Wednesday, August 10, 2011
My first serious effort to deliberately lose weight was in 2004-2005. I was on a message board that discussed this, though it was pretty primitive by SP standards. Basically, a bunch of people who wanted to lose weight talked to each other.
I found some of those messages recently, and I'm struck by how naive my attitude was. I spent a lot of time moaning about how poor my dietary control was, and how evil the Snack Days at work were. My strategy was to just try to eat somewhat reasonably, and outwork what I ate. It even worked for a while. I dutifully posted weekly weigh-ins, starting at a bit over 200. Getting below 200 by 12/31/04 was a major accomplishment for me.
In 2005, I bounced off 188. The record on the message board has gains and losses, and I faded away somewhere around 195 or 196. The support from others evaporated when the numbers stopped going down.
This morning I weighed in at 190. Yesterday, the dehydrated morning after an evening at the gym, I was at 188.8. But this time, I'm quantifying what I eat instead of just trying to use will power to be reasonable. Somehow, I don't think I'm going to bounce off 188 and keep going back up in 2011.
I haven't been on SparkPeople long enough to guarantee that I won't have the same failure of motivation here, eventually, as I had in 2005. But some other stuff has changed in my life since 2004 to make the prognosis for longer term stability better. I've picked up some skills since then that are useful to the effort. While I've been on and off the fitness wagon, I haven't been back to the levels of unfitness that I had in the late 1990s; and my climbing back on the wagon deadlift in 2011 was for 10 pounds more than what I wrote about in 2005. Also, now I'm an empty nester and the major stressors in my personal life from 2002 through 2010 have pretty much been resolved favorably.
I think I can do this, but I need to be realistic. If I'm going to get to a healthy weight and stay there the rest of my life, I'm going to have to record what I eat for the rest of my life. It's just too easy for me to slip into bad habits if I don't have to record it and look at what I'm doing in near real time.
Sunday, August 07, 2011
Thursday evening I went to the gym. I thought I was holding back, only did four exercises. I try to do, at a minimum, a major leg exercise, a pulling exercise, and a pushing exercise. Did deadlifts for legs, military press for push, and lat pulldowns for pull. Then I wasn't worn out, so I did renegade rows. www.youtube.com/watch?v=tL4Ygzz20gk I used the gym's round dumbbells instead of the easy square powerblocks the guy in the video is using. Kettlebells would be more challenging.
Friday I skipped my morning Turkish getups, www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqyIuFIdgRk which I normally do with a windmill at the top. www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFgqVkP6bZY
Skipping these the morning after lifting weights in the evening is normal.
Then Saturday morning, my shoulders told me that they didn't want to do the TGU/windmill combinations, still. Hmm. Guess I worked harder Thursday than I thought. Okay, gave the shoulders another day of rest. They were fine Sunday morning for the TGU/windmill combo, and I even managed two sets of kettlebell snatches. www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjGVdKsXOk8
Now, I don't do a whole lot of this stuff. 5 TGU/windmill combos on each side, and one set of 10 KB snatches is generally all I do in a morning. I'm currently working with a 35 lb. kettlebell, and I weighed in at 190.8 this morning; so it's not like a major lift requiring rest on its own merits. But if I'm going to lift weights twice a week, and skip the kettlebell stuff the following morning (or worse, the following TWO mornings), I'm close to breaking a habit. Hmm.
Then there's the cardio. I really backed off this weekend, settling for a couple of slower walks and mowing the lawn. That was the right thing to do right now, as my body was telling me this wasn't the time to be pushing. But that does raise a couple of philosophical questions: How fit do I need to be? And how much time do I need to devote to obtaining and maintaining that fitness?
Fitness is like any other hobby, in that it will suck up however much time I throw at it. I already know I have a tendency to overdo the fitness stuff, then burn out and fall off the wagon. I need to find a balance, where I do enough to stay fit but not so much that I overtrain, injure myself, or psychologically burn out on the time expended.
How fit do I need to be?
For all practical purposes, I need to be fit enough to do the things I want to do in life.
I need to be fit enough to mow the lawn, however many times it needs mowing in the growing season. That's not a terribly high hurdle. I managed to get the lawn mowed even when I weighed 221 and had to come inside for water and cooldown several times in the process.
I need to be fit enough to park at the far end of the Walmart or Sam's Club parking lot, so I don't have to fight the insane traffic near the door. That's not a very high hurdle, either. I've never come close to needing to park close to the door.
I want to be fit enough to walk five miles on short notice. That one's a little higher, but not terribly so. There was a time when I was so out of shape that one mile seemed like a very long walk, but that's been quite a while. Even after being off the fitness wagon for a year, I can walk five miles without any thought that it might be too far.
Beyond that, I'd like to be able to run the 3.5 mile Chase Corporate Challenge the entire way without slowing to a walk. I've never managed that, because it would require training during tax season. I'm busy during tax season, doing stuff that is more important to me than training for a race that happens in late May. And other than the company social aspect of the Corporate Challenge, I'm not particularly interested in being a runner.
