Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Reminded Of The Importance Of Calorie Intake

I know it in my head. I've preached it here. I've devoted an entire blog post to it. It's the first part of the little slogan at the top of this blog, and with good reason. However, over the last few weeks I strayed a bit from the simple concept that I need to watch my calorie intake even when I'm eating healthy foods and exercising heavily

In the two weeks prior to this one, I completed runs of 17 miles and 20 miles. I missed none of the runs from my marathon training plan. I supplemented the running with exercise biking and strength training sessions, all fairly intense. Over that time I ate exactly one dish that would be considered out of bounds in relation to the way I've eaten for the last 9-ish months--a squash casserole on Thanksgiving Day. And over those two weeks, I managed to gain around 12 pounds, simply by eating too much healthy food. I was indiscriminately grabbing bowls of greek yogurt with too many almonds and/or walnuts, grabbing extra helpings of turkey (no skin, no gravy,) and generally just slacking off from the level of tracking of what I eat that I've gotten used to.

I'm not fretting about it, and in the big scheme of things, it's no big deal. The trend has already started to reverse this week. I've logged everything for the last few days and have dropped from 183.6 to 180.5, and I fully expect to be back down in the lower 170s by the end of this month. However, I thought I'd just put this quick post up to remind myself and my readers that for many of us, exercise and eating the "right" foods isn't enough. The slogan at the top is in that order for a reason: eat less, eat healthier, exercise more.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Run Less, Run Faster. Boston Or Bust!

Right now, this seems like the next logical step in my journey: I've signed up for a full marathon. If all goes according to plan, on March 1st, 2014, I'll be back in the great state of Georgia, running 26.2 miles in the Albany Marathon. I'm both excited and nervous about this next adventure, and have some rather lofty aspirations for a first-time marathoner. 

WHY THIS RACE?
This particular race seems to be a fit for several reasons.
  1. I don't want to have to deal with the unknowns and variables that I dealt with in my first race: hotel, unfamiliar city, where to eat, etc., so the #1 criteria for my next race was that it be one that I could easily drive to from my home or a family member/close friend's home on the morning of the race. One of my older brothers lives in the Albany area.
  2. I ran a Half Marathon on October 20th, and wanted to allow some time to recover and then transition to my next training plan while not having a chance to lose the fitness I gained in training for and running the half. The 16-week "Run Less, Run Faster" plan very much appeals to me for reasons I'll discuss later. I'd like to do the entire plan, so the timing of Albany is pretty much perfect as well. I start the plan tomorrow: 3 weeks and 1 day after my last race.
  3. Albany is low-altitude and flat. There were a couple of other late-winter/early-spring races that would have been fits, but Albany is by far the closest thing to my native training environment. My typical training runs don't get above 60ft. Albany's altitude is around 200 feet.
TRAINING PLAN
I'm planning to use the "Run Less, Run Faster" training plan. I've purchased and read the book and it feels like a great fit. The core of the plan is having just three key runs per week, but they are all significantly faster than those of most other marathon training plans. Interestingly enough, when I created my own plan for the half marathon, I used (without knowing about this plan) the same three key runs as the RLRF plan. My interval training wasn't as fast, but my long runs and tempo runs near the end were very similar, if not a little faster, than the RLRF times. This training plan really seems to dovetail with the things I find enjoyable about running. 


INITIAL RACE GOALS
I've got 3+ months from this writing until race day, so I'd like to write these out now and be able to look back at my progress. Based on my time at the half marathon, the various run calculators predict my race time for a full somewhere between 3:31 and 3:34. That said, it's my first marathon. I'll be pretty proud of myself for finishing. So, here are what I see as my tiered goals:

  • I'll be pleased if I... ...finish in 4 hours or less.
  • I'll be very pleased if I... ...finish in 3:45 or less.
  • I'll be extremely pleased if I... ...finish in 3:30 or less.
  • I'll be thrilled if I... ...qualify for the Boston Marathon (3:25 or less for someone my age).
To be honest, by writing them out this way, I'm trying to keep myself in check. The reality is that I want to run a Boston-qualifying time, that's my real internal goal here, and I'll probably be a little down if I don't make it--and that's a little silly. I don't want to run, say, a 3:40 in my first marathon and be disappointed by it. Sure, all indications are that I can do better than that, but I want to keep perspective as well. So, speaking of perspective...

