Up until September 30, 2014, I was eating whatever and however much I wanted and not exercising at all. On October 1st, 2014, I began my latest journey. I began walking again — sometimes once a day, sometimes twice a day, always a mile each time. I started connecting with people who encouraged me to keep going. I installed a couple of apps (RunKeeper and MyFitnessPal) on my phone to help me keep track of my diet and exercise.
In September I was eating garbage. In October I literally climbed a mountain.
I won’t lie. I weigh myself every morning, even though the experts tell you not to do that. I had to know that my efforts were working and weren’t going to waste. They weren’t. Each day or two, another number would be knocked. off.
In one month I lost 21 pounds.
Now, caveats galore — I went from 0 to 60 in month, so I expected to do quite well. Some of that weight was water (beer) weight. My body spent much of October in shock, wondering what the hell was going on. Now it knows.
I detest talking about weight loss in real life, but changes began happening. A couple of shirts that were too tight to wear now fit again. I have more energy than I’ve had in a long time. A fitness company asked me if I would be willing to show off my abs in their latest commercial. Okay that last one didn’t happen, but a few people have noticed and given me compliments and that’s enough to make me keep going. Also my wife told me my back looks skinnier. I was not aware that I had a fat back before. I have learned a lot during this journey.
A couple of my friends have posted “then and now” pictures while losing weight so I thought I would put one together too. The picture’s probably pretty small due to this site’s layout but you can click on it to make it larger if you want.
I’ve had a hard time seeing any real difference in real life but I can start to see it in this picture.
For November I plan to keep doing what I’ve been doing. Susan, the kids and I went to the YMCA last night for the first time in six months. I walked 28 minutes at 3mph, and then jogged for 2 minutes at 5mph. I have never jogged that fast for that long without someone chasing me, and even then I don’t think I would have made it two minutes.
I’ll be adding more “monthly statuses” around the first of each month to keep track of my progress. I lost 21 pounds last month and my goal is for another 10-15 this month and every month after that until I’m either healthy or dead, whichever comes first.
About a decade ago I got the dumb idea that I could lose weight eating Ramen Noodles. You actually can lose weight eating Ramen Noodles, it’s just not a particular healthy way to do it. I found that one pack of noodles wasn’t filling me up, so I started eating two. I checked the back of the label and read that each serving of noodles contained 190 calories.
What I didn’t notice was that each package of Ramen Noodles actually contains two servings. Can you believe that? Any by eating two packs, I was really having four servings! No wonder that diet went horrible!
Since I would be losing all this weight eating noodles, I decided to go ahead and keep drinking Dr. Pepper. (Again this was many years ago, before my lapband surgery.) I decided to allot myself four 20oz Dr. Peppers a day. That sounds like a lot now but it didn’t seem like a lot then. I would get one on the way to my desk each morning, have one with lunch, one late in the afternoon, and one with dinner. Again I checked the label: only 100 calories! Again though, I was fooled by the serving size. Each 20oz bottle of soda actually contains 2 1/2 recommended servings. Instead of 100, each 20oz bottle of soda contains 250. In reality I was adding another 1,000 calories a day in just soda. This diet was terrible for losing weight but it sure tasted great!
Last week on our way home from Denver we stopped in a convenient store for gas and some snacks. I’ve really been trying to watch what I eat, so instead of picking up some potato chips or candy like I normally would, I picked up a package of nuts (cashews, to be exact). I glanced at the label and saw that the small package only contained 190 calories. “Not bad,” I thought to myself. When I got to the car and took a closer look I noticed that there were FOUR servings in that small container! It even said, “recommended serving size: 19 cashews.” Planters, you almost got me!
Don’t just check the calories on the side of your containers. Check how many serving sizes are contained inside that package as well. You might be surprised.
In the 1980s, Spike Lee portrayed die-hard sports fan Mars Blackmon in a series of Nike commercials, also starring Michael Jordan. In the commercials Mars was convinced Michael Jordan’s basketball skills came from his Nike shoes, even though Jordan denied it.