While it was a great ego-boost, at my peak of fitness, to be able to hold up my half of a piano that needed moving, I don't really need to be that strong. If I can lift and carry 100 pounds short distances without undue effort, that's good enough for life activities.
Then there's the non-fitness goals. I want to spend some time doing maintenance on my house. Some of it will need to be hired out, but some of it really ought to be do it yourself projects. Time spent exercising is time not spent getting this stuff done. I'll have some seasonal commitments that I don't really want to give up. Somehow or other, I'll need to take care of fitness in spite of having more commitments in the fall, winter and spring than I do in the summer.
It's a puzzle. Ideally, I'd like to find some fitness routine that will maintain a minimum level in not a whole lot of time, so I can do more in the summer and enough the other three seasons to start the summer without a lot of remedial work.
The one bright spot in the conundrum is, I'm no longer worried about weight or diet. Four weeks on SP have convinced me I can track food and maintain calorie discipline throughout the normal change of seasons and commitment levels. Yeah, I don't have down yet just how I'll navigate the social eating of the holiday season; but there will be a way to navigate it.
That's kind of an odd thought, because I've been working on the exercise side a lot longer than I've been working on the controlling diet side. But there you have it. Controlling the diet is self-limiting. Get it done, and the time is freed up for other pursuits. But exercise is open ended. It can take up however much time I'm willing to throw at it.
So . . . how fit do I want to be, and how hard am I willing to work to be that fit? The answers to those questions will determine how much time I should put into exercise. Finding the right answers could mean the difference between maintaining fitness long term and a cycle of falling off and climbing back on the wagon.
Saturday, August 06, 2011
Last night I was a bit down on the self improvement thing, and my blog yesterday reflected that. I was clever enough to realize that a good portion of that might be lack of sleep, so I went to bed at a decent hour and tried to sleep in this morning. I don't think I managed to sleep till 7, but it was a good night's sleep.
I felt more positive in the morning, and set out to read some blogs. Oh, my. One sparker has two daughters separated from husbands and moving back in. Another had a 30 year old son get serious facial injuries skateboarding, and has to let him learn for himself the hard way. Both of them are determined to control their diet and exercise, in spite of Life Happening and the stress they feel. I guess I don't have it so bad after all.
This morning was the first of my planned weekly breakfasts with my daughter, at a local McDonald's. I had in mind to blog on this subject, after seeing how I had to work around it on the SP system. Turns out that, given two weeks to prepare, it wasn't that big a deal to work around. I'll note in passing that I ate a salad beforehand to try to fill myself up, and some cottage cheese and carrots afterward because I was hungry immediately after getting home. I don't know what there is about the fast food (sausage burrito, hash browns, decaf coffee-black) that stimulates the appetite, but I dealt with it. Forewarned is forearmed, and all that.
The blessing part of this is, my daughter wanted to have breakfast with me. A couple weeks ago, she specifically called (okay, texted) to set this up, because her work schedule and mine don't leave much common free time. Last week she had to back out because she was sick, but this week was a go.
In my particular situation, this is a blessing indeed. I went through a stressful divorce when my daughter was 16 and 17. At that time, she was a really troubled teen, and the next few years of being a single parent with custody were, um, challenging. Yeah, that's the word. Challenging. It is a real blessing that my daughter has got her act together so that she could move out on her own last March, and that at the age of 24 she actually wants to see me regularly. Given the nature of the first 16 years of her life, it would be understandable if she wanted nothing to do with me at all.
So what did I do with my more positive attitude today? I felt like having a nice, relaxing day without doing much of anything. So after breakfast I dug out my e-reader and went for a relaxed 5.2 mile walk while reading The Life of Flavius Josephus. That kept the pace down around 3.5 MPH, which didn't feel like pushing things. Then I had a nap after lunch. I have my 10K steps in, I have my daily exercise in, and I can relax doing laundry and vacuuming and not much else. Life is good.
Much of my life I've been a glass half empty kind of guy. I can still be that way on occasion, but I'm more positive most of the time now. If I get enough rest, and do an honest assessment, my glass isn't half empty. It's three quarters full.
Life is good.
Friday, August 05, 2011
I'm nearing the end of my fourth week on SparkPeople, and it isn't exciting any more.
I'm staying within my calorie and macronutrient ranges. I'm getting more exercise than I did in my immediate pre-spark period, when I was off the exercise bandwagon. I'm tracking what I eat, and using the feedback to fine tune what I eat late in the day. I've lost around 4 pounds, allowing for the imprecision of weighing myself. I'm getting those 10,000 steps per day.
And it's turned into a routine. I can live with the food tracking routine, as that doesn't take much time. I'm concerned about the exercise routine, long term. The exercise has squeezed out most other forms of entertainment. This is okay for now, but in the fall I'll want to go back to vocal and bell choir rehearsals two evenings a week. Come winter, I'll want to spend some time preparing for volunteer work during tax season. And during tax season, my major focus will be on getting done what I need to in minimum time, because of the extra time I put into the local VITA program.
