Backsliding

I think I had a bit of a virus or cold or something yesterday. It’s hard to tell because the pollen and my allergies have been bad enough that I’ve been sneezing and snotting for a month regardless. I had the shivers for a while last evening, then I felt like I was burning up and by the time I woke up I felt reasonably good. I did do a little backsliding on my food intake in my moment of weakness, though. I had the deep fried chicken with sweet and sour sauce at the 65 Chinese restaurant (with a huge bowl of egg drop soup to make me feel better, like chicken soup with really young chickens) and later on I had a mocha from Starbucks, with all the gratuitous sugar and chocolate that entails. I’m better now, though, and back in business. The worst part about trying to eat better is the feeling like I’m one slip up from compete recidivism. It’s actually good for the soul, I think, to backslide a little now and then without backsliding all the way to the previous bad habits. It reinforces that a few mistakes and setbacks are not going to scuttle the whole thing. Today for lunch – a salad or wrap and some fresh fruit.

Week 3

My weight on Sunday was 240, down about 6 pounds from baseline. I also got out while the weather was nice and rode my bike to the Central Avenue Metra station. This was groundwork to figure out how long I’ll need if I ride to the train. It was a little embarrassing how winded biking one mile left me. The return trip was even worse because the wind was blowing directly in my face. It was good to get a little excercise, and soon I think my routine will include this 2 miles of biking every day. That should help a little with my overall cardio fitness (which is really bad right now, perhaps as bad as it has ever been.)

Week 2

My weight this week was 244, slighly down but a small enough amount to be statistical noise. I’m going to start adding in some excercise this week, possibly biking to the train and possibly at the gym in my building. So far so good.

Eat Drink and Be Healthy

I finished the book Eat, Drink and Be Healthy a few days ago. I read it on the recommendation of my friend JonnyX. Overall I think this is a great book. It is not preachy but matter-of-fact. Willet is not making any wild eyed assertions but backs up all his recommendations with loads of data and is clear about the things for which the data is as yet inconclusive. It’s eminently readable and even kind of fun. I’ve been trying to eat closer to his recommendations for a few weeks now. Here’s a quick summary of his advice:

  • Avoid refined sugars, refined flours, saturated fats, and trans-fats.
  • Most of your diet should come from fruits, vegetables, and long grains. Brown rice is better than white, whole grains are better than ground. Whole wheat bread is better than white bread.
  • Eat sparingly on the beef and pork. The same goes starchy foods like potatoes.
  • Make sure to eat enough unsaturated fat (ie, don’t eliminate all fat from your diet). Nuts and olive oil are good sources and can be eaten with relative abandon.
  • Excercise.
  • Take multivitamin suplements to ensure you keep vitamins and minerals covered.
  • Even when you follow the guidelines, stay cognizant of the total calories you are eating. Even eating the right mix of foods, you still need to keep your intake at a level that matches what you burn.

It’s pretty simple and mostly common sense stuff. I have switched most of my intake to longer grains. I eat a big bowl of oatmeal every morning and take a Centrum with it. I’m eating more salads, brown rices and things like bulghur. I’m trying to avoid the foods with high fructose corn syrup in high amounts, and lean towards the grainy foods. As I examine Gardenburger’s ingredients on the box, they are basically all the foods Willet says to eat, pressed into a patty. The hard part for me is getting enough fruit. I’m trying to have it as between meal snacks, grapes and apples and such, and pistachios as fillers when I need a little crunch and fat to feed the inner man.

So far it seems to be working. I had reported a weight of 239 before, which was on the crappy unreliable old scale. I bought a new one with digital readout and that does body fat. It said 245.5 when the other said 239, so I’m assuming that I was actually at 245.5 before. According to the fat measurement, it says that I’m at 35%! That’s high, but not inconsistent with the tables and predictions for a guy of my height and weight. Each weekend now I’ll be posting my weights from the newer better scale and we’ll see how it goes. 245 is the starting point.

