Sunday, July 31, 2011
The title should be fair enough warning. If you can't handle ugly, don't look.
My sister keeps a series of monthly pictures that show her progress. That's a cool idea. so today I set out to learn how to take a picture of myself. Turns out my relatively inexpensive digital camera can be set for a 10 second delay, and my daughter had given me a tripod for the camera. So, after a few shots to learn where the camera was pointing, I took a mug shot:
The striking thing about taking a picture of myself was that the roll of fat around my middle looks worse than it does when I look in the mirror. Hm, I wonder. Why is that? Is it all in my head, or do I suck in my belly unconsciously because I know I'm looking?
So I tried a few shots of flexing muscles. They looked really hokey, and I don't really care about bicep size anyway. I settled on trying for a front and side view of the top position from a kettlebell snatch. The first attempts showed me with my arm bent a little and not as far up as it ought to be. Here's the shots with cleaning up that form after the first feedback:
To my eye, those don't look as bad as the mug shot; but they're bad enough. There is no question about it, even stretched out with the tension of supporting a 35 lb. kettlebell, I show a lot of fat around the belly.
Here's the part that I find interesting. I weighed in today at 192.4 pounds. That's a minor fluctuation up from yesterday's low. I remember being this weight when I was trying to become fit and just trust the weight to take care of itself without having to watch what I ate. I felt pretty good, I could deadlift 225 pounds for reps, and I wondered if I'd ever consistently be under 190 again. The BMI numbers said I should get down to 182 or 183 to be at the top of healthy BMI, and I wondered whether I had too much muscle for that to be practical.
Well. I'm not feeling too shabby right now. I took most of a year off from fitness, but apparently it wasn't all the way off. I stilled played with my kettlebells a little, inconsistently went for walks and bike rides, and participated in my only road race of each year, the 3.5 mile Chase Corporate Challenge. Getting back into things after finding (read: being pushed at) SparkPeople, the fitness part is coming back pretty easily. The first test of deadlifts found me lifting 185 pounds for reps. Yeah, I've lost some strength; but not that much strength. Today's pics shouldn't be all that different from what I would have looked like when I was at my fittest around 190 pounds.
It looks like my goal of 175 isn't all that unrealistic. It looks like I used to kid myself about how much muscle weight I had added from pumping iron. I look incredibly fat for how good I feel.
I wonder how bad I would have looked if I'd taken pictures when I weighed 221?
Saturday, July 30, 2011
A couple days ago I wrote a blog about weighing every day, which I do. Today I updated my weight graph for the past week or so of measurements. It now shows a definite downward trend since starting with SparkPeople, after a sideways to gentle upward trend for the first half of the year.
I occurred to me that I don't update the graph display every day. I only do that about once a week, though not on consistent days. Sometimes I go two or three weeks without updating the graph. But that graph is kind of like a weekly weigh-in. Adding one weight point doesn't tell me anything that I didn't know from just looking at the number. But adding a week's worth of daily weight points tells me what kind of week I had.
Even one week of trend isn't always significant. But two weeks in the same direction usually means something. This morning, I weighed in at my lowest weight for the year, again. It's not lowest by very much, and it will likely fluctuate up again tomorrow, but that's okay. The trend is in the right direction.
Friday, July 29, 2011
The SparkPeople site is full of motivational tricks. A lot of them are dumb. You get one SparkPoint for 5 fitness minutes. The SparkPoints aren't good for anything real, just bragging rights and virtual SparkGoodies. And one SparkPoint is so small as to be insignificant even on the scale of what SparkPoints are used for.
So why do I keep walking to turn a 32 minute walk into 35 minutes? Because 35 fitness minutes are worth 7 SparkPoints, and 34 are only worth 6.
Today I found the mileage tracker. I turned it on, figuring I could always turn it back off if I didn't like it. Turns out I like it. I like measuring distance and time, and letting the site compute speed, much better than measuring time and estimating speed. And the mapping function allows for run/walk or cycling. I could get used to that, really fast.
Then there was this goal attached. It said, walk 5 miles a week. That sounded low, so I set it at 10 miles per week. Then I went out and walked at lunch. The map said, 2.62 miles. Well and good.
Got to thinking . . . I foolishly turned on mileage mapping on a Friday. If I just go along like normal, the tracker won't know I walked over 10 miles this week. It doesn't have what I did from Sunday to Thursday. So at 8:30 PM on a Friday, I decided to take another walk. I didn't know how long it was, so I stretched it a bit. In 30 minutes I covered 2.16 miles. Okay, I was pushing it.
That put my Friday total at 4.78 miles. I can do my standard 5.20 mile Saturday walk, and I can add a bit to make 10 miles in the week on the tracker. Then I won't have to continually look at a tracker that say I met the goal n-1 out of n weeks.
It's a motivational trick. It's dumb. But it works.
I guess the stupid motivational tricks aren't as stupid as they look.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Every easily available public source on losing weight says not to weigh yourself every day. They all say to weigh yourself every week. The rationale is that if you weigh yourself each day, you may get discouraged when your weight fluctuates upward. But if you only weigh weekly, you're more likely to see steady downward progress. It's a motivational thing.
Well, not all people are motivated by the same things. If they were, there would be cookie-cutter solutions for everyone to become fit and achieve a healthy weight.
I don't remember when I started weighing myself every day. I do remember that I worked out what was the most consistent time of day to weigh (first thing in the morning, after emptying my bladder) and the most consistent clothing (the underwear I sleep in, because nude wasn't a comfortable option.) And I remember that if I didn't weigh every day, I wouldn't remember to weigh every week.
