Saturday, June 1, 2013

Becoming a Lesser Man






Yes, to all those friends and family who only remember me as a that athletic high school kid, this...is me.  I know, it's not pretty and I do apologize for subjecting you to such a picture, but, if you keep up with my blog, you know that a twist is on its way.  On April 12, I published a post called Becoming the Ultimate Me in which I talked about how the death of my grandmother had effected me and started first, a quest toward recovering my fledgling memory and then had inspired me to fully evolve from my quickly devolving self.  Just look at this guy to the left here.  This guy is supposed to be a fit firefighter.  This guy gets winded without crisis fueled adrenaline just walking up a couple flights of stairs and can't remember why exactly he went upstairs and what he was supposed to be getting there.  Not good.
Now, I'd like to say that I woke up one morning, was shocked at how this weight and loss of higher memory function had snuck up on me, but that's not how it went down.  I knew.  I watched without even bothering to try and fool myself as my flat stomach rounded and my fitness began to decline.  Luckily for me, there was never anything debilitating about gaining weight.  No diabetes or heart disease.  With the exception of the fat, I was still quite healthy.  But I was also only 35 years old.  My health I owed solely to good genetics and youth.  Well, while my genetics might be a rather permanent part of myself, youth was not.  Mid-thirties will be mid-forties before I knew it and then mid-fifties.  And what is the number one indication of heart disease and general poor health in a men?  Belly fat.  All those visceral inches hanging over my belt.  Youth would fade and with it, my health.  Tick, tick, tick...  Oh, and I snored.  I didn't used to, but to my wife's lament, I sure did now.
Life is funny.  I've given myself plenty of ultimatums over the years, made many a promise to myself and set in motion any number of plans to get in shape.  Some success followed by failure.  Rinse and repeat.  55 days ago, I promised my wife that for her birthday (she got some real presents too) I would not snore.  The following is what happened next.


A brief disclaimer before I continue.  I AM NOT A DOCTOR or EXPERT!  What follows is for informational purposes only and nothing should be repeated or attempted without the care and guidance of your physician.  Please keep in mind, as I mentioned above, I was in perfect health with a large amount of muscle mass in addition to non-essential fat.  I receive two full physicals a year, including a cardiac stress test, full blood work, x-rays and examines as part of my military and fire department service.  For expert advise, see the books and apps I suggest and get checked out by your doctor before starting any diet or exercise program.   

The Numbers:
35 years old
5' 7" 205 lbs
Body Fat Percentage: 25.4%
Waist Measurement (at belly button) 42inches
Pant Size: 36

My Philosphy
The philosophy I used over the course of the 55 days was pretty simple and came from a combination of life experience, common sense and a few really good books I'll recommend.  It boiled down to these two facts.  You have to consume fewer calories than you burn and not all calories are created equal.  Simple right?  Yeah, as always, it's putting this into practice that's hard.  A pound of fat requires approximately 3500 calories to burn off.  I had a lot of them to burn.  In fact, to reach my 55 day goal, I had 30 lbs worth.  The math, 3500 X 30 = 105,000 calories.  Divide that by 55 and you get 1909 calories I would have to burn a day.  Wow.  Time to quit.  That's impossible.  Well, yes and no.  Remember, not all calories are equal.  An average sedentary guy my size burns 2400 calories a day. That would mean I would have to consume no more than 500 calories a day.  A bit extreme.  But what if I could do 1000 calories a day and all of that food was quality, nutrient dense food?  What if it all did something for my body?  How would that effect the simple daunting math above? Well the answer is, it effects things a great deal.  You see, a body that is healthy fueled by micro-nutrients and good food (as in good for you) doesn't burn an average of 2400 calories a day.  In fact, a body that get's up off the couch, moves around and eats his veggies, burns a great deal more.  So that's what I did.  I ate good food, about a thousand calories worth a day, with a cheat day once a week and let this new way of eating sink in.  I didn't work out or exercise at first (I'll tell you why in a minute).  I just sat less, moved more, tracked everything and drank a lot of water.  Processed foods, which in my personal opinion is at the very heart of obesity in the United States, were all but removed from my daily routine.  Carbohydrates, the white kind, ie: pasta, bread, white potatoes, sugar, also gone.  My carbs came from vegetables, yogurt, blueberries, and beans.  If I felt the urge to eat these things, I saved it for one day a week.

