Friday, January 24, 2014

Reflections On My Weight Loss and Fitness Journey Thus Far


As I've detailed in the past on this blog, by by 31st birthday in February 2011, I was REALLY overweight and not in a healthy place. I finally made the decision that year to do something about it, and from May 2011 to October 2011, I was able to lose 105 lbs by simply eating less (but still eating what I wanted) and running on a regular basis. My overall goal was to lose 125 lbs and get from my highest weight of 360 lbs to ~235 lbs. Frustratingly, when I hit 255 lbs in October 2011, I ended up being stuck there for the better part of eighteen months even though I continued to run regularly and track my eating using the excellent Lose It website and app.

***Lose It is a calorie tracking app. It is NOT a diet! Dieting and depriving yourself of calories never works. Instead, you need to make better choices but still eat enough calories so that your body can function properly. This is especially true with exercise; if you don't eat enough, all the exercise in the world will not help you lose weight! If you want a more in-depth discussion of this, please ask me in the comments section below and I'll be more than happy to talk to you about it based on what I know and my personal experience.***

Even though my weight was stuck, I was determined to get down to my goal weight one way or another. I liked how much better I felt physically, I had gotten healthy and pleased my doctor with how much better shape I was in. I'd gone from being pre-diabetic with chest pains, high blood pressure and high resting heart rate, constant headaches and migraines, knee and back pain, and large clothes (I am 6'5") such as XXL and XXXL, to flawless blood work, a resting heart rate in the 40s-50s, excellent blood pressure, no headaches, no back or knee pain, and down to wearing size L and XL clothes.  My waist went from a size 44 to 36 and I'm the slimmest I've been since high school nearly twenty years ago. I'm very happy with the progress I've made.

BUT (and you knew there had to be a BUT or else why would I be writing this article?), I'm still incredibly frustrated. You see, I remained stuck around 260 lbs for approximately eighteen months. I added some weight lifting into my routine, doing this on the days in between my runs, and was able to maintain my weight but I hadn't restarted my weight loss. However, over the past several months, I've only been running since time was at a premium (for a variety of reasons). I'll also admit that while I was still tracking my eating, I wasn't eating as well, but I was still keeping under my daily calorie budget. For whatever reason, I began to put the weight back on bit by bit. As of this writing, I've regained around 25 lbs. Strangely, though, my clothes still fit me just fine and I don't seem to have put any of the weight back in places where I'd notice it with ill-fitting clothes. I can see it in my face and stomach, though, and it's really bothering me.

Part of it is slight envy of my friends and family members who don't even exercise or watch what they eat yet seem to have no problem maintaining their weight! I have been extra vigilant with my eating and almost obsessive about my exercise (although I should add I love exercising and it's something I look forward to every day). Yet, if I cut back on my workouts even for one day or if I decide to eat a little extra just once, it seems to throw me all off. Can there really be that precarious a balance between my weight loss and my exercise that a little blip in my overall routine throws it off that much?

As I begin 2014, I've vowed to get back on track with my weight loss. I've continued my running, mainly indoors on the treadmill since it's too cold and slippery to go outside in this brutal winter we're having. However, once I can get back outside, I intend to continue extending the length of my runs. Right now, winter running on the treadmill is all about maintenance.  I've added weight lifting back into my routine. I'm focusing mainly on my upper body since my lower body/legs get plenty of work from my running (my legs are very muscular and defined from the 1500 and counting miles I've done since May 2011). My goal isn't to necessarily bulk up, but to tone up and lose more weight on my upper body, mainly my chest and stomach. From what I've been reading over the past couple of years, muscle burns calories and fat even when you're at rest, so adding new muscle and working out existing muscle helps burn calories and fat even when you're not exercising. The analogy I read that I really liked was that "an idling car still burns fuel, just not as much as it does when it's moving." I'll still burn more calories when I'm running or lifting, but working out my muscles with anaerobic exercise should help to jump start and maintain my metabolism during the times when I'm not running.

A common misconception, and one that I believed for many years before I got in shape, is that your metabolism speeds up as you lose weight. I've found through research and personal experience that the opposite is true. As I've lost weight and gotten to be good at running, my body has become more efficient at everything from breathing, pumping blood, burning calories, and this includes my metabolism (this is true for everyone; I'm just using myself as an example).  The trick for me and anyone else in the same predicament is to figure out a way to get the metabolism revved up again in order to resume its fat and calorie burning. That's what I'm hoping my renewed weight lifting routine will do.

Additionally, I'm trying to eat more lean protein (meat, cottage cheese, yogurt, etc) and cut back on processed sugars (you'd be amazed how much you can lose just from not drinking soda!). I've always had a good diet, especially since I started tracking with Lose It; I love just about every fruit and vegetable and eat them a lot. My problem is that I also have a sweet tooth. However, I don't miss soda that much and I still have the occasional Coke or Pepsi, but I prefer water, milk, or unsweetened iced tea as healthier alternatives. And as long as I stick to my portion control, I should be fine in this area.