PERSPECTIVE FOR MYSELF IN CASE I DON'T QUALIFY FOR BOSTON

  • On 3/1/2013, a year before the Albany Marathon...
    • you weighed 256 pounds
    • your best speed for any appreciable distance was around 4 miles at a 12-minute pace
    • the farthest you'd run in your life was 4.68 miles
  • On 9/1/2013, six months before Albany...
    • you were THRILLED at having run 14 miles at an 8:48 pace a week or so ago
    • you were THRILLED at almost having broken 50 minutes in a 10K training run
    • the farthest you'd run in your life was 14.4 miles
Just writing this down now in case I need to re-read it on 3/1/2014.

CURRENT WEIGHT/RACE-DAY WEIGHT
I weighed around 175 on race day at Myrtle Beach. Based on the remaining fat pooch around my belly, I suspect that my ideal race weight is going to be 5-10 pounds lighter than that. According to this calculator, losing on the low end of that amount may get me close to 3:25 without any improved fitness. (And of course, I'd expect at least some improved fitness over the next 3 months of training.) I've gained a little weight in between training plans, but not so much that I feel the need to do anything particularly special other than re-focus on tracking calories and eating healthily--along with doing all the running that comes with training for a marathon. The main thing is just to stay focused, so I will continue to tweet my weight and have it show up on the feed to the left of my blog. 


NUTRITION
I will continue to use the LoseIt app/web site to set a calorie budget and log food eaten. I've set it to "Lose 1 Pound Per Week" to decide my calorie budget. I typically don't eat my exercise calories, but I intend to do so to some degree at this point. I think my rule is going to be that if I exercise more than 500 calories, I'll eat enough back to get back to no more than a 500 deficit. In other words, my budget is around 2000 calories. If I burn 900 calories running, I'll eat 400 more calories that day to get to around 2400.

In addition to the calorie numbers, I'm generally trying to stick to the following per-day averages.

  • at least 150g protein
  • at least 35g fiber
  • 25g or less saturated fat
  • 60g or less sugars
I'm not really attempting to hit these every single day, but I'd definitely like to hit them as averages every week.

LIABILITIES/PITFALLS/CONCERNS
My #1 fear/concern coming into the training is that I won't be able to do some of the Tuesday interval runs. They are unquestionably faster than anything I've done. For example, the first Tuesday has me running three one-mile intervals at a 6:50 pace. I don't think I ran even a single mile at 6:50 during training for the half. I did work on mile intervals the last two Tuesdays and I'm more in line with these, but I'm still not so sure about hitting 6:50 three times in a row.

The other issue is that training will go through both Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I'll be traveling for both. Both will be to much hillier locales than my normal Lowcountry training, so there should be some benefit to be had there if time allows me to complete my scheduled runs. Time could be a concern on both trips, and weather could be a factor on the second.
 

FINAL COMMENTS
All in all, I'm very much looking forward to seeing what this new chapter holds. I completed the longest run of my life yesterday (15 miles.) With the training plan I'm using, 12 of the next 16 weekends have me scheduled to do runs as long or longer than that. Yowza!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Beginning Of November Check-In

11/01/2013: 173.5 lbs.
Late September/early October was an incredibly busy time at work, so I never got around to fully establishing goals for October. So with that, I'll just post the highlights of the month rather than my normal goal check-in:

