Where we get fit and spin (wool)

Archive for November, 2011

The end

If any of you had absolutely no interest in my weight loss experiment, your in luck. I hit my target so I’m done. I am going to use the “maintain my weight” feature of myfitnesspal.com, to see how well that works, and maintain this weight for a week or two before letting get back up.

One of my interests was to see if it would change my measurements, and I was surprised it did. I lost half an inch on my waist and an inch off my hips. For only five pounds that surprised me.

The one down side to this was that it was harder to workout as I am used to at the gym. I can tell I have been in a deficit. Also, they talk about the ketone bodies being broken down when you are using fat as fuel, and that causes an odor to your breath that I dislike. No amount of brushing your teeth will get rid of it, as it is a byproduct of metabolism. Overall losing weight was not easy, but it wasn’t mount Everest either.  There were days I was hungry all day, and others where I didn’t even want to eat the next meal. I didn’t totally deprive myself. I had pizza, carrot cake and chocolate, all in moderation and other than my birthday, I still met the target for the the day.

Getting back to the software. Now that I have used it for a few weeks, I do like it. Like a video game, it is rather addictive to play with the numbers. It is easy to use, more an more so over time. I only used it as a guideline, as it is not perfect in it’s calculations, but I wasn’t perfect in my measurements either. It was really fun to see the nutrition breakdown too. Remember the fiber commercial that tells you it’s almost impossible to get enough? Nope, I hit it almost every day. I got more protein than I “needed”, but that is because the weight lifting community and nutritionists disagree on how much you “need”. I never did add my calcium supplement, and I should’ve since it said I wasn’t hitting that one. I did put my multivitamin in, and that put me over in most of the nutrients. Without it, most are only 30-60 %. That makes me disagree with those who say you don’t need a multi vitamin. If you are a big person, eating clean, no, you probably don’t. But everyone else probably does.

Summation? If you are having trouble losing weight, get serious with some kind of tracking. Losing weight is not too hard, there is some hardship, but not extreme. Accept that it isn’t a picnic and get on with it. Make it a lifestyle and it gets even easier. Eat your veggies and skip the bread. Treat yourself once in awhile, but then cut a bit other places.

Well, It Wasn’t the Earth Moving.

No, it was the scale. scaleI have to admit, in the modern age, I have an old fashioned dial scale. It is hard to see any small changes. It has to go beyond a pound for any difference to show up. If I were serious about weight loss, I would either get a digital scale, or one similar to the doctors office. In that case, even small amounts are victories.

In other news, McDonalds got caught with their chickens in their pants. No. Seriously, they got caught using terrible factory farms for their eggs. Is anyone really surprised? They immediately dropped their current suppliers. There are plenty of other ones for them to choose from until they get caught again.

In other, other news. I went skating yesterday for the first time in *30* years. EEEK. I’m old. In any case, we had a lot of fun, and reason number 462 for all this massive exercise I do, in spite of doing something I hadn’t done in 30 years, I had decent balance, didn’t fall and it wasn’t taxing. To top it off, most everyone there had had their AARP card for at least 20 years, and they were the fittest bunch I’ve seen in a long time. No fat thighs in that group. Of course, they all felt sorry for me having to use “rink skates”. They  brought their own. Exercise is the closest thing to a fountain of youth we’ll have find.

First Weigh In

After following the calorie tracking software for a week and attempting to restrict my calories, it is time for the first weigh in. Drum roll please,….I’ve lost…..Nothing. I still weigh 117. I can think of several  reasons for this. The software I’m using is very influential. If it says I can eat more, I do. I’ve already said I thought the exercise assumptions were off, so I’m going to leave that out of the equation, and try to stick closer to the base calories. Of course I’m going to eat more on the days I exercise, That’s inevitable.

This puts me in good company with all the frustrated dieters out there. There are so many confounding factors for weight loss, and even using software, I’m still making massive assumptions. Is the recipe or ingredient I’m using the same as the database’s? Also, I don’t track every little jot and tittle, and those can add up. A little sugar here, a little margarine there and the next thing you know, the scale’s not moving. If we are only talking about a few pounds, even how much you drink can affect whether the scale moves. This is why most diet advice says to look at inches rather than lbs, along with the fact that muscle weighs more than fat, so that if you create muscle while losing weight you will look better than the scale reflects.

I knew this would not be easy for me, I’m already at a reasonable weight. The less you weigh, the harder it is to lose weight, as it takes less calories to run a smaller engine. Well, another week in front of me, we’ll see how this one goes, leaving exercise out of the tracker.

First follow up

After nearly a week of trying to restrict my calories, I can post an update.

