Sunday, January 31, 2010

Speaking Too Soon

I'm starting to suspect that blogging about weight loss awakens mysterious unseen forces which keep us from getting too confident: that is, no sooner do I write a confident post than whatever positive trends I'd noticed will change. It's enough to make a person superstitious, in a "don't tempt fate" or "don't get the gods angry" kind of way.

Clearly, my most recent post was overconfident to some degree. I expected to have dropped at least a couple more pounds in the 10 days between that post and this one, especially since I've remained steady in my commitment to working out and I've actually increased the length of my sessions on the elliptical; I never do anything less than an hour now. Annoyingly enough, though, the scale this morning didn't say what I wanted it to. I'm not ecstatic about the single, solitary pound it says I've shed: at my size, 1 pound can be a totally normal daily variation based on water retention, how much food is in my system, etc. But it does at least mean that I haven't gained any net weight over the last 10 days, which is reassuring to someone like me who can easily acquire poundage with no effort. Also, it goes to show how unpredictable the whole process with all its countless variables can be.

So what to do now? Get changed and climb back on the elliptical! Whatever the scale says, today's workout will bring me to a total of 24 days during January. That's a good number for me - it means I spent an entire day this month working out!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gaining Traction

Over Christmas, we had a blizzard here. Driving in the snow and ice for the next few days took me back to growing up near Syracuse, where bad roads and blocked driveways were a fact of life from December through April. My car even got stuck once, which meant I had to to-and-fro a lot, alternating forward and reverse while trying the steering wheel at different angles, until my faithful Toyota found enough traction to get me off the patch of ice and snow and out of the ruts my tires had spun themselves into.

Obviously, there's a diet metaphor here. For the last few months of 2009, my weight-loss tires couldn't find much traction at all, and I wasn't going in the direction I wanted; I was even sliding backwards into higher numbers on the scale. In the last ten days, though, I've been more rigorous about cutting carbs and doing hard workouts, and today the scale showed definite progress: I got myself off the icy patch of the 240's, where I've been spinning my wheels, and at least for the time being, I feel back in control. Let's hope it lasts ...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Diet and Exercise, Exercise and Diet

If there's one thing on which there's pretty much a consensus in the world of weight loss, it's that effective and sustained slimming-down requires both diet and exercise. This isn't exactly news, despite the fact that every couple weeks another magazine or newspaper or website treats it as if no one had ever suggested the idea before:

For Fitness, Cutting Calories May Not Be Enough - US News and World Report

In addition, the authors of autobiographical weight-loss books and blogs can't sing this same chorus enough, constantly proclaiming the joyful synergy of the two sides of the process - how their athletic endeavors make them eat better and how their healthful eating fuels their workouts.

But me? I have to admit that I have a really hard time doing both at the same time. Right now, for instance, I'm exercising regularly, and that is a rare change from my usual winter lethargy. I'm doing an hour on the elliptical 5-6 days/week, and even going out running occasionally when the sun comes out.

But does this uncharacteristic motivation spill over into my eating? Am I able to euphorically control my appetite and thus maximize my weight loss? Nope. Of course, this is partly because the exercise makes me hungry. Very hungry. Worse still, it makes me hungry for sugar, which is a very bad thing.

Similarly, there are periods of time when I have no trouble following my diet plans, resisting the temptation to snack, ignoring the siren songs of the vending machine at work, the bakery counter at Panera, and the ease of obtaining drive-through McDonald's french fries on my way home from work. During those times, I have my appetite under control - but am I usually exercising regularly, too? Nope, almost never. Why? Because I don't have the extra energy!

Even beyond this interplay of appetite versus energy, I often feel like I only have a certain amount of will power in reserve - and it's enough will power to control my eating or my exercise, but not both at the same time. I can will myself to exercise, but if I do that several times a week, there's not enough left in the tank to also will myself not to eat candy at the movies. And I can will myself to count carbs and stop eating when I reach my daily allotted maximum, but most of the time I can't also force myself into my shorts and Nikes.

I do know one solution to the problem: being a different person, an athletic, fit guy with a cooperative metabolism who naturally lives the right way. But I'm me. I like rich foods, and I don't like exercise. Given my druthers, I'd just as soon eat lots of unhealthful foods and sell the elliptical on Ebay - but then I'd get fat to the point of having to buy two seats on the plane, and that's also not acceptable.

There are never any easy answers, are there?!

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Envelope, Please?

Well, it's January 1, 2010, the first New Year's Day of a new decade (at least as popularly measured), and this morning I hopped on the scale to see where I stand. The envelope, please? I'm starting the Tens (or whatever we'll end up calling it) at 241 lbs.

This number is not spectacular, I'll be the first to admit, and I'd actually hoped to kick off the year in the 230's rather than the 240's, just because it would feel like more of an accomplishment. There's also been a bit of backsliding beginning with my birthday in late October and extending through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's - I'd gotten down into the mid-220's but hit a plateau and then lost some ground.

But on the other hand, 241 still shows real progress. A year ago, on January 1, 2009, I weighed in at 276, so I'm exactly 35 pounds lighter today. A month after that, on the day I started my latest diet campaign as well as this blog, I weighed 280.5, so I'm nearly 40 lbs. thinner than that now. And my heaviest weight in 2009 was 284, so I've lost 43 pounds from that worst point last year: 15% of that peak weight. All of these numbers are good.

Also, a look at my exercise logs - okay, that's a fancy way of saying my kitchen calendar, which is where I scribble down how far I run or how long I do the elliptical machine - tells me that I've doubled my workout duration in the past year. Last January I was doing around 25 minutes on the elliptical, but now I'm doing 50-60 minutes every time I use it. That suggests I'm significantly more fit in the cardiovascular area than I was a year ago, and that's probably even more important in terms of my overall health, given that I'm at the age when guys start having their first heart attacks. Not only that, this fall I ran two charity 5k races - I wasn't fast, but I finished them both and wasn't either the oldest or the slowest guy running. They provided me with good motivation (and t-shirts!), so I'd like to do a few more of those this year.

So where do I go from here? What are my plans for 2010? Obviously, I need to start moving the number on the scale downward again, so I want to go back to the Atkins Induction Phase for a jump-start. I have to cut the carbs way back again to try for measurable results. I want to keep upping my workout length and/or intensity, and this may require a visit to a sports medicine specialist, to find out why I still sometimes get leg pains and cramps when I run. And by this time next year, I'd like to be able to fit into some clothes hanging in my closet that I'm close, but not close enough, to wearing again!

Happy 2010 to all!