OCTOBER HIGHLIGHTS

  • Ran a half marathon race (13.1 miles) in 1:41:41. The time was very pleasing: in the top 6% of all finishers, and in the top 15% of males aged 40-44. A few months ago I never would have dreamed of running that fast.
  • Lost 2.5 pounds overall and maintained weight under 180 pounds. I'm no longer being particularly aggressive in trying to lose any more weight. There's a bit more fat that I'd like to drop, but I'm fine with burning those last 5-10 pounds of fat over the course of several months, and even gaining a bit of lean muscle weight over that time. The bottom line is that I've been between 172 and 178 since mid-September and would be fine staying in that range.
  • Resumed regular strength training that had been suspended due to hernia surgery. I started with body-weight only exercises in late September after being cleared by the doctor (surgery was on 9/6,) and over the course of October, progressed from bodyweight-only to high-rep/low-weight to standard 8-12 rep routines. I had ceased all strength training after being diagnosed in mid-August with the hernia, and I'm definitely not as strong, but it's encouraging that I feel that i'm healed to the point of being able to push myself just as hard.

Overall, I am quite happy with the October progress and results. No real complaints.
After the half marathon race on 10/20.

LONG-TERM GOAL CHECK-IN


Earlier this year, I set some long-term goals to try to achieve by my 45th birthday (December 23rd, 2013.) In glancing over these, I've realized that with around 8 weeks to go until then, I'm very close to hitting all of the goals:
  • Reduce Body Fat To 15% Or Less--Using several different sources to estimate it as of November 1st, the range of estimates was from 14.0% to 16.0%. 
  • Maintain Lean Mass Of At Least 150 Pounds--This is the one that I might miss. If my body fat is 15% or 16%, I'm under 150 in lean mass. If it's 14%, I'm right at 150. Regardless, it'll be close, and I'm not going to beat myself up over it.
  • Finish In The Top Half Of My Age/Gender Group In A Half Marathon--Yeah, this one turned out to be not nearly ambitious enough. I finished #23 out of 192 males age 40-44 in the Myrtle Beach Mini-Marathon. Don't worry, I'll make up for it by setting an absurdly over-ambitious goal for my first full marathon.
  • Reduce Resting Heart Rate To 50BPM Or Less--It's down around 52 or 53 now, but has been there for a while. My understanding is that there is a genetic component to this one. 50 may not happen, but I'm quite happy with where it stands.
  • Reduce Waist To 33 Inches Or Less--It was over 50 in January. It's measuring a little under 33 now

NOVEMBER GOALS



Now that fat loss is no longer really at the forefront, it's a little harder to set concrete goals. "Lose x pounds this month" no longer makes sense. I am keeping the nutrition-related goals that I've been going after since September, and including some exercise goals:
  • Complete at least 15 cardio and 10 strength training sessions--Basically cardio four times per week and strength training 2-3 times per week and I'll hit this goal.
  • Average 25g Or Less Saturated Fat Per Day--I have been focused on getting healthy fats from nuts, avocados, etc. I want to make sure I keep doing that this month. This goal will continue to force me away from fried foods and fatty meats. The number is derived from exporting my nutrition data from LoseIt and analyzing what has been working for me. ("If it ain't broke...")
  • Average 150g Or More Protein Per Day--There are many protein-per-pound recommendations from various experts. I've found that 0.8g to 1.0g per pound of body weight has served me well in terms of mitigating loss of lean muscle mass and feeling satiated. So roughly 150-175g is a long-term fit for where I think my maintenance weight will be.
  • Average 60g Or Less Sugar Per Day--Like the saturated fat goal, this number is heavily based on what has been working. 60g or less keeps me away from added sugars but allows for reasonable amounts of fruit, sweet potatoes, dark chocolate, etc.
  • Average 35g Or More Per Day Dietary Fiber--This seems to be in the ballpark of the general recommendation for a male roughly my size, and it happens to have been a steady goal of mine for at least the last six months. I haven't found any compelling reason to increase or decrease this number. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Myrtle Beach Mini-Marathon Race Report

Location: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Weather: 61 degrees, cloudy. Light rain stopped about 15 minutes before 7am start and never came back during the race. Perfect!

