouldn't be too embarrassing ... right?  Right guys?  Wait... why are you laughing?  This isn't funny guys. Ugh... I'm going for a run.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Reversing a Traumatic Moment

No fat guy likes buying clothes.

I doubt there has ever been a truer statement, and it is especially accurate for yours truly.  I absolutely despise every aspect of shopping for clothes.

Picking my giant clothes up off the rack is the first part of the horrid endeavor.  As if it's not horrifying enough to have to search for shirts in a size that contains more X's than Taylor Swifts little black book, you then have to view the giant piece of fabric in all its glory.

Fat man shirts are displayed on slightly different racks.
However, it's not until the next step when uncontrollable shame really kicks in... the dressing room.  First of all, the dressing room is always situated as far from the fat man clothes as possible.  Which necessitates an unbearably long walk of shame from the clothing racks while toting your giant garments.  But the worst moment of the entire event is when you finally reach the dressing room and try the clothes on, only to find that they are too small.

After having this happen a few too many times, I resolved to never experience it again.  To achieve this, however, I would have to send my wife on shopping trips for me and hope that she came home with clothes that fit.  Initially, it seemed like the perfect plan.  She didn't seem to mind shopping, and I hated it, and somehow she was returning from her trips with clothes that fit my giant form.

Naturally, I asked no questions.  Why would I ruin a good thing by looking at tags, or receipts?  I did notice, however, that all the pants she purchased seemed to be a bit longer than any pair I had ever owned.  What she claimed was the "same length I've always bought for you" was now dragging the ground.  Had my legs began to shrink?  Nothing else seems to be shrinking, why would my legs?  Perplexed, I forced myself to check the tag of my khaki pants... "32 length, just like always.  Maybe my legs really are getting shorter.  Wait, what does that say?  DEAR GOD, IT CAN'T BE..."

NOOOOOOO!!!!!! Not Big and Tall!!!!!
That day, my friends, was one of the single most traumatic days of my life, mostly because I'm not all that "Tall".  Yes, that day ranks up there with the day I learned the truth about Santa and the first time I bit into an oatmeal raisin cookie expecting chocolate chip.

Despite my shock and overall disgust, I went on with my life just like before.  The fact that I had made "The Jump" to Big and Tall clothes still wasn't enough to change my fast food eating/ couch sitting ways.  Somehow, I was still just happy to have some clothes that "fit".

Today is a new day. Well, not really today, but yesterday.  

Yesterday, several years after the trauma of "the Jump" and nearly two full months into my fitness endeavor, I found myself staring into the closet in our spare bedroom.  Without really looking for them, I stumbled across  two pairs of pants, size 40 x 32 (not Big and Tall) that the tags had never been removed from.  Riding the high of a decent morning weigh in I temporarily lost my mind  and said to myself "I wonder how long it will be before these fit."

Without thinking, I slipped the first pair on, and to my surprise  THEY ACTUALLY BUTTONED!  Not only did they button, but they buttoned comfortably.  I excitedly stepped in front of the mirror to confirm what I was seeing from a different point of view.  Then, for the first time in a very long time, I smiled at myself while looking in a mirror.

Without even realizing it, I had unknowingly reversed one of the most traumatic moments of my adult life.  I can now walk into any store and find clothing that fits, without having to go to a "specialty" section.  All of my hard work in the gym, and perhaps more importantly in the kitchen, has really paid off.  As a matter of fact, I think I may even take a shopping trip for myself soon.  I still won't be completely satisfied, but I will certainly like what I see in the dressing room mirror a lot more than the last time I stood there.

When I return from that shopping trip, I am also considering having a "fat clothes bonfire."  I'm sure the experience of watching my old clothes burn to a pile of ash would be very liberating.  My only concern is, i'm not sure the local fire departments are equipped to extinguish a blaze of that magnitude.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

The 50 lb Milestone and Things That Weigh Fifty Pounds

There it is ladies a gentleman, a number that I have been anticipating for a long time.  I have officially lost a total of 50 lbs from my heaviest weight of 308 lbs in March 2012. This means that I have burned or saved a grand total of 175,000 excess calories in the last 13 months.

 As a way of celebrating the accomplishment, and because I am not ready to start posting any "before" or "current" pictures, here are a few common things that weigh as many pounds as I have lost.

A large bag of dog food.

$200 in quarters (for those of you that aren't mathemagicians like myself,
that means 800 quarters.) 

A bale of hay.

The average male bulldog.
Two of this kid.