Stepping Up

This is the beginning of my second week without sodas. Other than adjusting to the lower amount of caffeine I get, it has been pretty much without incident. I suffered from some bad Diet Coke cravings at the beginning, but that has diminshed over time. Now I just drink a lot of water. I’ve also been cutting down on the lattes and coffee that I drink, so I’m having maybe two or three cups of caffeinated coffee a week and maybe four or five cups of decaf a week. Added up, that’s a pretty dramatic caffeine reduction from where I was, with a couple cups of coffee each day and 6 or 8 cans of soda each day.

I’m almost done with the Walter Willett book on which I’ll give a comprehensive review when I’m done. I have started to adjust my diet in directions it suggests, reducing or eliminating the processed sugars, white flours and trans-fat from my diet. I’m eating more fruits and vegatables and trying to get more whole grain foods in there. It can be tough. I tried in vain to find brown rice at a restaurant in my part of the Chicago loop.

I have yet to add back in a formal exercise program. I am making a few little choices differently in my day to day life, like avoiding escalators in favor of the stairs beside them. I’ve also been taking the elevator to a few floors underneath mine and walking up the balance. This is no substitue for a workout routine, but I am trying to make more active and less sedentary choices in my behavior.

I’m going to start doing something Bruce does that I like and post my weight weekly. I think I need a newer better bathroom scale because our current one is highly subject to fiddling. By leaning one way or the other I can cause a 15 pound difference in the reading! My feet also hang off of it and make it hard to figure out the best place to stand to get the most correct reading. Still, imperfect as it is it says I was 239 yesterday. That’s a lot for a guy a little under 5′ 9″. In fact, it puts me 80 pounds (50%!) over my ideal weight. Luckily for me, I can hide the first 30 or 40 pounds of that so I don’t look as heavy as I am. That’s cold comfort when you know that you are crossing the line into morbid obesity. I’m pretty determined to shed the pounds and reestablish a better level of fitness, so it’s just a matter of time. Healthier me, here I come!

Eat Drink and Be Healthy

On the word of JonnyX I ran out and bought the Walter Willett book Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy. Willett is suggesting that the USDA food pyramid is part of the reason why Americans are getting so fat. As he points out, it wasn’t developed by an agency promoting health but one charged with making sure that agribusiness has a market to sell its wares. The book is pretty highly rated on Amazon, so I’m looking forward to reading it.

I think it is entirely possible that the eating patterns prescribed by Willett and similar books such as Body for Life are actually in scientific agreement with Atkins. If their thesis is correct (and it certiainly appears to be the case) then the highly refined carbohydrate heavy food we have been eating as “low fat” causes a lot of harm to our bodies. This leads to lots of insulin response to our food, which then leads to us being hungrier, etc. It seems entirely possible that Atkins is a correct and effective way of losing weight, but not the most correct. Atkins is kind of a brute force, zero tolerance way of dealing with the fact that some carbo heavy foods are harmful. They subtract the things that need to be subtracted, but lots of other things as well. From my brief glances at the book and reading interviews with him, Willett promotes eating whole grain food, fresh fruit and vegetables, and not avoiding “healthy oils” like olive oil and that found in nuts while cutting out highly refined foods with lots of sugars, trans-fatty acids and saturated fat.

I’ll report back here after I’ve read the book. I’m hoping that this has some insights. I know it has a lot of data, being based on a study of medical workers for over 25 years and correlating their diets with their health issues.

Cold Soda Turkey

I was having a hard time cutting down on sodas. For a little while I was able to get back to 3 a day, but I find that I work better with prohibition than moderation so I’m cutting them out totally for a while. I’ve been getting a lot of headaches lately. I’m not sure I buy completely the anti-Nutrasweet propaganda, but I will agree that drinking 6 or more cans of Diet Coke a day is putting a lot of odd chemicals into my system that will need to be metabolized away.

This isn’t the comprehensive healthiness upgrade in my lifestyle that I’ve been talking about, but a tiny first step. Effective today, I’m also trying to cut out sweets. Candies, cookies and other tasty but sugary things I will try to eliminate from my diet. This also includes mochas, which will be a shame because I’m quite partial to the Caribou Coffee turtle mocha.

So I’ll start eating and drinking better today (mostly by subtraction). Very soon I will get back into an excercise routine. I’m sick of feeling winded after walking up a flight of 8 stairs.