Goals: This was my first race ever, but I'm a numbers geek, so I felt like I had a fairly decent handle on a correct pace based on my analysis of some of my training runs. I expressed my goals in an earlier blog post as such:
As far as goals/expectations for the race, I'd say that they're best expressed as follows:
  • I'll be somewhat disappointed if I don't finish in under 1:45:00 (roughly 8 min per mile).
  • I'll be pleased with anything between 1:43:00 and 1:45:00.
  • I'll be very pleased if I finish in 1:43:00 or less. (roughly 7:50 per mile).
  • I'll be thrilled if I break 1:40:00 (roughly 7:40 per mile).
Course: Very flat and few turns, very near sea level. Two stretches of 5ish miles without a turn. The final 5+ miles were within a few hundred feet of the Atlantic Ocean. Ocean view for part of that time.

Training: I felt like I was ahead of all of the "beginner" plans that I could find, but not ready for any of the ones that were more advanced, so with some reading and bouncing things off of some more-experienced runners, I created my own training plan, which I followed very closely for the most part. The major hiccup was that I had to have hernia surgery on September 6th and couldn't run for 2 1/2 weeks. I could, however, do high-incline treadmill walks, which I used to elevate my heart rate and maintain (and probably improve) my cardiovascular fitness during the down time. I returned to running on September 25th and was actually a little faster than I had been prior to the surgery. 

Pre-Race: My plan was to use the exact nutrition that I used for my fastest training long run: eat one grapefruit and 30 grams of dry-roasted, lightly-salted edamame about 15 minutes before running, then take Gu gels at the 45-minute and 90-minute markers. It didn't really hit me until the morning of the race that with a 7am start, I would be starting the race nearly an hour and a half later than I normally start my long runs. I found myself feeling hungry and was concerned that with the later start, I wouldn't be eating enough, so I grabbed a banana at the hotel at 6am, ate the grapefruit and edamame at 6:20ish, and went with Gu's "15-before and every 45" plan: had one at 6:45am, then two more at 45 minutes and 90 minutes into the race.

Race Strategy: I felt like I was going to finish somewhere in the 1:40:00-1:42:30 range, so somewhere roughly between a 7:40 and 7:50 pace. My plan was to start out at 7:40 and watch my heart rate carefully, slowing down a bit if I felt that I couldn't maintain that pace for the whole race. I was thinking that if I could keep the heart rate in the 155-160 range for the first five miles, let it get to 160-165 for miles 6-10, then let it go up into 165-170 for the end, I'd be ok.

Start/Mile 1: My plan got thrown an immediate curveball: my normally-very-reliable Polar heart rate monitor was ALL OVER THE PLACE for the first few minutes!!!!! It had me as high as 179 (which I never see unless I'm just about sprinting) and as low as 60 (which is lower than if I'm standing upright and almost completely still) within 30ish seconds of one another. I don't know if it was adrenaline, being in such close proximity with many others who may have been wearing Bluetooth heart rate monitors, or both. At any rate, it was an internal battle to maintain my composure during that time. Fortunately, as you can see from this chart, it settled down after a half mile or so. Of course, it took a bit for me to be able to trust it. It was somewhere around the end of mile 1 that I started to relax. I ran that mile at a 7:42 pace.

Miles 2-5:  The heart rate settled into the planned 155-160 range pretty nicely as I completed these miles in 7:48, 7:39, 7:39, and 7:50. I got passed by a number of people during this time. I did not pass anyone until shortly before the 5-mile mark.

Miles 6-10: Things remained pretty close to the plan here. Around mile 8 or so, I accepted the fact that I wasn't going to make 1:40, but that 1:43 was still quite attainable and 1:45 seemed a certainty as long as I didn't completely flame out. I think coming to that realization helped me. I passed more people than passed me during this time, and kept the heart rate mostly in the 160-165 range as planned. The mile splits here were 7:54 (slight uphill), 7:46, 7:34 (slight downhill), 7:44, and 7:49.

Miles 11-13.1: I picked up the intensity a bit to try to maintain my pace. The heart rate went up above 165 here as was planned. My legs started to tire near the end of mile 11, and mile 12 ended up being my slowest mile as a result. However, I had enough left to pick up the pace and run the last mile just one second slower than the first. Splits were 7:41, 7:56, and 7:43. I was able to generate an on-and-off closing kick (bursts of about a 6:00 pace alternating with short rests at an 8:15-ish pace) and finished the race in 1:41:41.