1) Losing weight is hard. It is hard to not eat when you want to, and to stop when you are still hungry. The first couple of days I was light headed and dizzy a few times. Even the meals that are the same as always don’t fill me up any more, my body knows it is in deprivation mode.

2) Tracking is not easy either. Making sure you write everything down, takes a bit of persistence.  Since I am using software, finding the appropriate food does as well.  I have to admit, more than once I’ve just said “close enough”.  The nice thing is, since I eat foods multiple times, once it’s in there, I can just add it to another day. Also, I have to get more serious about measuring. Often foods are listed as grams. I would recommend a gram measuring scale to anyone serious about weight control.

3) Persistence pays off. Everything mentioned above is getting easier. For one thing, I recommended the software to my daughter who is trying to gain weight, since she is pregnant. She showed me there is a bar code scan feature that I didn’t even know about. That’ll speed things up.  For another, going without as much food as I’d like is not as stressful as it was the first few days.

The software itself, myfitnesspal.com, was one of my targets of investigation. So far I am neutral about it. I think software in general is very helpful, I like the scan bar feature and it is not too difficult to use. On the down side, the search feature is not very efficient. If I type in “onion” I would expect some form of plain onion to be at the top of the list. This is not the case. Searching by relevance, rather than name is better. Often, you can’t get an easy answer, no matter how specific you are. Some of this is to be expected. If there are 400 brands of chicken soup, It isn’t easy to get homemade to come up to the top. There is a place to enter your own  recipes, which is the right way to do it. That is the other thing, if you do most of your own cooking, which is the best way to eat healthy, you do need to enter your recipes for any degree of accuracy.

It  bugs me how they figure out calories. They don’t assign them for strength training, citing that it is too variable, yet they assume 530 calories an hour for karate, which I find extravagant. They do allow for “calisthenics” which is what I use to cover my strength training. When I used my pedometer software to go for a walk, and the calories assumed by both peices of software were pretty close. The proof will be in the numbers on the scale, which I can’t start looking at yet.

I also am not sure about their measurements of the other nutrients. According to it, I am not making my USRDA of vitamins. While I do take a multi vitamin, it seems I ought to at least make “A” on the day I eat squash. I just found out last night you can use it to add your vitamins and other supplements. Now I’m over on all my nutrients.

The other thing I like about the software is you can use it to gain weight or maintain as well. Also, it yells at you if you go under your calorie goal, making it a responsible partner.

I don’t have anything earth shattering to say about losing weight. Let’s face it, it is probably one of the most talked about subjects on earth, I do think my experience will help me when others ask for advice. I know people might get upset hearing this, but it’s also kind of fun.

I’m Going to Try and Lose Weight.

Before those that know me start worrying about my physical and/or mental health. Don’t worry, I’m not going anorectic. I’m doing it for three reasons. First, I mostly do this blog to be helpful, if anyone cares about health and fitness. Most people who read health and fitness information do so to lose weight. So, those reading it might say, “how can you talk, you’ve never tried to lose weight”. I did lose weight when starting my current obsession with fitness, but it was not intentional, just the result of doing the right things. Now I’m going to intentionally try. The second reason is that I’m using an app, “my fitness pal” to record my efforts. This will be an experiment in how that software works, more about that in a minute. The third reason is motivational, for someone my size to lose weight is very difficult. The smaller you are, the fewer calories you burn. If I can do it, you can do it. There is also some curiosity about another piece of software that tracks BMI, waist to hip ratio, and other fitness measures. I want to see what it says about my numbers if I lose a few more pounds.

Now, about tracking software. First, to try and lose weight without tracking would be like trying to build a house without a blueprint. People have done it, it is doable, but oh, so hard. Tracking does two things, it teaches you to measure, ensuring portion sizes, and it shows you what you are doing. Our memories are warm, soft, malleable things. It is so easy to forget those two cookies, the extra spoonful of sugar, or the snack you had on the way home. Writing it all down makes it concrete and visible. It is also an excellent behavior modification tool, unless you are going to lie to yourself. If you have to write down those extra cookies, knowing it will put you over, you might not eat them. Using software has the element of a video game. Here is your target number, get under that and you win. Who doesn’t want to win? I see it as a wonderful tool, although if you are prone to eating disorders, it could be disastrous.

How good is the software? I’m going to try this one for a week or two. If it seems too far off, I believe there are many others to try. Already, I have some questions about it. I put in the two hours of Karate I did last night, and it said I burned 1060 calories. We did not work that hard, I’m certain. Using averages is not terribly accurate. For my strength training today, it asked for specific exercises and the weights used. That should be more accurate, but I hit the “done for the day” button, as it did not figure in the calories burned, and it still hasn’t. I’ll have to see if it totals them then. I would like to see exercise calories included earlier, so eating can be planned accordingly. -I just went to the website, Myfitnesspal.com, they don’t give calories burned for weight training, as it is too variable. That will make things difficult. They allow you to put it under cardio, but just like I think 1060 was way to high for karate, I think 189 for 70 minutes of weight training is way to low.