This Old Body

I haven’t been posting my fitness progress for one sad reason: there has been none! Coincident with the time I wanted to commit to my plan, I had a lot of changes in my life. Not the least of which is that instead of working in my home, spending most of my time in the confines of the basement, I now go to an office in the Loop every day. At first I thought this would help because I could join a gym and work on reclaiming some fitness. As I found out, although tere are 4 gyms within 2 blocks of here (including one in the basement of my building) they are all grotesquely expensive and most required a commitment much longer than I’m willing to do. I am walking around more, in that I have 4 blocks between the office building and the train station, but then I’m also eating in general less healthy fare for lunch. I’ve been avoiding McDonald’s and crap like that, but I do have a weakness for the sweet and sour pork at the 65 Chinese restaurant.

What I really need to do is take the excercise bands that I have and figure out a workout that I can do with them, and get cracking. Even if it isn’t optimal, that would be better than the nothing I’m doing now. Not only am I fatter than ever, I’m demonstrably in some of the worst shape of my life. I huff and puff even going up the single flight of six stairs in our house. When the weather permits I’ll start riding my bike to the Metra station for cardio work but I need more and sooner.

On a similar topic, I am interested in John Perry Barlow’s “fixer upper body” TV series. Although I’m too heavy, I’m sure he’s punished his body much worse than I have. Since my plan is to get 100 vital years out of this life, I need to start preparing for the long haul just as he is (we’re both shooting for 100, by the way, I just have more of it left.)

It Begins

In a way, I wish I wasn’t getting serious about fitness right at the new year. That has the stink of a resolution that will soon be abandoned. That’s not how I feel. I’m getting back in slowly, with the intent of staying in for a long long time.

I don’t have any explicit plan for right now, other than I’m going to stop eating cookies, candy and other snacks without limit. That era ended at midnight last night. I might do sometime very much like Body For Life. I’ve been on this plan before and found it effective and not hard to stick to. It’s not extreme about eating only meat, but it does reduce the amount of simple carbohydrates. It focuses on portion control, keeping meals balanced, carbs low, banishing empty calories, and mixing this all in with a sensible excercise regimen. Even the excercise is balanced, with alternating days of cardio and weightlifting. Of all the things folks are doing to lose weight and get fit, this is the one that makes the most sense to me. You don’t start out in a phase that you can’t maintain forever (like the Atkins no carbs whatsoever beginning phase). Everything about it (even the name) is focused on you doing this every day of your life.

I also need to find out about gyms. I will do a light workout today with the rubberbands, just to get my muscles stretched and myself doing those motions again. In the next week, I’d like to be in a gym and working out with machines but if not, I’ll continue with the rubber bands. I’m off to the races. Next stop, a healthier me.

Less of Me

I created a new category in the blog, and from now on I’ll be taking the lead from people like Bruce and posting about my fitness. Looking at the XMas photos after the fact, I’m so heavy in them that it makes me sick. I’m about to outgrow my size 38 pants, and I have told myself that is the limit. No way am I going up to 40, so I need to lighten up or else never fit in my clothes again.

I haven’t weighed myself in the last month or two, but I was in the mid 230’s last time I did. When I moved from Portland to Atlanta in 2000 I was at around 215. The best shape of my adult life was when I was in college, when I was down around 165-170 and muscular. Since then, I’ve been creeping up ever since. During grad school, I was over 200 but through lots of working out and diet got down to around 190. Now it is time to once again get on the stick.

I still have some sweets and cookies that we carried back from the holidays. I’m going to eat those with abandon, and when they are gone that’s it. One way or another, I’m going to start eating better and excercising more. I’m in such poor shape that I’m huffing and puffing after doing the most minor exertions. I’ll look around at my gym options, and at the very least begin doing some stuff in the house with the rubber band excercise set that I’ve never really used. I’m going to set a goal of losing 5 pounds a month between January 1 and June 1. Once I get that far, I’ll reevaluate and see where I stand. I should post my progress (or lack thereof) here at least weekly. Feel free to leave feedback, encouragement or brickbats. Wish me luck or even better, discipline and hard work.