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

    9 comments:

    1. This is fantastic! I loved when you said: "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". I am a retired pharmacist and over the course of 30 years, I preached this constantly. But no one wanted to hear it... they wanted an easier solution...a pill that would make the fat magically fall off.

      Congratulations!

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      1. Thanks, Mary. It took me a while to arrive there. I've tried different approaches during this time, but the one constant has been sticking to a calorie budget. I saw very little variance in rate of weight loss when I lowered or raised carbs or fat significantly, or when I kept them in balance. As long as I'm eating enough, but not too much, the weight has continued to come off. And yeah, I'm only taking a standard "men over 40" multivitamin, and a little extra of vitamins C&D--no supplements at all.

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    2. Thanks for the inspiration...I am so happy for you. You look awesome.

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    3. I just started my weight loss journey after years of yo-yo dieting and your blog is inspiring. I'm always thrilled when I see people achieve their goal, especially when the weight-loss is so great because it helps others to know that they can do it too. With a lot of hard work of course. I don't have a large amount of weight to lose, but I know to lose any amount is not easy. I wholeheartedly congratulate you on achieving your goal!

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    4. Great dear friend...but I can see you are away from refined carbs...correct me if I am wrong...need ur advice as I tried all approaches but my body is very stubborn when it comes to lose weight as I am diabetic...my thyroid is fine but I just can not do it ...do I need to stuck to it for three or 4 months to see results...thanks in advance for ur support

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