But it took picking up one of these
bad boys in the gym to realize the magnitude
of what I have accomplished...
While standing in the gym with my eyes locked on the dumbbell in my hand, the realization hit me. It's one thing to look at 50 lbs, or to talk about it, but it's a whole other thing to hold it in your hand.

Holding that weight in my palm reminded me that, in order to reach my final goal, I am going to have to lose that much weight all over again AND an additional 8 lbs.  It was, perhaps, the first time I truly understood the magnitude of what I have set out to accomplish.  Almost as if I was attempting to scale Mt Everest and paused half way through to look towards the peak and say...

"Screw that shit."
But I quickly decided that this was not the time to look up. On the contrary, it was precisely the time I needed to look down.  This was the time to take a look at what I have already managed to accomplish and use it as motivation to keep climbing.

As I stood there, I couldn't remember what it felt like to be 50 lbs heavier.  I couldn't quite recall the extra strain it placed on my joints.  I couldn't dredge up the memory of how hard it was to breath after walking up a flight of stairs.  All I could really think about was the fact that I used to weigh THIS MUCH more than I do now, and that I never wanted to weigh that much again.

Armed with a new found appreciation for what I have set out to do I hope that in a few short months I will be composing an entry similar to this one entitled "Things That Weigh 75 lbs."  Even more momentous, and the blog post I look forward to the most, will be the post entitled...

"How I Lost 100 lbs and Kept It Off For Good."

Yes, that sounds just fine.  Perhaps I'll start drafting it now.  After all, 2027 is just around the corner. I wouldn't want all that weight loss to sneak up on me.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Routine Boredom

It finally happened.  It's the same story as countless past attempts at becoming fit... boredom has set in.  How can boredom plague me only 5 weeks into my journey?  I have no idea, but I do know for sure that I am absolutely bored out of my mind with the same cardio equipment every single day of the week.

The environment in which I am exercising is most likely not helping my situation.  The gym I go to is far from the Golds Gym at Venice Beach that some might imagine.  There are no scantily clad young ladies or steroid filled men throwing around 800 lbs of dumbbells to impress said ladies.  Instead there are lots and lots of senior citizens.  Senior citizens that are very dedicated to their health and fitness.  They are so dedicated, as a matter of fact, that it is the same senior citizens at the gym every single day.

Not only is the gym filled with the very same Seniors on a daily basis, but they also do the exact same things on the exact same pieces of equipment EVERY SINGLE DAY.  While monotony is their choice, as it often is with folks in that age group, it doesn't make for very good people watching, which is unfortunately my only distraction while running in my hamster wheel.

A Risky but Necessary Change

When stricken with exercise boredom in the past I have simply quit exercising altogether and tried to rely solely on my diet to achieve my goals... which has never ended well.  This time, however, I am going to make a necessary but risky change to my routine.  It's time to hit the weights.

I can probably be this shredded in a week or two.
If there is an upside to the geriatric gymnasium that I belong to, it is that the free weights go largely untouched.  It would appear that Granny doesn't have much interested in leg presses.. either that or her blue jeans are just too restricting for such things. That, of course, is fine by me.  I am determined to make her loss my gain.

The risk here lies in the fact that I will not be updating or changing my weight loss goals.  I am still fat enough that I think it will be possible for me to lift weights fairly heavily and weigh in at 250 lbs on May 4th.  This holds especially true because I am not planning on eliminating cardio altogether, it just won't be the primary focus of my exercise routine for a while.

The new routine will also require several dietary changes.  In order to properly recover from weight training I will need to, ever so slightly, increase my calorie intake.  Doing so and simultaneously burning fat will not be a simple task.  I have done a ton of research and planning, but I won't bore you with the details of such things.  However, the main idea is to:

  1. Decrease (slightly) and reschedule carbohydrate intake
  2. Increase protein intake
  3. Eat more healthy fats, and less of the unhealthy kinds 
  4. Eat more testosterone boosting foods (i.e. eggs, broccoli, spinach etc...)
Hopefully my hours spent pouring over fitness articles and medical journals will bring about the desired weight loss.  Aside from weight loss I am also looking to change my body composition, as I feel that it has been a contributing factor in past failures at lifestyle changes.  Having more muscle means more calories are burned while at rest, which means more energy for exercise, and less of a chance to revert to my old ways... at least that is the idea.

Yes, I realize this is what I will look like. At least no one will
see it except for a bunch of old people.
So there you have it, my new plan in a nut shell.  While i'm sure pumping iron won't be nearly as fun as it was in high school, it will definitely be more enjoyable than the treadmill, or as I have come to call it "Satan's Sidewalk."  Hopefully by the time I am writing my next weekly post my hulking biceps will be tearing through the sleeves of my 2XL t-shirts with every key stroke.  That's how it works... right?

