Archive for the ‘meta’ Category
I don’t know why I can eat right and exercise throughout the Winter, Spring, and Summer, but Autumn always makes me crave more calories. Is it the increasingly colder temperatures? The lure of holiday baked goods and other unhealthy fare?
This particular Fall a number of various events have made it harder to eat right or get exercise. It’s the busy season at work so I’ve been spending more hours working. The shift to Standard Time means that it gets dark earlier. The weather has gotten cold very quickly, so I don’t take walks as much outside. My wife started a new job so I don’t have a couple of uninterrupted hours in the morning to walk on the treadmill while she’s sleeping anymore. Plus, there are a few other personal issues that have come up that take my time and attention away from Clean Livin’, or require me to eat & run more often.
I can come up with any number of reasons, but what it boils down to is that I’ve slipped. Luckily I have so many healthy habits that they haven’t all fallen by the wayside. I still weigh-in every day. I still record everything I eat (even the unhealthy, high-calorie foods).
How I Start To Slip
At first maybe I’ll grab some food on the run, or not calculate my caloric intake for dinner until the next day. Then maybe I miss recording a meal. Then miss recording a day. Then I get busy with other things and don’t do any research or writing for this site.
So far no matter when I’ve slipped a little (or a lot) I’ve still weighed-in. I think of all of my Clean Livin’ habits, weighing myself and then recording it are the easiest things to do. After four and a half years weigh-ins have become ingrained in my daily routine. Sometimes I forget to weigh in when my routine changes, but barring a day or so every few months where I don’t weigh-in, I have a solid record, and can at least see when I gain weight rather than lose or stay the same.
It’s hard to gauge gaining or losing weight when you weigh in every day, though, because you do go up and down even when you do everything right and are on a trend of losing weight. I think my threshold for thinking “Shit, I’ve got to do better” is going over a five pound mark. For instance, I was down as low as 254.4 a couple of weeks ago (so close to 250!) and then a few days ago weighed-in at 260.0, after going up and down a pound or so here or there for the past three weeks.
So that was a wake-up call. The hard truth is that losing weight takes conscious effort and attention. You have to think about it a lot more than you may want to, and stick to your daily budget most of the time. Sometimes it’s okay to go over budget, but not most of the time. When those indulgences become more frequent than eating right, you’re going to gain weight again. I don’t know about you, but I’ve worked too hard and come too far to backtrack now. Fuck that noise.
Back On Track
It’s not like I haven’t written about derailment or plateaus before. When it happens, no matter how many reasons I have no one to blame but myself. A slip can be just the kick in the pants you need to refocus your weight loss efforts, no matter how cold it is outside.
I’m not sure how long it’ll take me to lose the next ten pounds (some of those pounds… again) but I know it’s doable. I’ve done it for weeks, months, years now.
Losing weight may be harder as the weather grows colder, life gets busier, and habits slip by the wayside. Plan for weight loss to be slower then, but as long as you’re aware of the difficulty and consciously plan means and exercise, you can hunker-down and do it.
Update: Slipped on Posting Here, Too
Speaking of slipping, I originally had this post set to publish in late November and haven’t finished it until just now. Everything else still stands, and now that the holidays are over and I’m back to focusing on weight loss, updates should be more regular once again.
I like to listen to podcasts and audiobooks from Audible.com while commuting to and from work. I can catch up on tech punditry, learn more about a subject in which I’m interested, or just listen to funny people being funny. Sometimes it’s just nice to hear an author reading their own words (although there are a lot of great audiobooks read by voice actors).
Beginning with this very post, I’ll be publishing an audio version of each blog post on Clean Livin’. Rather than putting out a supplemental podcast, these audio blog entries will be like the audio book version of this blog, for those on the go, or the blind or sight impaired. You’ll get to hear me stammer through what I’ve written. Maybe from time to time I’ll sneak some extra content or commentary into the audio version, especially for older posts.
Over the next few months I’ll fill-in previously published posts with their audio versions, working backwards until I reach the beginning. If you want to listen to them as they’re published, you can subscribe to the podcast feed, stream or download each episode right here on Clean Livin’, or subscribe via iTunes.
I was interviewed by WalkJogRun.net for their podcast a few weeks ago, but there were audio issues so today they posted a transcript of the interview along with some photos from Clean Livin’.
I’ve previously written about WalkJogRun and it’s a great site for plotting the distance and path of my walks, and better yet, finding a great walking or running route when you’re traveling. They also have a fantastic iOS app and their podcast is always full of great information. I talked to Caitlin of WJR about Clean Livin’, my history of being a fat guy, and about my weight loss success over the past four years.
Being interviewed has given me the bug to start a podcast. Any interest in hearing me prattle on about Clean Livin’ for 15–20 minutes a week?