I don't think I'll hit goal weight by September. If things go really well in August, I might be back around the lowest I weighed in 2010 by Labor Day. And then, right when other routines gear up to start, further losses will be Uncharted Territory not seen in almost 20 years.
I guess it comes back to balance. The SP system is working, when it's the major thing I focus on outside of work. I have a month to figure out how to make it work when it's only one of several things I focus on outside of work.
Put another way, part of why SP is working for me right now is that I'm an empty nester with no life in the summer. Life starts up again in the fall, and I'm not yet seeing how to make the SP system work when life is happening.
Oh, well. I have a month to figure it out. Maybe I'll be able to let the exercise slide just a little, if I diligently track what I eat and control how much I eat.
I sure hope that works. It can't do worse than not paying attention to what I eat and letting the exercise go entirely. And I'll probably feel better about it after a good night's sleep.
That suggests another goal that isn't on my list yet.
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
In the early stages of one of my earlier attempts at losing weight, I read somewhere that you can't change your whole life at once. The author recommended that you create one good routine, and stick with it until it becomes a habit. Once that routine is fixed, you try changing something else. If the first thing slips, abandon the second change and go back to solidifying the first one.
I tried that, but I never got to the third good habit. What I did get was a habit of walking on my lunch hour at work. That habit stuck with me for a decade before I became inconsistent.
Later on, I noticed that walking on my lunch hour was enough to keep me from gaining weight and even lose weight very slowly; but it's no good losing 5 pounds in 10 months if I put 8 pounds back on in November and December. Walking wasn't enough, so I took up weight lifting.
Weight lifting, starting from no knowledge, was an interesting challenge. Like most newbie lifters, I made mistakes. I trained too light, and then when I added enough weight I trained too often. I pulled a shoulder and didn't recognize what was happening soon enough, and had to take several months off. Came back to the weights a little smarter, and fell off the wagon a couple more times.
In 2008, I totally fell off the fitness wagon. Life happened, in the form of significantly increased expenses and no increase in income. I had to learn budgeting, never having maintained a detailed personal budget before in my life. I got it done, and exceeded my initial budgeting goals. I also gained 16 pounds in 2008, and touched my all time high weight in late December.
2009 was the year of the Rodent Diet. I lost 24 pounds, mostly in the second half of the year. What, you may ask, was the Rodent Diet? There were reports of mice in the building where I work. Efforts to control the mice (which I never saw) included changes to the rules. No food at the desk. All food brought in must be in sealed, hard containers (not just in baggies). All food must be consumed in the cafeteria, on the ground floor. It was really eye-opening how many times I wanted to walk out into the office and grab a piece of chocolate that wasn't there any more.
After the rodent problem was solved, I tried to keep up the way of life that the Rodent Diet had enforced. That worked, for a while, and coincided with being on the wagon for fitness. In 2010 I achieved my lowest weight since 1991. Then I fell off the wagon, and gained about 10 pounds back over the course of a year from mid-2010 to mid-2011.
Enter SparkPeople. I could see that things weren't working. I knew I needed to eat less and exercise more, but I lacked motivation. I reluctantly came to the conclusion that I needed to track what I ate. I'd been avoiding doing that for two decades. So, let's see how long I can follow this web site and if I can learn to put it all together.
What I've learned in the first three weeks is that success builds from past experiences. I know how to walk, I know how to ride a bike, I know how to lift weights, I know about overtraining. Add a pinch of motivation, and the fitness comes right back without needing very much attention. That's good, because weighing and measuring food is totally new to me and will need a LOT of attention.
So I learn about food tracking, and how much better food scales are now than the last time I looked twenty years ago. I learn about SparkPeople having a lot of nutrition data already there, and entering my own being easy, if a bit tedious. I learn about putting in what I really measured and letting the program calculate calories instead of having to measure to fit arbitrary serving sizes. A lot of the nuisance has gone away, handled by computing power and a large community entering nutrition data.
The more interesting thing is how much food selection resembles envelope budgeting. There are only so many calories to work with, and I can spend them pretty much as I please; but some choices will be less satisfying than others. I can have a bagel and cream cheese, but it's expensive. Eggs remain a staple. Other former staples get squeezed out, and some new staples come into my kitchen. Most importantly, this follows naturally from the choices I make to get the most satisfying meals I can within the parameters of minimum and maximum calories, carbs, fat, and protein.
I don't know whether I could have done this without the work I did in 2008 on budgets. If I could have done it, it would have taken longer to figure the food out. There were food surprises--choosing to drink less tea in order to get my water, simply not eating some of the "expensive" stuff because it never fits into the day very well, not missing some of my former treats that got squeezed out, and enjoying the treats that remain more for their being rare. These food surprises feel very much like the results of envelope budgeting, where I end up spending less on things I would have thought couldn't be cut, because there are only so many dollars and other things turned out to be more important to me.
Yeah, I know. The budget metaphor isn't perfect, and it may not work for a lot of people. But it's working for me. It's part of building on my past efforts, even where those efforts weren't in the area of nutrition or fitness.
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