One of my pet peeves is when people complain about the price of diet and exercise. I constantly hear people complaining about how healthy foods are more expensive than unhealthy choices and how they can’t afford gym memberships or a new treadmill or expensive outfits to wear. Directly because of these complaints I’ve been trying to lose weight while not spending a dime. I don’t exercise at a gym; I walk around my neighborhood. For food, I’ve been buying protein bars at Big Lots and trying to make better choices. I’m not saying gyms and things like diet supplements are bad; I’m just saying just because you can’t afford them doesn’t mean you still can’t make healthy choices.
Last week after complaining about my aching feet, Susan suggested I buy some new walking shoes. She’s suggested this before but I’ve pushed back — again, mostly just because I wanted to prove to myself that I could “lose weight on a budget,” so to speak. Unfortunately my feet were yelling louder than my willpower this time and so I decided to humor my wife and buy some new shoes.
I hate to even mention what brand of shoe I ended up buying because I don’t want to come off as endorsing one brand over another, but let’s just say these particular shoes supposedly help you “balance” when you walk. The shoe salesman I spoke with was very helpful… in leading me right to the most expensive pair of shoes in the store. The first thing that made me nervous was the fact that none of the shoes had price tags on them. The second thing that made me nervous was that it took the salesman almost ten minutes to explain all the features of this particular shoe. I have bought cars with fewer features than this shoe has. (My parents have probably bought cars that cost less than these shoes cost, but I digress…)
The salesman had me try on the shoe in the store and walk around in them for a minute. They felt like I was walking on a tall platform of rubber. (Maybe that’s what provides the “balance”?) I hated to admit it, but they felt great. Then again, they should. I typically buy my shoes from the shoe outlet mall and these new shoes that provide balance cost 5x as much as my normal sneakers. While my feet have stopped hurting, my wallet is still feeling the pain a bit.
For the past month I’ve been walking between one and two miles a day in plain ‘ol tennis shoes, ones that are great for playing basketball in or skateboarding, but perhaps not walking. I can tell a difference already with these new shoes, so while I hate to admit it, they do make my feet hurt less.
I look forward to breaking them in.
Note: November 1st marks my first month of getting back on track. I’m not sure what I will be writing about this Thursday, but next Tuesday I will be writing about how things have gone this first month!
My family and I visited Denver this past weekend. My wife made a list of things for us to see and do while we were there and one of them was visiting St. Mary’s Glacier.
All I was told before arriving was that the walk to the glacier was “about 3/4 of a mile.” The website contains more details than I received prior to arriving:
“The hike to St. Mary’s Lake and St. Mary’s Glacier is about 3/4 mile and is a moderate hike over rocky terrain. Appropriate footwear, plenty of water and preparation for changing weather conditions on the continental divide are recommended.”
If “appropriate wear” includes a hoodie, a pair of DC tennis shoes and a Star Wars ski hat, I suppose I was prepared.
I’ve been walking a mile or two a day for almost a month now, so a 3/4-mile walk sounded simple. What I didn’t know was that the walk starts at an elevation of 10,000 feet and climbs to almost 11,000. If you think the air in “mile high” Denver is thin, double that. I also didn’t know that the path to the top of the glacier would not be paved with good intentions, but rather with large rocks.
I won’t lie; due to the elevation, I was already out of breath before we started the walk. Of the ten of us that made the hike, I was definitely the heaviest and in the worst physical condition. Instead of looking up, my eyes were constantly focused on the rocks below, looking for paths of least resistance. At least once I began talking to myself, literally saying, “left foot, right foot,” with each step. The only time I looked up from my feet was to search for big flat rocks to sit on. It’s amazing how comfortable a big rock feels to sit on when your heart is bursting out of your chest and you think you might die. Had this been a cartoon, vultures would have been circling overhead.