The Books:
I didn't follow these books to the letter, but they were most influential in turning my weight around.
 

Diet first, Exercise second
I think that a mistake a lot of people make, including myself in my numerous failed attempts, is to start excising to lose weight.  I no longer look at exercise in that way.  I change my diet to lose weight.  I exercise to get stronger, move faster, and last longer.  When you just exercise, or when you begin to exercise before you have a diet in place, you are setting yourself up for failure.  When you burn extra calories in the form of physical work,  your body starts to ask you to feed it more.  Despite the fact that you may have 40 lbs of energy readily available hanging off your gut, that's not your body's first thought.  So, you get hungry.  And if you are like me and most people, you end up eating more and you probably end up with little to no change in the way of fat loss.  Have your diet readily in place and a force of habit before you start hitting the weights and trails.  You will be much better prepared to fend off the hunger pains that follow if you have a diet routine to stick to.

Gadgets, Tracking and Accountability: the stuff I used.
https://www.loseit.com/account/#signup
I am an apple fanatic.  I love my iPhone way more than I should.  I always have it with me and use it to learn countless useless fact about the world in addition to a few useful ones.  I look at it several times a day whether I get a call or not.  Thus, it became the perfect device to hold me accountable and keep track of my new way of eating.  Enter Loose It!   and the first part of my plan.  If it goes in my mouth, it gets recorded in Lose It!  This app is the easiest way I have found to keep track of the calories you consume and view a breakdown of the actual nutrition your body is getting from the stuff you feed your face with.  Once you have an idea of the sheer quantity of calories you're consuming and in addition the lack of nutrients those massive calories are providing you, awareness becomes unavoidable.  I ate normally the first day and recorded everything.  The result was a whopping 4500 calories of mostly junk.  The average guy my size burns 2400 calories a day.  Not really hard to see what the problem was.
The second gadget which helped me immensely was the Up band by Jawbone.  This device, which you wear on your wrist 24/7 is like a pedometer on steroids.  Similar to devices like the fitbit and Nike Fuelband, the up enabled me to quantify the other part of loosing weight and being healthy.  Moving.  If I sat on the couch all day, I burned fewer calories.  Get up and move, burned more.  The Up band keeps track of all that.  In addition, it tracks your sleep and is the best alarm clock ever.
A scale.  Doesn't really matter what kind.  I used a digital one, but as long as you're consistent, I don't think it make much of a difference.  There are scales out there which will actually sinc wirelessly with Lose It! and the Up band, but I don't have one.
A tape measure.  One that's flexible to go around your belly.
Lastly, a way to measure body fat percentage.  This is in my opinion, the only real number regarding your healthy "weight" that truly matters.  After all, according to BMI (body mass index calculation, standard measure of healthy weight) Dwayne the Rock Johnson is obese.  I used an Accu-measure Body Fat Caliper.  Again, as long as you're consistent.      

And so it went, at first with a great deal of hunger pains and the occasional fall from the diet wagon, followed by greater resolve.  Pound by pound, tracking everything I ate, the fat began to burn off.  Inches became smaller, percentages dropped and my scale slowly stopped groaning each time I stepped aboard.  With the three weeks to go until my wife's birthday, my new diet had finally become habit.  It was now just my routine.  I made food ahead of time, packed meals to take to work and adapted dinner to suit my whole family and my new way of eating.  Then a call came from my best friend that served at the catalyst for phase II.

The Tough Mudder
"Brandon, what do you think about doing the Tough Mudder this fall?" says Brandon's best friend.
"Um, are you crazy," Brandon says.
"I know, it's crazy, but I think we could do it?"
Deep sigh.  "If you're asking me, of course I will, but it's crazy."
"Will you run the Tough Mudder with me?"
Deeper sigh.  "Of course I will."