You can read a transcript of the interview at the WalkJogRun blog.
Sometimes people find out that I’ve lost a tremendous amount of weight and ask me “What’s your secret?” as if there’s one key piece of information that I know that helped me lose weight and get fit. My stock answer is that “I’m more active and eat better.” Everyone knows that’s how you lose weight, right?
No one is ever satisfied by that answer, though, because it’s only part of the equation. It’s harder to tell people that there are a whole bunch of things that you have to change: what you eat, your habits, hobbies, tools, attitude, and self-perception. I’ve been posting my “secrets” to this blog for the past four years. I tried to distill the psychological aspects of weight loss in “How to Lose Weight” but that’s not the only part (although I believe it’s the biggest part).
I’ve been trying to come up with an elevator pitch that condenses my weight loss “secrets” down into a 20–30 second soundbite, but its’ hard to compact a few dozen little things into a pithy statement, and even if I could, people would likely be dissatisfied with that answer anyway.
The Bigger You Are, The Faster You Fall
Here’s something that’s promising: the more weight that you have to lose, the easier the initial pounds come off. It’s encouraging to see weight come off the scale every single day when you’re just starting out with your Clean Livin’ regime, even just a week or two in.
Not everyone has as much to lose as I did, though, so my results are probably atypical and while I’m happy to be an inspiration for anyone, don’t be disappointed if you don’t lose 50 pounds in three months like I did.
As I’ve lost more weight it’s gotten harder to lose weight, and it’ll likely get harder still. I’ve had to reduce my calorie budget a couple of times already since I’m no longer burning as many calories just keeping my now smaller body alive. It’s not terrible. I’ve adjusted by eating healthier, lower-calorie foods so I wouldn’t have to reduce portions to the point where I’m hungry all the time (although I am hungry before I eat).
You’ll have to experiment a little, and adjust your calorie budget based on your weigh-ins, how fast you want to lose, etc.
Surely you’re thinking “I want to lose weight as fast as possible,” but if you want to keep it off, and get healthier while you’re losing weight, that’s probably not your best strategy. Optimal, sustainable (local and organic) weight loss is healthy only if you lose about 1–2 pounds per week, which means creating a calorie deficit of 500–1000 calories per day, either through eating less, eating healthier foods, by exercising more, or some combination of the three.
Garbage In, Garbage Out
A lot of people ask me “what do you eat?” as if there’s a magic weight loss diet. Me? I eat what I like. I try to eat new vegetables, or familiar favorites prepared in a new and exciting way. Novelty helps me. People are so used to various diets that stipulate cutting out entire swathes of foods that they expect I’ll have a short and simple answer like “Oh, I used the Paleo Diet” or “I cut out carbs, fats, and sugar.”
Sometimes people get annoyed with me when I try to simplify my eating strategy down to “I count calories, stay within my budget most days, and eat healthier foods so I’m hardly ever hungry.” Is it because that’s the conventional wisdom that everyone already knows? It’s common knowledge because it works, people.
Weigh yourself. Record the weight. Log what food you eat. Count the calories (especially helpful is to plan out a meal before you eat it). Take a tape measure and measure your waist. Take your blood pressure if you have a cuff. Talk to your doctor about measuring your percentage of body fat.
The more you know the more information you’ll have to help you make better decisions.
Check the color of your urine. While cloudy, yellow urine isn’t a sure sign that you’re dehydrated, clear pee is a good sign that you’re well-hydrated, especially if it’s combined with more frequent urination.
Wash the Weight Away
You’re not drinking water because you’re thirsty, you’re drinking water to flush out the crud that’s been building up in your system, and making it easier to get the water that comes out of your adipose tissue (i.e. your fat cells) flushed out of your body as you break down the fat cells (which also contain water) to make up for the calorie deficit you’re creating by eating fewer calories. Why weigh all that extra water weight? Go pee that stuff out because you’re hydrating like crazy.
It’s a Decision
That’s all fitness is: a series of good choices that get you to where you want to go.
You are trying to transform your body, but the transformation has to begin in your mind. Imagine an Olympic athlete suddenly inhabited your body (like in one of those Freaky Friday, 18 Again, Vice Versa, or Like Father, Like Son movies, but with an athlete switching bodies with you instead of a relative whose life will inspire you to change. That athlete will likely be frustrated with how your body performs, like asking a race car driver to compete in the Indy 500 in a Prius. You can bet they’d whip their new body into better shape, though. So become that athlete yourself and you won’t have to wait around and hope for a magic mirror, fountain, or fortune cookie.
You’re Not Exercising. You’re An Athlete.
Exercise isn’t something you do for thirty minutes at a certain time every day. It’s who you are. You are motion. You are activity. Every day you’re getting stronger. Your day-over-day improvements in strength, endurance, and speed may be imperceptible to you, but week-over-week, month-after-month you’ll start to find that you can do so much more than you could a month or two ago. Exercise isn’t work. It’s training.