Results: I finished #157 overall out of 2,758, and #23 out of 192 age 40-44 males. I'm very pleased with both my time and the placing. Given that I was able to generate a bit of speed at the end, but didn't run the last mile any faster, I think I picked an appropriate pace. I don't feel like I left much of anything out on the course, but I didn't crash, either. As a newbie to racing, I think I'm most proud of that fact, actually. My fastest mile was 7:34 and my slowest was 7:56.




Friday, October 11, 2013

Myrtle Beach Mini-Marathon Is ON

I'm in my home town this weekend, and realized in talking with an old friend who has been following my progress mostly through the blog that I haven't informed my readers of a major change: the recovery from my September 6th hernia surgery has gone much better than I would have dreamed, and I'm running in the originally scheduled Half Marathon next weekend in Myrtle Beach. Yes, after 2+ weeks of some fairly intense high-incline treadmill walking when I was under doctor's orders not to run, I was cleared on September 24th to resume running, and in my first few runs back, I realized that I was significantly faster than prior to the surgery. It's impossible to say what is the main factor in that: the weather is cooler, I'm about 10 pounds lighter, and the high-incline walking actually had my average heart rate higher than it normally gets from running. I'm sure all three of those factors play a part. Regardless of the reasons, though, the bottom line is that although for several weeks I'd completely written off the possibility (and had even gone to the trouble to re-write my entire training plan to get ready for a December 14th HM,) I never formally cancelled for Myrtle Beach. And given that since returning to running in late September I've been able to complete two runs of half marathon distance or greater, I've booked a hotel and am planning to be in Myrtle Beach next weekend as originally scheduled.

As far as goals/expectations for the race, I'd say that they're best expressed as follows:
  • I'll be somewhat disappointed if I don't finish in under 1:45:00 (roughly 8 min per mile).
  • I'll be pleased with anything between 1:43:00 and 1:45:00.
  • I'll be very pleased if I finish in 1:43:00 or less. (roughly 7:50 per mile).
  • I'll be thrilled if I break 1:40:00 (roughly 7:40 per mile).
I'm very much looking forward to this, and appreciate the encouragement I've received from many of you along this journey.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Recipe: Spinach/Kale/Fruit Smoothie (and a cute video)

My four-year-old daughter absolutely LOVES green smoothies. She has been drinking her "greenies" since she was a little over a year old, and now she can do much of the work in making them herself. We make roughly 2 quarts at a time, which she typically goes through in around 3 days--more than 20 oz. per day. We keep at least one in a sippy cup in the fridge where she can reach it pretty much constantly. She grabs it when she gets out of bed, almost always has one during car rides, and polishes off one most evenings. I was helping her make one earlier this week and decided to take video. It's a great way to introduce even a young one to veggies, and my oh-so-biased opinion is that the video is absurdly cute. Enjoy! (She'd already put in the grapes, strawberries, and bananas when I decided to start videoing. Also, I spliced out some parts to shorten it up a bit, but I think the essence is preserved.)


video

A GREEN SMOOTHIE THAT EVEN A FOUR-YEAR-OLD LOVES
(NOTE: As you can see from the video, all amounts are approximate.)
1 dozen medium strawberries
1 cup red seedless grapes
1 banana
2 cups coconut milk
7.5 oz (1/2 can) organic pumpkin or sweet potato
1 1/2 cups greek yogurt
2 cups kale
2 cups baby spinach

Makes approx. 4 16-oz servings. 