In late 2001, it occurred to me that my weight measurements weren't working. I'd gain a pound, lose a pound, gain a pound, and not see a trend. I had trouble remembering where I came from. So I started recording my daily weights in an Excel spreadsheet, on 12/31/2001. That let me look back over the past week easily, and later on it let me graph the results to see trends. I learned to recognize normal peaks and valleys of fluctuations, and to see real weight gain or loss as the peaks and valleys got higher or lower, not as the difference between a peak and a valley. After some time, I conclude a couple of things. First, even if I weigh at the most consistent weight time of day, a weight change of less than 5 pounds might only be a normal fluctuation. Second, the weights to fear or celebrate were new highs or lows not seen recently.
Nine and a half years and a lot of weight fluctuations later, I started with SparkPeople. Like every other weight loss program, SparkPeople says to weigh in weekly. I haven't read very closely, but I suspect the reasons for this are pretty much the same as every other weight loss program's reasons.
It took less than two weeks for the weekly weigh-in to start bugging me. That weight on my screen isn't what I weighed this morning! So I made an executive decision: I would customize my Spark program to daily weighing. I don't care if my weight goes up on some days; I'll weigh myself again tomorrow and long term, things will take care of themselves.
Today I hit a new low, by a fraction of a pound. This one isn't a big deal, because it's only a new low since early December and it's only a fractional pound lower than the last new low since December. But I get to see it for a day, and tomorrow I'll see what I weigh tomorrow morning. I won't be surprised if I fluctuate up by a fractional pound tomorrow morning; historically, this has frequently happened after I hit a new low.
There are two things I'm looking for in my weight measurements. Like most people trying to shed pounds, I'm looking for new lows. But more importantly, I'm looking to have lower upward fluctuations. It's a thrill to realize that the current disappointing high was a former exciting new low. That's progress.
The morning before I signed up with the Spark, I weighed 196.4. The following morning I weighed 195, which lower than I'd weighed in the previous six months. Three days later, after a big day of eating out and two days of eating fast food on the road, I was up to 198. But . . . I didn't stay there. The weight graph goes up and down, but the trend line for the time since I started Sparking is downward.
I care more about that trend line than about the specific weight on any given day. I get a better trend line from weighing daily than from weighing weekly. That, and I'm not sure I'd remember to weigh weekly if I weren't weighing daily.
I understand that daily weighing won't work well for everyone. But it works well for me, and it's part of my plan. And I suspect that there are a lot of people out there weighing themselves daily, even if they only put their weight into the Spark weekly.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Buying new clothes is a traditional indication that a fitness and diet regimen is working. And thus it is, for me; but not in the way that is meant when the stereotypical dieter announces she bought new clothes.
I hate shopping for clothes, and it's worse when I have to go to the real mall instead of a big box store or a strip mall. I dislike driving into the mall parking lot even when I don't have to shop for clothes. But clothing does not last forever, and worn clothing must periodically be replaced.
This isn't so bad for something like underwear, where I can pick some up with minimal angst at Walmart, paying a price that is clearly marked. But business casual pants and shirts for work don't come from Walmart. Mostly, they require a trip to the mall. In the case of the pants, that also means a trip into a fitting room because my waist has historically fluctuated in size. And, of course, there's the issue of comparison shopping for stuff that isn't totally comparable from one store to another, and digging through the marketing and current sale nonsense to figure out what I'm really spending. Yuck. I hate the whole experience. Thank God I don't need to shop for a business suit right now!
The stereotypical dieter would tell you how pleased she was to be able to get into some size (the number wouldn't mean anything to me), and how she liked the new clothes, and perhaps what a great bargain they were or how much money she saved. This would be a victory celebration for her, because she met her goal or made significant progress toward it. It would be an indication that her program is successful.
I've been on the Spark for a bit over 2 weeks. I'm down about 4 pounds from when I started. That's better than a kick in the pants, but it's not a major success on the scale or a new wardrobe weight change.
I bought the same size belt I have been wearing, because one just wore out. I bought the same size shirts I have been wearing, because I need to replace some that are wearing out. I did buy 34" waist pants instead of the 36" I'm wearing; but this has happened before, without watching what I eat. I can still wear the existing 36" pants, but they're wearing out and it's about time to replace them. The stuff I bought looks okay, perfectly acceptable for business. If someone described what I bought as "cute" or "stunning" or any of the other adjectives women use to describe clothes they like, I'd wonder what was wrong with it.
I did maybe save some money, though it's hard to tell what's a real saving on something I buy seldom, but which is always on sale. The nice cashier found a way to turn a $133 purchase into a $91 purchase, on the same credit card that I'd intended to use anyway. But the financial stuff isn't really a Spark success. I've been managing a budget for years, and watching this type of thing is nothing new.
The Spark success is that I actually went shopping for clothes, got what I needed, and got home without a lot of stress. I picked a weekday after work, and decided I had the energy to deal with an unpleasant but necessary task. (That, and the extra steps for walking through the mall would put me very comfortably above 10K steps today.) Instead of making excuses because I just didn't feel like going anywhere near the mall, I went and got done what I needed to do.
The unpleasant but necessary task of shopping didn't have anything to do with fitness and weight loss; the clothing that I am replacing would have needed to be replaced even if I were still muddling along 4 pounds heavier and less in shape. But getting it done had everything to do with motivation and getting my act together. I run out of things to do for the Spark program, and look around for what else I can do that is productive. Today that turned out to be clothes shopping.
That's a real, if small, success of starting the Spark system.
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