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The March 30th Weigh In

When I began this journey one month ago I created a set of fitness goals for myself. The first of which was to weigh in at 262 lbs by my sons second birthday, which was yesterday.  At the time that goal was set I weighed 278 lbs, which meant a weight loss of 16 lbs in approximately 4 weeks to avoid failure.

In those four weeks I made a number of changes to my life style and eating habits, some more obvious than others.  These changes include:

  1. No more soft drinks (diet included).  Unsweet tea, water, milk, and coffee only... with the occasional beer on cheat day.
  2. No fast food.  Nothing from a drive through and very rarely anything fried.
  3. Small meals every three hours.  If I had to go much more than that I started getting pretty hangry (anger induced by hunger).  I spend most of my Sunday mornings cooking several meals to last all week.
  4. Lots more fruit and veggies.  Salads, celery, kale, carrots, green beans, oranges, apples etc...
  5. No sweets.  Nope, none except for cheat days.
  6. Biweekly cheat days.  I actually prefer this plan to weekly cheat days.
  7. Hitting the gym.  Five days a week whenever possible.  I am up to 3 miles in about 35 minutes on the elliptical.
  8. No food after 8 pm.  With the exception of a piece of beef jerky on occasion.
  9. Portion Control. No more kiddie pool sized plates at dinner time.
  10. Less red meat.  I still eat it, but most of my protein comes from chicken and turkey.
  11. Wake up early.  My alarm is set for 7:30 every morning.  Maybe not early to you, but its WAY earlier than I used to wake up.

Despite all the changes I was still somewhat terrified to step on the scale.  I'm not one to lie about things like this, so the thought of having to write a blog post about my failure was quite unappealing.  Ignoring my nerves I woke up on Saturday, put on my glasses, walked straight to the scale, and what did I see...?
Success!  I am down approximately 17 lbs in just one month.  The bad part?  I'm still fat as hell.  The good parts?  Well, there are quite a few.

  1. I have a sense of accomplishment.  17 lbs in four weeks is no small task
  2. More energy.  With the exception of the occasional low calorie slow down, I have found myself more energetic and active.
  3. Old clothes fit!  I have already come across three shirts that previously did not fit, two of which still had tags on them, that now fit quite well.  I am proud to start wearing them.
  4. Making progress in the gym.  I have come a long way in a month.  I went from walking/jogging 1/2 mile in 15 minutes to jogging/ running three miles in 35 minutes.
  5. I am saving money.  Massive amounts of junk food get expensive.  That is an expense I no longer have to worry about.

So now I move on to the next goal, which is to weigh 250 lbs by Kentucky Derby Day (Saturday May 4th). This particular goal will require a weight loss of 11 lbs in approximately five weeks.  It may also present a new set of challenges including the first (dreaded) weight loss plateau.

I'm not sure how I will tackle these challenges, or how well I will overcome them, but I do know that I am determined to do so. So with that thought in my mind and approximately 2 dozen Reese's eggs in my digestive system from this weekends cheat day, I will head back to the gym tomorrow with a smile on my face.

Look out 250 lbs, here I come!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Thoughts While Running

I have heard many people describe their time spent running as a time to think.  While their body is running, they allow their mind to run free.  Some use this mind meandering time to relax.  Others, however, use it as a time of discovery.  They think about life, their future, or their family.  I on the other hand, can't stop thinking about running.  My first thought when stepping on the treadmill (or elliptical depending on my preference for the day) is usually "God, I hope no one is watching."  

After coming to terms with the fact that people are going monitor the 300 pounder on their favorite piece of cardio equipment my thoughts usually wander towards what body part will be causing the most pain during this particular session.  Sometimes it is me knees.  Other times it could be my shins, feet, back, quads, ankles, shoulder, stomach, or even the particularly brutal combination of them all.  The most menacing thought, however, comes when I hear that dreaded tearing sound...  

"Was that my shorts or my ACL?"

Which brings me to my latest hurdle...  Why am I seemingly unable to zone out and let my mind wander during exercise? My mind insists on wandering when I am doing other important things, so why not during exercise?  Is it because I am so out of shape that my body just won't allow it?  Or is it perhaps because I have not yet been able to convince myself that I really enjoy exercising? Or am I yet to make exercise a routine that would allow my thoughts to travel elsewhere?

Running is not the difficult part...

There is a reason that I am want so desperately to be able to mentally disconnect while running. It seems that people who use their time exercising to relax their mind are more successful in achieving their fitness goals, and are more likely to stick to exercise routines... which actually makes sense.  