SERVING INFO
210 calories
3.2g fat
36g carbs
8.4g fiber
15g protein

Friday, September 20, 2013

Down 100 Pounds in 8 1/2 Months

12/13/2013, 275-280 lbs
This may come as a surprise coming from someone who tracks as much data as I do, but it's true: I don't know exactly how much weight I've lost. I'm fairly certain that I was at my heaviest in the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2012. I'd started exercising in early November of 2012, and recorded my weight on 11/5 at 276.5. However, I was not really watching what I was eating, and likely didn't lose any weight, and probably gained some. (The fact that I did not weigh again for two more than two months after 11/5 is a pretty good indicator that I didn't really want to know.) I fell off the exercise wagon at Thanksgiving, and my mother died a couple of weeks later. There was a good bit of sitting around and eating during that time, and then of course Christmas came. After Christmas I picked exercise back up and started reducing portion sizes, but still wouldn't weigh myself. On January 6th, 2013, I received an invitation from a friend to join him in using the LoseIt App as a tool to track nutrition and log weight loss. I accepted, and on the morning of January 7th, 2013, I weighed in for the first time in two months at 274.0 pounds. I'm certain that I'd already lost a few pounds from mid-December at that point, so my tendency is to say that my start weight was "between 275 and 280," and I use the midpoint of that, 277.5, as my marking point for total lost. 

All that said, I'm now more than 100 pounds lighter than my January 7th weigh-in, so I guess it's official. Heck, it's gotta be official: I even have a virtual badge from LoseIt to commemorate it. I've lost over 100 pounds in a little under 8 1/2 months. Wow. And truth be told, I didn't set out to lose 100 pounds, I wasn't thinking I'd be able to get particularly close to the century mark, nor did I think I wanted to. My original goal--one that I wasn't really sure I could reach--had me more than 30 pounds heavier than I am now. I had no idea how far I'd go in this journey from obesity to fitness. It's amazing what can happen when we set out on a course and, rather than plotting our own destination, just follow the path to wherever it might lead.


The 100-pound mark seems like a good time to reflect a bit and share a few lessons learned in the hope that some of these will serve as encouragements or light bulb moments for some of you reading. 

(FYI, This post isn't intended to be super-detailed. If you're trying to get started along a similar journey as mine and want something more comprehensive and prescriptive, I'd recommend starting with my "tips for beginners" post and the other posts to which it links.)

    LESSONS I'VE LEARNED

    2/10/2013, 261.5lbs
    I have a wonderfully supportive wife! I already knew this, but the last 8 months have really reaffirmed it. My bride has been incredibly helpful in this journey, not just with words, but with her attitude and willingness to shoulder more of the household load, particularly in the early mornings with our little girls. Without her support and encouragement, exercising the way I have simply would not be have been possible.

    I can't out-exercise a bad diet. For that matter, I can't even out-exercise a *good* diet if I eat too much. For example, on Sunday, August 4th, I did one of the two or three toughest runs I've ever done. The rest of the day, having run that hard for that long, I felt that I didn't need to pay attention to my portion sizes as closely as I normally do, culminating that evening when we had people over for dinner and I got extra helpings of salmon, asparagus, and avocado salad. Those aren't exactly foods that are bad for me, but the net result from the seconds at dinner and the extra snacking (on healthy foods,
    9/18/2013, 173.0 lbs
    mind you) during the day was that despite running more than 13 miles in hilly terrain that morning, I managed to gain over two pounds that day. And it took almost to the end of that week to get my weight back to where it started on Sunday morning before the long run!  I've got two fairly detailed blog posts devoted solely to this concept (Post 1, Post 2,) but it really bears emphasizing continually.
    For fat loss, proper nutrition and portion sizes are more important than exercise.

    Dietary fat is not my enemy.  Prior to doing my own research and then experiencing steady weight loss while eating a diet that isn't low in fat, I'd long been conditioned to assume that all fat intake is bad. I've learned that it simply isn't true. I'm no longer remotely afraid of healthy fat from sources such as walnuts, almonds, pistachios, chia seeds, flax seed, avocados, olive oil, and dark chocolate (among other items). I limit saturated fat in my diet, but no longer do I worry or even think about overall fat intake. I've found that just focusing on keeping saturated fat under 25g per day works very well for helping me make healthy choices regarding dietary fat.