Goals Are Where You Are Going To Be, and What You Are Going To Do To Get There
Your weight loss goals aren’t something that would be nice to do. Your goals are a series of small things that you do that get you incrementally closer to where you want to be. You’re playing the long game, setting milestones and taking every step necessary to get there.
Your goals are small enough that each one should be 100% achievable. You’re going to lose those ten pounds because you’re going to create a calorie deficit every day, by reducing what you eat at most meals, most days, and increasing your activity level to take up the slack.
The best way to predict the future is to invent it.
– Computer scientist Alan Kay, 1971
So How Did You Lose So Much Weight?
I eat better and move around a lot more.
There’s going to come a time when you’ll stagnate in your fitness. You’ll stop losing weight (before you reach your goal weight), or exercise less and less frequently. You’ll stop tracking your caloric intake, or even stop thinking so much about food.
While losing weight and getting fit is simple, that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. In order for your body to burn stored fat you have to create an energy deficit on your intake. In plainer terms, you have to expend more energy than you take in (in the form of food). We measure energy that the body uses in terms of calories (technically, kilocalories, but most labels ignore the kilo- prefix). Obviously, if you’re going to keep under a certain caloric limit you’re going to have to know how many calories are in the food you eat each day. On top of that, you’re also going to have to track it cumulatively so that you know when you’ve reached your limit. Ideally, of course, you’d also log your food before you eat it so you can make decisions based on your caloric needs.
Looking up a food in a reference to see how many calories it has before you eat it? Simple. Doing it every single day before every single meal? Not so easy.
I’ve found that when I track my caloric intake and stick to a daily hard-limit that I lose weight pretty consistently. When I get lazy, though, and stop actively logging everything: I either gain weight or stay the same.
For the last few months of 2010 through the early part of 2012 I remained relatively stagnant in my weight loss. Actually, to be completely honest, in the latter months of 2011 I actually gained about 15 pounds back. Ugh. I stopped logging my food because quite frankly, it’s annoying and a bit of a pain in the ass to do it all the time. It works, but it’s a pain.
Where I Went Wrong
I had some major life changes in that timeframe. I got engaged, and then 13 months later got married. My then fiancée and I bought a house. Having moved to a new neighborhood, we of course wanted to try out new restaurants that were within walking distance. Eating with a partner instead of eating alone meant that my ridiculous habit of eating the same meal for five days in a row because I still had the ingredients for it wouldn’t fly. All of these things are excuses, of course, for why I wasn’t losing weight. Obviously, my stagnation was my wife’s fault.
I kid. I have no one to blame but myself, and the worst part of it was that I was a bad influence on her, too. We decided to get a treadmill instead of joining another gym we’d stop going to after a few months (I’ll have to write more on gyms later), which turned out to be a fantastic investment. No longer will Chicago’s harsh Winters be an excuse to not walk.
Back to stagnation. I’ve heard that dieters often face plateaus as their bodies get used to their new diet. That’s fine, but I’m not on a diet. I’m just adjusting my eating habits and activity levels. So why have I stagnated?
Was it any of the excuses I listed above? Eh, I’m sure they all played their part, but really I stopped succeeding because I stopped working the system. It happened slowly over time. I started to guesstimate calories in a meal rather than look it up. Doing the math in your head is fine if you’ve already looked up the food and know its caloric intake – I still do this when eating out sometimes – but over time I stopped doing even that. Then of course the unhealthy meal every once in a while became more frequent.
The habit that didn’t break for me was being more active. I kept up other habits too, like weighing-in nearly every day and wearing my FitBit so I could track my steps. Of course, I stopped trying to hit my 10,000 steps per day goal. But I was wearing the FitBit all the time and at least tracking how little I sometimes walked on a lazy Sunday.
So those are the things I internalized and made part of who I am. Tracking calories? Not so much.
How I Got Back On Track
I got back into Clean Livin’, full-swing again when I got the results of the blood test taken during my annual physical. Everything was pretty much normal except that my cholesterol was high for the first time ever. Not super-high, but my LDLs was a little on the high side, and my HDL (good cholesterol) wasn’t as high as it should be. My doctor said that if I should adjust my diet and increase my exercise levels to try to correct my cholesterol naturally, and if I couldn’t affect results within three months that I’d have to go on a statin drug in order to correct it with medication. Immediately I made changes to my diet and started exercising more.
I was scared straight.
I’m now four weeks into doing the right thing and I’ve lost 15 pounds so far. I’m still not down to the lowest since I’ve been tracking it, but I expect to be soon.
Writing this is clearly an integral part of Clean Livin’ for me. I’ll keep you posted.