For laughs, I started RunKeeper at the beginning of our hike. In my neighborhood I can walk 3/4 of a mile in 15 minutes, easy. While climbing rocks uphill, I am not so nimble and I heard RunKeeper mocking my progress. Fifteen minutes, gone. Thirty minutes, gone. Then forty-five, and then an hour. At one hour and fifteen minutes, I finally saw the ground begin to level. Through the barren trees, I first saw snow, and then a small lake.
I made it!
There were ten of us in all that made the hike. The climb took us 1:15, and after resting for about half an hour, it was time to make our descent. I wouldn’t say the walk down was easier or more difficult, it just made different things hurt. On the way up my heart and thighs were killing me; on the way down it was the bottoms of my feet (from stepping on sharp rocks), my ankles, and most of all, my knees. My knees quivered with each step down the path, struggling to hold me upright. The walk back down took another hour.
My friend Jeff’s family joined us for the hike, which lasted close to three hours in all. In all, ten of us in all made the journey up to the top of the glacier and back. In a way, we all did it together, but I couldn’t help feeling like I had done it by myself as well. There was no help, and there was no quitting. I took those steps, one at a time, until I had reached the top. Every bit of me hurt by the time I reached the top.
I’ve never felt better.
The family and I are on a long-weekend road trip. Normally I would be pretty excited about going on a road trip, but this one — just a few weeks into my new diet-and-exerciss regime, as me a bit concerned.
One old habit I changed was eating in the car the entire road trip. It was not uncommon previously for me to eat an entire can of Pringles while washing them down with coffee from Starbucks. This time on the road, I stuck to my normal meal plans and had one protein bar when time for dinner came and went.
The temptation to eat — not just “eat,” but eat “vacation style” is calling me. Right now I’m doing my best to limit my calories at breakfast and lunch and avoid snacks or stick to fruit to try and save room for those high calorie dinners that come with being on the road. I’m not making perfect choices, but I’m making better ones.
While I don’t plan on losing any weight on this trip I’m going to try not to gain any either. We’ll see what the scale says when I get home.
I used to make poor food choices 7 days a week, 3 times a day. Actually, 3 times a day is a low estimate as I was making some pretty poor food choices in between meals as well. For me, fast food and unhealthy snacks between meals were the rule. Whenever I happened to eat something healthy (usually by accident), it was the exception to the rule.
For the past three weeks I’ve been tracking my calories using MyFitnessPal and in that time I’ve noticed a change in my eating habits. The more I learn about how many calories different foods contain, I’ve been swapping them out for more conservative choices. Slowly, eating healthy is becoming the norm. Fast food and unhealthy snacks have become the exception.
This time of year I love sitting in my recliner and eating Doritos while watching football. This weekend while watching the OU/Texas game, I instinctively walked over to the pantry to find some potato chips. As I opened the pantry door I thought, “I better look these up first.” According to MyFitnessPal, a 1oz serving of Doritos — about 10 chips — is 150 calories. Of course anyone who knows me knows I would never eat only 10 chips. During a football game I would guess a more typical serving size would be around 30 chips (450 calories).
Grapes, on the other hand, are 3 calories apiece. 450 calories worth of grapes is 150 grapes. Of course I didn’t eat that many. I had roughly 30 grapes for less than a hundred calories. Plus OU won the game, which I directly attribute to my grape-eating.
It takes a while to retrain yourself to instinctively reach for grapes instead of Doritos, but I’m getting there.
A friend of mine recently turned me on to two free phone apps: RunKeeper and MyFitnessPal. I’ve been using both of these apps for a week now to help me track and achieve my fitness goals.
If you’re on Facebook or Twitter no doubt you’ve seen posts by RunKeeper. It’s a smartphone app that tracks your walks and runs. It uses your phone’s GPS to track your path, and updates you with your current time, distance, and pace. It’s very handy while walking to know if you are “on pace” or not. It also allows you to post your results directly to Facebook or Twitter, a feature I’m largely trying to avoid using unless I break one of my previous records.
