Posts Tagged ‘weight loss’

Thank You DailyBurn!

18 Nov 2011

The only way to put it was that I was getting fat. I hit a personal “high water mark” of 228 lbs (104 Kg) in the spring of 2010, but it was only a few pounds over the weight I’d been for the last several years, so it wasn’t too concerning – until I saw this photo:

CabinFest Weekend - aka "Fat Graham"

Ouch! I wasn’t Shrek, but I certainly didn’t match my self-image of being athletic either

I was sold – I needed to drop some weight.

With a little more focus on exercise, and a lowered caloric intake level, I dropped about 15 pounds (7 Kg) by August 2010 – which was when I blew out my lower back. (For those unfortunate to have learned the disk numbering system due to issue they have suffered themsleves, my back injury was a massive herniation of the L4-L5 disk, pressing on the sciatic nerve of my left leg).

The bad news was that the injury left me incapable of sitting for more than 30 seconds without suffering extreme pain down my left leg. The good news was that I now had lots of motivation to try to drop some serious weight fast, on the slim hope that lowering my weight would provide some relief.

Cut to December 2010 and I was down to about 185 pounds (84Kg), and had a microdiscectomy which addressed the back and leg pain, but left me with ongoing motivation to keep myself in decent shape. Give me 10 or 20 pain-free years, and I may even consider the four months where I couldn’t sit down as a good investment!

If you’red interested in losing weight to either help ease the pain caused by extra weight, or just want to look and feel better, there were a few keys to my weight loss that I think are pretty generally useful, and repeatable.  At  a high level, they’re the usual trite advice – eat less, watch what you eat, and exercise more. However, as with all big process changes, the devil is in the details!

Here are the details of the approach I used to cut down my weight:

ACTION: Count Calories For 2 or 3 weeks and become fully aware of every calorie you are putting in your body.  This is actually pretty easy if you have a smart phone or iPod, or easy & frequent access to the web. Tools such as Daily Burn (or as an iPod / iPad / iPhone app) make this easy. Knowing how many calories are in your favourite foods is likely to change your relationship to them forever!

ACTION: Adjust Your Eating Habits Use the information you learned from your calorie counting to establish yourself at a caloric intake level that will allow you to drop 1%-1.5% of your body mass each week. For me, this meant losing 2-3 lbs (1-1.5Kg) per week by setting a caloric intake level of about 1800-2000 calories per day.

ACTION: Set Target Weights Set short-term weight target goals, celebrate achieveing them, and set a new target weight.

ACTION: Actively track Your Weight Track your weight on a daily basis. Seeing the line slope down and to the right over time really helped to motivate me to keep up my efforts, especially on those weeks where the curve flattened out, or moved in the wrong direction. Looking back I could see all the places those reversals had taken place, but the long-term trend was still “down to the right”. DailyBurn helped me here too.

ACTION: Exercise Exercise religously – in whatever form you wish. When my back was hosed, walking was about all I could do pain-free – so I walked. It’s easier to “force fit” the time to exercise when you are in pain – I have now learned I need to “force fit” the time to exercise into my schedule on a regular basis even when I’m feeling fit and healthy. “Calorie Burn” charts  and apps are helpful here as a motiviational force.

ACTION: Invest In Your Wardrobe Clean out your closet of the clothes that are (newly) too big on a regular basis. It feels wasteful to be donating clothes to charity that were only purchased 2 months previously, but wearing clothes that are new, and that fit properly, is a lot more motivational than wearing clothes that look like crap and that you can grown back into!

Here are a few more details on the first few actions:

COUNT CALORIES The goal here is not to track every calorie you consume for the rest of your life -but without tracking all calories, you won’t become aware where your nutrition “blind spots” are.

  • I found out that I actually had some major gaps in my understanding of how calories entered my body. I’d already cut out most soda, candy, chips, etc – and thought I was pretty calorie aware – but the gaps were still huge.
  • My own knowledge gaps were
    • how many calories I was absorbing from bread (bagels in particular)
    • how much hard work could be un-done in just one “spoil myself” evening
    • how little it cost in calories to add veggies to my meal, and how much more i enjoyed my meals
    • the degree to which portion size, rather than type of food , was driving up my calorie consumption
  • To burn a pound of fat, you need to consume 3500 calories less than your body needs
    • If you need 2400 calories per day, you can lose a pound in a month by eating only 12 calories less per day!
    • to lose 3 pounds in a week, though, you will need to create a “caloric deficit” of about 10,000 calories. (A caloric deficit just means the combined effect of eating less than required to maintain your current weight, and exercising to burn extra calories)
  • Always remember that your body is a machine that always tries to adjust to its environment in order to protect itself.
    • As an example, the top layers of your skin tan to absorb sunlight to decrease damage to underlying skin.
    • In the same way, if you starve your body, you are telling it that food is scarce – and your metabolism will lower to try to minimize the weight loss “damage”. This will have a twofold impact of making it harder to lose weight, and your lower energy level will quite possibly leave you feeling depressed
  • Instead, remember that not that long ago, our ancestors were cavemen!
    • If you can’t find food (i.e. you are starving), your metabolism will lower over time
    • If food is plentiful, your body doesn’t need to hoard fat, and will allow it to be shed
    • If you need to run to catch your food (exercise!), you are telling your body fat is an impediment to your success, as it is slowing your down
    • Mixing a healthy amount of protein (meat) into your diet also tells your caveman body that food is readily available. (Don’t over do it, though – Atkins-style diets stress your internal organs, and can create a deficit of essential vitamins and amino acids – something he learned when he was cramping continuously after shifting to a low-carb diet).

ADJUST YOUR EATING HABITS:

Based on a USDA web site, I need about 2400 calories a day (based on being Male, 48 years old, 5’10”). In order to drive a more rapid change in my weight, I dropped my intake to 1800-2000 calories per day.

After several weeks of counting every calorie, I had a pretty good idea of how much I could eat each day. However, an equally important learning was that I needed to make modifications to the way I did my meal planning & preparation. For me, this meant:

  • Eating one sandwich, loaded with more meat and veggies, instead of two skimpy sandwiches
  • Bringing down my portion size (or percentage of plate eaten when eating out) was going to be key to my long-term success
  • I also learned that “spoiling myself” by going over my daily calorie count was OK, and necessary every now and then – but that I shouldn’t forget that the calories consumed those days / evenings are not free either!

SET TARGET WEIGHTS If you set out to lose 40 pounds, you are likely to run out of motivation before you achieve your goal.

Set out to lose 15 or 20 pounds instead, and you get a psychological boost when you achieve your goal. The side benefit of this is you also get a chance to reset your expectations about how long it may take to lose that weight – the first pounds are far easier to lose than the last pounds, so carrying the same expectation through a bigger weight range will likely leave you feeling you will never reach your goal – and will encourage you to give up.

Some final thoughts if you are embarking on a weight-loss journey

  • There are lots of other tools out there that will track calorie consumption and your weight. Daily Burn worked for me, and a friend / former colleague, Thomas Watts (His story was featured on the Daily Burn website.
  • Alternatives to DailyBurn can be found on moreofit.com, or by searching the health and fitness section on the iTunes App Store
  • Feel free to get in touch with me if you want more details.
  • Good Luck!