Thursday, September 17, 2009
In the "overweight" and "normal" categories, the BMI number is not very helpful because it doesn't reflect the amount of muscle versus fat contributing to weight.
However, in "obese" and above, I think it's a pretty good gauge of the relative size of people for their frames.
As recently as December 8 2008 I was "Super Morbidly Obese," (BMI over 50).
On December 23, 2008 I dropped into "Morbidly Obese" (BMI under 50)
On May 24, 2009 I dropped into "Class II Obesity" (BMI under 40)
On July 31, 2009 I dropped into "Class I Obesity" (BMI under35)
In 7.8 lbs I will drop into "Overweight" (BMI under 30)
The reason I mention this is that I watched some of the excerpts from Biggest Loser on Hulu last night and was amazed at how LARGE all of the new contestants looked. Because last season I recall that only a few of them started at a BMI similar to mine.
So I went and looked up the numbers, and was shocked.
My starting BMI was 52.56 back in May 2007. In December 2008 it was 52.53
Of the contestants on the current show, only 5 of the 16 are actually larger than I was 9 months ago. None of those are as old as I am. Most contestants are the size range I was in until May 24. Only two are older than me, and the rest are younger.
Body image is such a bizarre and fluid concept. Most of the time I still wonder if a chair will hold me or if I can squeeze through a space occupied by other things. I have no clue what I really look like, anymore (I don't recognize recent pictures of myself, and don't even get me started on my reaction to the mirror - it's basically like viewing a Cubist Picasso. An eyeball here, something else there, some things look surprisingly small, others look big, and others just look strange - I simply can't process the entire image as a whole). Apparently this is not uncommon: www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31489881/ns/hea
But I didn't realize that I'd forgotten how big I looked - or maybe I never really accepted it in the first place. Yes I have a pair of "fat" jeans I saved from last December and I have some "before" pictures on my spark page, but I think perhaps somewhere in the back of my brain I wasn't really *seeing* it, because it was too painful to actually contemplate.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I used to be a long-distance cyclist.
I bought my first (and only) bicycle, a steel touring Peugeot U-O9, around 1981 with babysitting money. I earned $1.50/hour. The bike cost $250.
Over the years with the help of my brother and later a boyfriend I modified things – Saturae rims from Wheelsmith in Palo Alto, side-pull brakes, various incarnations of seats and pedals, and most notably – a custom repaint and braze-add-on job by JP Weigle when I lived in CT. With the rack and saddle bag, etc. it weighs 30 lbs.
In high school the bike represented freedom. Freedom from the restricted weekend bus schedules, freedom from asking for rides from people with cars. I even commuted to school on my bike a few times – a very hilly 14-mile round trip on busy streets, leapfrogging with buses, etc.
In college I rode with the team on their easy days. I learned how to ride in a pace line. I learned to pedal even when going downhill. I learned how to tuck myself into an aerodynamic shape when descending. In those days I used to sign up for 100-mile club rides, called Centuries. My first was the Pajaro Valley Century, noted for a 2000 ft climb within the first 25 miles.
In grad school I continued to ride my trusty Peugeot with a friend, until life got the better of me, I was spending too many days in the lab and the library, and started gaining weight. That was in the mid 1990s.
Fast forward to four months ago. I’d been losing weight steadily since December and doing water aerobics 4x/week. Eventually I noticed that one of my classes was not challenging me very much. So I decided to investigate other arthritis-friendly options.
On April 23 I tried a spinning class for the first time. I thought I was just about going to DIE. At times my heart rate monitor was spiking so high (158 bpm) I wondered if I might be at risk for a heart attack. I deliberately slowed down, just in case – I didn’t want to keel over right there!
The class lasted 45 minutes. They were jumping up and down, sprinting, and standing out of the saddle in simulated hill climbs. All to music. And using resistance bands for upper body strength “as a break.” The instructor seemed more like a machine than a human. And that tiny little seat was KILLING my rear. By the time 45 minutes were up and it was time to stretch, I begged the instructor in a small voice, to get off and stand next to the bike for the stretching.