That brings me to another point. It sets my base calories for weight loss at 1200 a day. Without exercise, there is no way I could do that. I’m just to lunch today and I have 104 calories left! Even if I only burn 400 calories exercising, that is more than enough for dinner.

I currently weigh approximately 117. I say approximate, as a two pound range on either side isn’t that uncommon. I weigh myself weekly at the same time of day. I’m going to shoot for 112. Anything lower than that is distinctly unhealthy for me. I will have to get and maintain that weight for two weeks to count, due to the water weight fluctuations that can occur.

As much as I enjoy playing with the software, the proof will be in the weighing. All my guesstimates  will be proven one way or another in a few weeks. I’ll keep you posted.

Back Away From the Table.

Wanna go crazy? Watch “Supersize Me” and “Fathead” back to back.
Throw in “Food Inc.” to add some guilt. I listen to Ben Greenfield’s podcasts and it’s pretty funny, he’ll have experts from each camp on. There’s the low carb, low fat, vegan, vegetarian, paleo, Dash, Mediterranean, and any any other method of eating out there. They all have their proponents and detractors. There are those that are furious with the USDA’s food guidelines, feeling that politics dictated it more than anything else. Every diet camp’s promoters cite studies to support their eating method, and all have spokespeople telling their tales about how that eating method saved/changed/transformed their life/health/performance. The really funny thing is, they’re all right. It seems any time you start paying attention to your diet and making conscientious choices, according to most any plan, you will lose weight. When you lose weight, your blood pressure, lipid profile, and other health risk factors improve.

We’ve already proven that you can lose weight on most any diet, even eating nothing but twinkies. While eating healthy is about a lot  more than weight, and other than the the lowest carb diets, no one despises vegetables, what all these diets prove is that there is more than one way to skin and roast a cat. (Sorry, just kidding.) In order to lose weight, you need to restrict calories. How you do that can vary greatly with success. The take home message is to find the diet you can stick with for life. Some people cannot live without carbs, others cannot feel full without a certain amount of fat or protein. Rather than struggle to follow a diet that you hate, find one you like. Remember, every diet plan has adherents that treat it like a religion. Food plans are not going to save your eternal soul, and we are all going to die at some point. If what you eat is making you sick, get rid of those foods and eat ones that make you healthy, but which food is negotiable. For most of us, simply eating less is the real answer.

We are the Champions.

Hungry man enjoying bread.I would like to give the human race a pat on the back. While humans have collected endless flack for harming the environment, not getting along with each other, and generally just for existing, they have quietly made an accomplishment that I think is worth noting. We have reached 7 billion people some time recently. No, that is not the accomplishment I want to note, although it is an accomplishment. No, the one I want noticed is that we are feeding 7 billion people better than we fed 2 billion.

One word first about the accomplishment of numbers. How do you get 7 billion people? First, you have to not kill each other. While wars are going on all over the world, we are somehow managing to not kill each other en mass. We are killing fewer civilians, and bombing and destroying fewer cities. Second, you have to have a great deal of medical resources. There are a myriad of illness waiting to befall each of us, and the advances in medicine have resulted in fewer being fatal, and some to be pushed back past the point of the childbearing years. Childbirth itself used to be a great source of fatality, but that is no longer true. Third, and point of this article is you have to provide each person with enough food and clean water to survive and reproduce. We have accomplished all the above in stunning fashion. The next time someone decries modern medicine, ask them how many of their children survived to adult hood. I know there are individual deaths, and all death is sad, but as a whole, we are more successful than any point in our history.

Now to the feeding of 7 billion people. I was a teenager when we hit 3.5 billion. The talk then was about population control or mass starvation. Now, at 7 billion, all we can talk about is the collective weight gain. Don’t get me wrong, you know I am usually harping on all the things we need to do to stop it. However, fat will kill you a lot slower than starvation. You can do things to keep your weight down, but if there is no food, there is no food. I often criticize and worry about where our science is going, but much of our success is due to science. Modern agriculture and agribusiness, for all it’s failings, is feeding the world.

Of course there is hunger in the world, I’m not denying that. There is less, proportionally, than ever before. Much of that is due to human folly-that of war or politics. The point is, we can and are feeding ourselves. For all the negatives we can say about the modern diet, and there are many, we are not starving as a whole, which was the fate we predicted 20 years ago. So for that, human race, I salute you.

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