MyFitnessPal is a calorie tracker. You can add what you eat for each meal by selecting the item from an extensive database, scan bar codes, create your own recipes, or simply add calories. So far the only things I’ve had to add are foods I make myself — pretty much everything else, from “Taco Bueno Chicken Taco Salad without the bowl” to “Panera Creamy Tomato Soup You-Pick-Two Size” has been in there. Based on your current weight and weight loss goals the app suggests daily calorie goals. The app also connects to RunKeeper and will automatically subtract any calories burned from exercise. I have heard that a great way to see how much you actually eat is by writing it down, and this app provides an easy way to do that. MyFitnessPal is also a great tool for looking up the calories in various foods, until I get a good idea of what’s healthy and what’s not.
Last night my family and I went to Which Wich for dinner. It’s a sandwich place, but you can get your sandwich served as a salad in a bowl so I did that. I had the buffalo chicken sandwich in a bowl — roughly 250 calories (with the dressing) according to the app, so not bad.
Then I went to get my drink. The iced tea was low so I got myself a lemonade from the drink fountain instead. It’s lemonade, how bad could it be?
Turns out, a large lemonade is more than 200 calories — almost as much as my meal! Although I hate to waste things like this, I poured out the lemonade and got a big cup full of iced tea instead. Total calories: 0.
I would describe myself as “calorie ignorant,” meaning I don’t know how many calories are in a lot of foods or how many calories you burn through typical exercise. RunKeeper and MyFitnessPal are helping me learn.
For the past week I’ve been walking one mile laps around my neighborhood twice a day — once early in the morning and a second time late in the evening. My current walking path leads me past several houses that are under construction, a couple of empty fields, and for the first time the other evening, a snake.
I saw him during my evening walk. At first I mistook him for a piece of garbage blowing across the road and it took my mind a second or two to figure out what I was looking at. Once I did, I stopped dead in my tracks as the little guy made his way across the road from one field to another. After he had fully disappeared into the weeds, I began walking again (a bit more quickly than before).
There were, I think, three things I could have done: killed him, waited for him to pass, or turned around and gone home.
In our journey toward health, we face a lot of snakes along the way. Despite pledging each morning to “do better” than the day before, some obstacle — whether it’s a schedule conflict or a sugar-filled snack — seems to slither between me and my goal every single day. And in real life when these “snakes”raise their slithery heads, we have to find some way to deal with them.
Last weekend in Yukon was our annual Czech Day Parade. The Czech Festival consists of a parade and dances and activities and a small carnival, but it also consists of lots and lots of food — things like fried cheese and giant turkey legs and kolaches.
My initial excitement about the Czech Festival quickly turned to dread when I remembered my diet. I’ve been making great food choices for and entire week and didn’t want to ruin it by eating a kolache or ten. One option I considered was not going at all. A second option would have been giving myself a day-pass from the diet, eating everything in sight, and dealing with the consequences the following day. I could have also gone and just had one (or two) bad things to eat instead of, well, all of them.
In the end I did end up going to the Czech Festival and avoided the food court altogether. I recognized the snake, avoided him, and continued on my journey.
Keep an eye out for snakes along your way. Figure out a way you can deal with them (which doesn’t necessarily have to be how others would deal with them) and don’t let them make you quit.
Several years ago, some co-workers of mine and I had a weight loss contest. It was a three month long contest, which I ultimately won by losing 35 pounds. Prior to the contest I wasn’t exercising at all. During those three months, I walked.
When the contest started I began walking once a day, and after only a couple of days I upped that to twice a day. I had two different paths around my old neighborhood I used to follow: one was a mile long and the other was only half a mile. I started by walking the half mile lap, once a night. Then I upped it to a full mile. Then I started walking twice a day, half a mile each morning before work and the full mile each night. By the time the contest ended, I was walking a mile every morning and a mile and a half every evening.
When most people discovered I was walking they simply said “good for you,” but a few were quick to dismiss walking as exercise and instead offered alternatives. “Walking? You should try running!” There were a few other suggestions, like starting cardio and weight lifting, but the most dismissive tones seemed to come from the runners. Not all of them of course, but a few of them seemed to imply that walking “wasn’t good enough.”