Anyone who is familiar with the Tough Mudder will instantly understand my sighs and trepidation.  12 miles over rough terrain with 20+ military obstacles designed by a former member of British Special Forces, billed as the toughest event on the planet, isn't exactly how most would choose to spend a Saturday.  But my friend and I are like brothers and so if he's asking, I'm going.  But in order to do this and not get seriously hurt and look like a pathetic old man, I needed to get stronger, move faster and last longer.  It was time to stop putting off the exercise.
My routine: standard training regimen for someone attempting a half-marathon uping mileage slowly.  Once every three days, pretend I'm Jason Statham.

http://www.menshealth.com/celebrity-fitness/jason-statham-superlean-workout
It looks thus:
Day one: Run three miles
Day two: Rest
Day three: Weight and Resistance based "Statham Circuit".  Fast pace.  Think trying to get your heart to explode.
Day four: Run Three Miles
Day five: Run four miles
Day six: Statham Circuit
Day seven" Rest

Day 55: the Numbers:35 years old
5' 7" 176 lbs
Body Fat Percentage: 12%
Waist Measurement (at belly button) 36 inches
Pant Size: 32



I've got a way to go to meet my ultimate goal of 8% body fat.  But I've learned a great deal about myself over the past 55 days.  Underneath all that fat and laziness, I was still there to be found.  The motivation that I had thought was just not a part of my psyche, was also there, it just needed the perfect storm of catalysts to fire it back up.  I chose such a short duration with such a drastic dietary change because I believe in momentum.  I think Newton would also agree.  Once you get started, truly get started, it'll start to take care of itself.  
 
For long term maintenance I have raised my calories to closer to 2000, still all good quality food.  Rules above still apply.  I set an athletic goal to keep me moving in the Tough Mudder and even set a more cosmetic goal for our beach vacation this coming February.  The mighty six-pack.  In fact, this February I will post a picture of myself shirtless, not because I think you all want to see that, but because I know I don't want to embarrass myself.  I hope this helps some of you with a bit of inspiration.  Our health is important and nobody likes breathing hard after walking up a set of stairs.  Please feel free to ask questions and post your own stories.


Typical Eating Day:

Alzheimer's Shake
3/4 Serving
159
Coffee, Brewed
10 Fluid ounces
3
Tea, Brewed w/ Tap Water
2 Cups
5
Lunch: 303
Avocado, California
1/2 Each
114
Carrots, Medium
1/2 Each
13
Celery, Diced
1/2 Cup
8
Dressing, Mayonnaise, w/ Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon
60
Fish, Tuna, White, w/ Water, Drained, Can
2 1/2 Ounces
91
Pickles, Dill, Baby, 3 1/2" Long
1 Each
5
Tea, Brewed w/ Tap Water
1 Cup
2
Tomatoes, Red, Avg Year Round Med, 2 3/5"
1/2 Each
11
Dinner: 383
Broccoli, Florets
1 Cup
20
Chicken Breast, Skinless, Cooked
3/4 Each
106
Chicken Gravey
4 Tablespoons
20
Eggplant, Whole
1/3 Each
37
Mushrooms, Fresh, Med
4 Each
16
Oil, Olive, Extra Virgin
1 Tablespoon
120
Tea, Brewed w/ Tap Water
2 Cups
5
Tomatoes, Paste, Basil Garlic & Oregano
1/4 Cup
60
Snacks: 123
Water, Tap
2 Cups
0
Water, Tap
2 Cups
0
Water, Tap
2 Cups
0
Water, Purified
20 Fluid ounces
0
Coffee, Brewed
10 Fluid ounces
3
Water, Tap
2 Cups
0
Water, Tap
2 Cups
0
Vanilla Shake
1 Serving
118
Water, Tap
2 Cups
0
Coffee, Brewed
10 Fluid ounces
3






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Scarlet Hopewell