Finally, I need to remember to keep this all in perspective. Yes, I've put on a bit of the weight I'd lost, and I'm still not happy with how I look physically (are any of us ever?).  However, I'm still in really good shape. I'm healthy, my vitals are all where they should be, and I feel great. I can run miles and miles easily. I have a much better understanding of my body and how to take care of it than I ever did in years past. And finally, I've done so much of the hard work already that, while challenging, doing the remainder to reach my goal is possible and should be pretty fun. I realize that I am who I am and I'll never be anyone's idea of a handsome guy or have an "ideal" body; I've just got to do the best I can and be happy with it. And that's as much a part of my end goal with this as is reaching my final weight.


11 comments:

  1. Hi Drew! I enjoyed reading about your journey as I am on day 24 of my second attempt at weight loss...this time using Lose It. I lost 3 1/2 lbs last week despite having a cold and not being able to do any exercise. My goal is 105 lbs within 1 1/2 years. I am optimistic that I can do it this time. Amazingly this past 24 days have not been as difficult as I thought they would be. It's becoming routine. I've also cut out pop and reduced the carbs and I'm not eating after 8 p.m. My sweet tooth has been satiated by Fibre One brownies (only 90 calories with 24 grams of fibre). I am inpired by your story and will keep track of your progress as I journey on myself.

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    1. Thanks for sharing and I wish you the best of luck! How are you liking Lose It so far? It's become a part of my daily life and an immensely helpful tool for me to use! What exercises are you doing? I think part of my problem is I focused too much on cardio (I *love* running!) and not enough to strength training, so I'm vowing to change that and do both going forward this year.

      I also try not to eat after 8pm...I usually brush my teeth with my kids before getting them off to bed (around 6pm or so) and that keeps me from snacking at night. For me, I'm at the frustrating stage where my body has gotten too good and efficient at holding on to the remaining pounds and fat after losing all that weight that I did in 2011. I've been at a loss how to restart it but I'm hoping my revamped exercise routine will kick my metabolism back into gear.

      Thanks for the tip on those Fibre One brownies, I'll have to check those out next time I go grocery shopping! :)

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  2. Drew, have you looked into any of the science behind the ketosis idea? I find it very convincing. Essentially, that the caloric intake/burning doesn't tell the whole story or the right story. Rather, its the over-intake of carbs which produce insulin which lead to fat creation and storage. Instead, the idea is to replace carbs as your body's fuel source with fat. Its generally accepted that fat doesn't lead to any heart issues. Its not that we don't need carbs but that they should make up no more than 50 grams of our daily diet (ideally no more than 20 grams) rather than the 300+ grams eaten by the average American.

    If you're interested, I'd look into stuff written by Gary Taubes or Jonny Bowden. Or, at least listen to this podcast with Taubes. Very interesting stuff.

    http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2012/07/taubes_on_why_w.html

    As an aside, if you find economics even the least bit interesting, Econtalk is a great podcast by the Hayekian Russ Roberts.

    Good luck with everything!

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    1. That's basically the Atkins Diet, isn't it? I try to limit my carbs, problem is I love them too much! I do try to stick more to lean protein and dairy and fruits and veggies...I'll give your idea a try and not cut carbs out but cut down on them. Thanks for the podcast link and those names, I'll check them out! :)

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    2. Atkins is a Ketogenic diet but not all Ketogenic diets are Atkins. If that makes any sense. I usually don't throw out the Atkins name because its so controversial and people don't have a full understanding of that diet.

      And, I mean, obviously you love carbs. Who doesn't? You can tell my looking at America's waistline...

      If you do a little carb counting, keep in mind that you want to look at "Net Carbs" which is Total Carbs - Dietary Fiber. Fiber is not digested and has no effect on blood sugar/insulin levels.

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    3. Ah, thanks for clarifying! I started trying to eat reduced carbs today...basically I loaded up on fruit, protein, and vegetables and only had a little bit of carbs (some crackers, a piece of bread)...feels pretty good! I'll see how it goes for the next couple of weeks :)

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  3. I just stumbled across your blog on Lose It. I always love to find a new weight loss blog to keep my inspired with my own.

    I always think of a Dr. Phil quote when I see the word "BUT"....he basically said this:

    "But means....forget everything I just said, here is what I really mean" So often he is right....and I think of it whenever I say BUT.

    You are doing great so far and should be proud of yourself for catching your slow gain before it went too far and you were back to square one.

    Do you have any means of support and accountability in place? I am a member of TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) and it is my saving grace. While my weight loss has not been stellar over the past few years, TOPS has made sure I didn't put it all back on and then some. Plus, it's cheaper than WW!

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    1. Hi Amy, thanks for commenting and I'm always glad to talk to other people about weight loss and fitness. As far as support and accountability, I'm definitely my own worst critic but my wife has been super supportive of me and I'm trying to do the same for her now that we are done having kids and she wants to get back into shape herself. That and the community on the Lose It forums have been a great help.

      I think I'm back on track now with the added strength training during my off-days from running, hopefully in a month or so I will see the trend reversed! What sort of workout regime are you using?

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  4. I found your blog in Lose it forums. Its inspiring to make me and other keep pushing. Thank you.

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    1. Hi Glen, thanks for stopping by and for the kind words. How is your journey with Lose It going so far?

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  5. When I noticed my weight was up to 84 kilo at the end of last year I realised I needed to do something about it. Purium Side effects

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