It took me a week to recover. Working at my desk while NOT sitting down was a challenge. During that 45 minutes of pain I’d had ample opportunity to observe the other people in the class (I was in the back). They all looked really really fit. I decided that I would try and stick with it, because maybe the REASON they were fit was that they were in there doing this thing. I figured, even if I couldn’t keep UP, at least I could keep GOING.
So a week later I went back. By then I’d purchased a gel seat cover, and that helped a lot. I considered it a victory to simply stay ON THE BIKE for the whole 45 minutes. A week later I went back again. By then my rear was recovering pretty quickly – within days rather than weeks. By the fourth week I decided I was ready to try doing this twice a week. So I did.
And eventually I started to get better. I hatched a plan. I’d supplement with road riding. If I had improved to the point that I could keep up with the class by the end of the summer, I’d one day ride to work (14 miles each way), go to spinning class afterward, and then ride home. My instructor said I was crazy. So did the other students.
Last week I went to see Lisa and Steve in the UK. I rented a bike and we went on lots of nice rides. Outside. On the road. On the LEFT (but never mind that). I discovered that all the spinning had translated into very strong legs and cardiovascular system. Once I got my balance and my road habits back, I was good to go.
So today, four months after starting spinning and 70 lbs lighter, I’m DOING it. I rode this morning 13.73 miles in less than an hour on a bike that weights 30 lbs (still my trusty Peugeot), carrying 20 lbs of gear. In a few minutes I’ll change back into my jersey and shorts and ride over to the spinning class and ride in there (on my bike on a trainer, for a fun change of pace) for 45 minutes followed by 15 minutes of crunches. And then I’ll ride the 13.73 miles home.
By God, I think I’m back!
Edit: I’m home now. Here are my final numbers:
* 13.73 miles
* 57 minutes
* 13.7 mph average
* 535 cal
* 142 bpm average
* 155 bpm max
Spinning (2.5 miles to get there from work)
* 19.47 miles
* 61 minutes
* 18.5 mph average
* 642 cal
* 126 bpm average
* 153 bpm max
Note: I discovered that spinning is better on a spinning bike - not enough resistance with the trainer to do all the jumping and standing.
* 13.03 miles
* 55 minutes
* 14.2 mph average
* 402 cal
* 125 bpm average
* 141 bpm max
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
I don't know why SP calculates the predicted weight loss rate as a straight line (X lbs/week) because that is not how weight comes off, in my experience.
It comes off exponentially (i.e. faster at first, slower near goal). Also, the difficulty of losing 5% is roughly the same no matter what your starting weight is. This means that in order to get a clear idea of the amount of effort required for each stage in the process, you have to calculate your loss in net percent intervals, not X lbs/week intervals.
Here's how I predict my weight loss over time, and figure out whether I'm on track:
Create a spreadsheet and put in your starting weight.
In the cell below that paste a formula that calculates 95% of the cell above.
Repeat, adding rows, until you've got the weight you want.
Then figure on about 4-5 weeks for each net 5% loss. You can put the dates in next to the weights, if you like. Each of these intervals is roughly the same amount of effort.
In general I believe the recommended rate of weight loss for mammals is about 1% per week. (At least, that's what vets recommend for cats and dogs, and I don't see why it should be any different for humans.)
Update: The 1%-1.5% per week figure has finally been addressed in humans. www.sparkpeople.com/myspark/team_mes
Sunday, August 02, 2009
This topic seems to be cropping up a lot around here, lately.
Birdie wrote a blog about it.
(Update: Birdie retired her personal page when she became DR_BIRDIE. There were some real gems among her blog posts. You can read her newer "official" posts here:
WALKWITME wrote a blog about it.
Nancy Howard wrote a blog about it.