The actual physical activity part of the "fitness" thing is not all that terrible.  The difficult part is the mental anguish before and during. Dragging myself out of bed and fighting away the excuses to NOT go to the gym is tough. Nothing is more challenging, however,  than being at the gym and longing to go home and eat Cheetos rather that run another mile.  
How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.
Yes, I would give almost anything to become one of "those people" the lucky ones who don't focus progressively more on their current situation with every step.  But how exactly does one achieve that mental state?  I imagine that some people are just born that way(those bastards).  They innately enjoy running and therefor don't have to think about it constantly.  Obviously that is not me.  Perhaps for those who aren't born with that inherent trait, something just "clicks" one day, and they settle into a sort of cardio groove in which they are able to let their mind wander.

More likely, however, this treasured state of mind only comes with diligence like most other things in the fitness world.  It would appear that the only way that I am going to find my "groove" is by plodding away day in and day out until  I stumble into it.  So for now I will continue to log as many miles as possible in hopes of changing my way of thinking, all the while dreading the next step more than the last.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Cheat Day Conundrum

Anyone who has tried to improve their health in recent years has probably become accustomed to what is known as "Cheat Day." In case you are one of those fortunate people who never has to watch what they eat, "Cheat Day" refers to the one day in a predetermined amount of time (one or two weeks seems to be most common) in which a dieter can dismiss all their dietary confines and eat freely.

Initially the idea of "Cheat Day" may seem counterproductive.  After all, the word "Cheat" is right there, and as the old adage goes "Cheaters never prosper."
Except for this guy...
... and this guy...
...and this guy.
As it turns out, these fine gentleman may be on to something.  One need not look far to find a vast array of studies about the benefits of controlled dietary cheating. One of the primary facts in support of cheat days is that temporarily increasing your calorie intake will "shock" your body into burning more calories.  That's right, it has been scientifically proven that occasionally eating anything you want can actually aid in weight loss.  

Thank God, now I finally have an excuse to pig out.

That is exactly how I can misconstrue the facts about cheat day.  Every time I start a diet, this time included, I make a feeble attempt to exclude cheat days from the plan.  By the following Saturday I have undoubtedly failed in my attempt.

Perhaps this is because it is so simple to convince yourself that you NEED a cheat day.  The logic is all in order:
  1. Cheat days kick start your metabolism.
  2. If I don't have a cheat day, I might physically harm someone.
  3. It will be an exercise in self control, which is something you desperately need. 
  4. If I don't have a cheat day, I might physically harm someone.
Any of the above reasons could convince a trans fat deprived individual that the large order of french fries is actually beneficial... and therein lies the problem.

It is far too simple for me to convince myself that eating unhealthy food is acceptable so long as I only do so one day each week.  Then, as my diet progresses, so does cheat day.  I begin to eat larger quantities of prohibited foods on cheat day (which is generally Saturday).  Then the following week, I somehow justify stopping for fast food after work on Friday.  Its close enough to Saturday, right?  Shortly after the Friday habit takes full affect, cheat day will again be extended to Sunday because "I already messed up so bad on Friday and Saturday, its too late to save it now."  Before I know it my weight loss has slowed to a crawl, frustration sets in, and cheat day is extended one last time.  However, this time it is extended indefinitely.

A new goal is devised

Now that I recognize that my weekly cheat days have a habit of getting out of hand, I have set a new goal for myself:  Reasonable bi-weekly cheat days, effective immediately.  That's right, from here on out my cheat days will only occur every other Saturday, and when they do occur they will be limited to one or two meals.   
No more 24 hour smorgasbords for me. 
My theory is that by prolonging the time between each cheat day I will no longer be as reliant on them as my sole source of endorphins.  Hopefully on non-cheating Saturdays I can replace overeating with something more rewarding like physical activity or family time... or perhaps even physical activity with my family. When I do reward myself with a cheat day, I hope that the extended wait brings about a greater sense of accomplishment and an increase in weight loss.

Armed with my new philosophy it is time to set out on the next leg of my journey.  This particular leg promises to be a particularly long one, seeing as yesterday was a cheat day.  That means my next cheat day will not be until March 30th, which also happens to be the day of the weigh in for my initial goal of 262 lbs.  

March 30th is only 12 days from this very moment.  That's only 288 hours, and a lot of those will be spent sleeping. Besides, 288 hours is only 17,280 minutes. That's not completely terrifying... right?  I mean, 17,280 minutes means there are only 1,036,800 seconds remaining until my next cheat day... 1,036,799... 1,036,788... 1,036,077... but who is counting?