    Carbs are not my enemy either. Similar to the above, for a while I bought into the anti-carb hype. But now as an active exerciser, I'm seeing no reason to run away from carbohydrates. To the contrary, I use them as the primary fuel for my workouts. That said, I'm careful to consider the source of the carbs. I've found that if I get the vast majority of my carbs from whole grains, fruits, legumes, and non-starchy vegetables, weight management is not an issue.

    Walking on a treadmill with a steep incline is vastly underrated and under-publicized as a top-notch cardio workout. This is a new one to me, just learned in the last couple of weeks due to recovering from minor surgery and not being able to run. There's more detail on it in another blog post, but suffice it to say here that I am able to get average heart rates from walking on the inclined treadmill that are extremely similar to the average heart rates I achieve on some of my toughest runs. Steep-incline treadmill walking is an outstanding and low-impact cardiovascular exercise, one that I intend to keep in my regular routine long after I'm cleared by my physician to run again.

    I don't have to eat food that I dislike or that is bland to lose weight. I've gained all of this fitness and lost all of this weight by eating foods that I really enjoy, and I'm not eating anything that I don't enjoy.

    There's not one "ideal" diet for health and fat loss for me. Those 100+ pounds came off without my using 
    any one prescribed diet plan, and in the process of researching various ones, trying several for a time, and interacting with people who have used plans that I haven't, my observation is that there are a bunch of ways to skin this cat. I lost weight on this journey when I was focusing on lowering carbs. I lost weight in this journey when I was focusing on lowering fat. I lost weight in this journey when I was balancing carbs/fat/protein at a 40/30/30 ratio. Over time, I concluded that my weight loss in this journey wasn't because of some magical diet plan, but because I was burning more calories than I was taking in. So now I just make sure that I get enough protein and fiber, that I don't get too much saturated fat and sugars, and the rest seems to take care of itself. Now, months removed from having stopped trying to work any specific plans, I eat too much dairy and grain to consider the Paleo diet, too many carbs for low carb/ketosis type diets, wayyyyy too much meat to ever think about going vegeterian or vegan, and I don't have the time or patience to prepare or eat 5 or 6 small meals a day like many recommend. But over time, I've come across or read stories about different people who have achieved wonderful health and fitness results, and the list covers each one of the aforementioned plans, some of which are darned near polar opposites.


    The "best" exercise type for me is the exercise type that I am willing to do consistently. The gym to which I belong isn't anything special; it's pretty mediocre, actually. It doesn't have a power rack at all and it's lacking in a few other types of equipment. Most of my runs are in my twisting, winding subdivision. In a perfect world, I'd love to have a better gym, go to a nice circular regular running route, try CrossFit, and to do more HIIT, Tabata, deadlifts, sprinting, and other exercises. However, my mediocre gym is 1.1 miles from my front door, and my running warmup starts on the sidewalk right in front of my house. If I had to take extra time to go farther away to exercise, I would exercise less. So for now (and perhaps forever,) my mediocre gym and sub-par running route will have to continue to suffice. They've served me pretty well up to now, I suppose.

    I've come to realize that for me, some foods just aren't worth the calories. This thought hasn't been restricting. To the contrary, it has been liberating. Rather than having some dieting guru tell me what I can't eat, by becoming familiar with food nutrition data, I've been able to come to decisions myself that various foods just aren't tasty or nutritious enough for me to be bothered with needing to burn off the calories I consume from them. In other words, I like cheddar cheese, but I just don't like it enough for it to take up nearly half of my daily need for saturated fat. If it's a special occasion and I'm going to indulge in eating a food high in saturated fat, it's going to be a ribeye steak, some BBQ ribs, or a slice of good cheesecake--something I *really* like.


    Encouragement from friends, family, and even strangers goes a long way. Friends and family have been great, as have people who read my blog, follow me on Twitter, post on the Facebook page, or send encouraging words in other ways. It makes a big difference. Just knowing that people are watching has gone a long way to help keep me accountable. So as my final word for the day, thank you to you, dear blog reader. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping to encourage me along this way. If there's any way that I can help or encourage you, feel free to let me know. 

    --Ben