We've been collecting information about it at my regional spark team page.
I believe this is the single biggest problem with weight loss, and too few discuss it. I think SP would be an excellent place to disseminate the scientific findings from groups like the team managing the NWCR. I would like to see a whole system set up for tracking maintenance on Spark People that is as visible as the weight loss.
After the initial loss a person is not even halfway "done." I suspect that there needs to be training in maintenance mentality before someone even gets to goal weight. I'm trying to train myself in this, now, so that when I get to goal I will have the hard realistic view I need in order to manage my maintenance, long-term.
I lost over 100 lbs in my 20s through diet and exercise and gained it all back plus a lot more. This time I am playing for keeps, because I will NOT go down this road again. I simply refuse. I've seen what can happen - from the inside - and I WILL NOT go there again.
To that end I've been drawing on all the resources I have, including my skill at reading the scientific literature (I'm a research scientist by trade). I am attempting to prepare myself mentally for what I consider the REALLY hard fight, the one that will come AFTER the loss, the fight of maintenance.
There are a lot of reasons why maintenance is harder. It's not flashy - you're not changing in appearance, so there aren't all those nice external encouragements from other people noticing. In fact, as time goes by, the people who meet you after the loss often have no idea where you've come from. To them you've always looked fit. It's tedious to log food and activity. The temptation to relax is strong, because you already do look and feel good; there isn't the pain of plantar fasciitis or the embarrassment of chairs with arms or airplane seatbelt extenders to remind you of why you're doing this.
When's the last time you saw a media story celebrating someone having maintained a large weight loss? Exactly. They don't, because it's not news, and it's not exciting, and won't sell commercials.
I've been combing the literature for articles about maintenance of weight loss and found a nice 2009 one written by the team behind the national weight control registry www.nwcr.ws
This paper (which is written a bit more with the lay reader in mind) summarizes statistically significant predictors for successful weight loss maintenance.
Here they are:
1) longer duration of weight loss maintenance (more than 2 years)
2) dietary consistency
3) less fast food consumption
4) less TV viewing
5) more frequent breakfast consumption
6) lower levels of depressive symptoms and dis-inhibited eating
Key behaviors identified as associated with weight loss maintenance in the article are:
1) activity levels of over 200 minutes per week (at least for women in the cited study)
2) high levels of dietary restraint, such as:
- a) deliberately taking small helpings
- b) avoiding certain foods
- c) counting calories
3) having lower levels of depressive symptomology
4) controlling overeating
They suggest that keeping contact with maintainers is important for continued maintenance if the loss was facilitated by a program of some kind.
An earlier paper by the same team says that one of the best predictors of weight loss maintenance is to have maintained the loss for 5 years. So once I get to my goal I am going to think about it like cancer. I will stay vigilant and won't consider myself "done" or "fat free" until I've maintained for 5 years.
I will celebrate every month that I've maintained on a countdown to 5 years (60 months).
Statistically, 5% of people who lose a large amount of weight manage to keep it off. That 5% is made of real, live people, living real lives somewhere out there. I am going to do everything in my power to be one of them.
All this points to the need to remain active in places like SparkPeople for many years after reaching goal levels. Which is probably good anyway, because it helps encourage the people just starting out, too.
P.S. There's also a really nice 2005 paper reviewing weight management behaviors by a pair of Swedish scientists:
P.P.S. Here's a nice USA TODAY article from 2005 about weight maintenance: www.usatoday.com/news/health/2005-10
P.P.P.S. RAYLINSTEPHENS reminded me that the chapter on weight maintenance in the Hacker's Diet is excellent:
There is a Spark Team for people using the Hacker's Diet tracking tools:
P.P.P.P.S. RUSSLANE has a site he runs, focused specifically on articles about maintenance. It's well worth checking out:
P.P.P.P.P.S. There are some detractors to the NWCR, although they may be misinterpreting the data (see ELISADEL's comment):
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