At my weight I was burning roughly 200 calories for each mile walked, which meant I was burning 500 calories a day from walking. My dad used to say that walking isn’t just about the calories burned, but about getting active. He’s absolutely right. After walking, I didn’t want to go back to sitting on the couch. I wanted to get up and do stuff. Walking each morning was a great way to kickstart my days.
Walking is actually great exercise. It gets the blood pumping, burns calories, and makes you feel great in the process. If you’re heavy like me, it doesn’t put nearly the amount of strain on your joints that running does.
Don’t get me wrong; my point isn’t that running is bad. It’s that not doing anything at all is bad. Not moving is bad. Not exercising is bad. And being dismissive to someone who’s trying to lose weight is even worse. If you’re not exercising at all, start with walking.
(After that contest, I quit walking and put the weight right back on. I started walking again this week and the weight is starting to come back off. Funny how that works!)
I’m a computer guy by trade. I configure networks and fix computers and write programs. I like understanding technically how things work.
For years, “weight loss” was a mysterious cloud over my head. I realized I could lose weight by eating salad three times a day, and gain weight by switching to the delicious-yet-not-recommended Twinkie Diet, but the actual numbers behind gaining and losing weight were a mystery to me.
Several years ago I stumbled across the Hacker’s Diet. It’s a diet system based less on nutrition and food groups and more on facts and numbers. It is designed for people like me who like math and numbers and calculations. Through that book, I learned two very important formulas that I will now share with you.
The first thing I learned is that the human body burns approximately 10x your weight in calories every day just to keep you alive. If you weigh 100 pounds, your body burns 1,000 calories a day keeping you alive. If you weigh 200 pounds, your body burns 2,000 calories a day. 300 pounds, 3,000 calories, and so on. Again, these numbers are approximate and don’t things like metabolisms into account, but they’re close enough. Let’s call this your base number.
The second thing I learned is that there are 3,500 calories in a pound. For every 3,500 calories you go over your base number, you’ll gain a pound. For every 3,500 calories you go under that number, you’ll lose a pound. Again these numbers are approximate, but they’ll work for our purposes.
Using those numbers you can see exactly what effects diet and exercise will have on your weight. Let’s take a man who weighs 200 pounds as an example. Each day, that man’s body burns 2,000 calories — his base number. Let’s say that throughout the day, that person consumes 2,000 calories worth of food, and does absolutely no exercise. The 2,000 calories his body burns cancels out the 2,000 calories he ate, leaving him at 0. He didn’t gain weight that day but he didn’t lose any either.
Now let’s say that for some odd reason this man gets hungry that evening, drives to McDonald’s, and eats seven Big Macs. Big Macs are 500 calories each (slightly more, actually), so seven of them would be 3,500 calories. Congratulations, sir — you just gained a pound.
Instead of eating them all at once, let’s say this fellow eats an extra Big Mac every night for a week. At the end of each day he’s only going over his baseline by 500 calories, but those numbers add up. It’ll take him seven days to do it, but he will still end up gaining a pound.
Let’s flip that scenario around. Let’s say our friend continues eating 2,000 calories a day but instead of eating Big Macs, begins walking. Let’s say he walks a couple times each day and manages to burn 500 calories a day. In 7 days, those 500 calories will equal a deficit of 3,500 calories and he will have lost a pound. Congratulations!
And maybe, just maybe, instead of eating 2,000 calories a day, our friend cuts back to 1,500. That’s -500 calories a day off his diet and -500 calories a day from walking. At that rate he’ll be losing a pound every three days, or two a week. A good weight loss goal through diet and exercise is 2-3 pounds a week.
There are lots of smartphone apps, programs, and websites that will help you track what you eat. You can Google almost any item from any restaurant and find out how many calories it contains (like Big Macs). By using a little bit of math, you can easily figure out what effect changes to your diet and exercise will have on your overall weight.