If anyone can change me, it’s me.
It’s true! As of yesterday I’ve lost 30 pounds in the past 20 weeks.
Before—height:5′8″; weight:196.0 lbs; waist:42″; neck:17.5″ BMI:29.9; body fat:~38%; waist-to-height ratio:60.3%;
After—height:5′8″; weight:165.4 lbs; waist:33″; neck:16″ BMI:25.2; body fat:~24%; waist-to-height ratio:48.5%;
My original goal was to lose 30 pounds in 10 weeks, which I missed, but I’m not disappointed in the end. I went from about 200 pounds to 165 pounds in 20 weeks. I’m very happy with that. This puts me within 2 pounds of a “normal” BMI, and I’m aiming to lose 20 more.
Why did I do it?
I was fat (see week 1 photo above).
There were three geek-related incidents that came together to push me into losing weight: my wife bought a Wii-Fit; I saw photos of myself at various conventions (and didn’t like how I looked—see week 1 photo above); I stumbled upon the “lose it or lose it” geek merit badge. I got serious and applied two miracle methods that helped me to drop the 30 pounds.
What were these miracle methods?
The easy part: count your calories and eat fewer calories than you expend.
It’s a game of simple math: by eating 500 fewer calories a day than my current maintenance weight (the number of calories required to stay the same weight) I’d lose about 1 pound each week. If my current weight is 200 pounds and I require 2200 calories a day to maintain that weight, then by eating 500 calories less than that a day (1700) I’d lose 1 pound each week. As your weight drops, so does your maintenance weight. For my height, to maintain my target weight of 146 pounds, I would need to limit myself to eating 1934 calories per day. At 200 pounds, by only eating that many calories a day, I would eventually reach my target weight—in a little over three years.
I ate five small meals throughout the day: breakfast; elevenses; lunch; tea; and dinner. If I felt the need, I allowed myself to have a light desert (usually about 100 calories). Even though I ate as few as 600 calories on some days (usually between 800-1000), I rarely felt hungry. If I went to a party, or went on vacation, I didn’t necessarily deprive myself. When I went out to eat I’d only eat half my entree, and save the other half for another meal.
Overall I ended up eating more raw vegetables and fewer carbohydrates. The hardest things to give up were buffalo wings, general tso’s chicken, and duck pad thai. I was able to come up with a low-calorie alternative to satisfy my wing cravings (celery sticks with blue cheese dressing and Tabasco sauce). I’m still looking for a really good low-cal alternative to general tso’s chicken and duck pad thai. All the recipes that I’ve found aren’t quite right.
The easy part: get out and exercise more.
I’d really rather not exercise; I was never what you would call athletic. I originally thought I could lose the weight through diet alone. The math just doesn’t make a compelling case for exercise. I could choose to run for an hour or I could just eat a salad instead of a burger. Besides, I’ve tried losing weight through exercise before and I’ve always ended up hurting myself and then giving up.
Through the insistence of a co-worker, I began 20-minute walks during lunch. I eventually added more vigorous exercise to my daily routine: I began running on a treadmill for 15 minutes immediately after work, since I already had a membership to the Y and it was on my way home. A daily 15 minute run was just what I needed. It wasn’t long enough to take me away from other activities, and I was never sore from it afterward.
It was when I began running that I really began to see bigger improvements. I don’t think that it was the fact that I burned more calories with exercise, but that my body toned up, and the weight appeared to melt away. As I lost weight it became easier to exercise.
Eventually I added a morning calisthenics routine (starting with about 10-15 minutes of push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, jumping-jacks, etc.). Soon I had tweaked this to match the 300 challenge (and then some). As of the end of this week my current workout routine consists of:
- 4 pull-ups
- 28 jumping-jacks
- 28 push-ups
- 28 squats
- 4 more pull-ups
- 28 twists (with 5 pounds each arm)
- 28 leg-lifts
- 28 squat-thrusts
- 28 18″ box-jumps
- 4 more pull-ups
- 28 toe-touches
- 28 crunches
- 28 lunges
- planks (for 60 seconds, 45 seconds, and 30 seconds)
- 4 more pull-ups
The squat-thrusts are really the hardest part of that workout. Altogether, I’ve been getting between 20-45 minutes of exercise a day.
By keeping careful track of the calories that I ate and the calories burned through exercise I was able to anticipate how much I would lose each week. By keeping a log, I was able to see my progress. Weight tends to fluctuate, not because of any actual weight gain, but because of something that you eat or drink, or the weight of your clothes may be different than what you wore when you last weighed yourself. I tried to keep the variables consistent. I wore the same clothes for each week for my official weekly weigh in and I weighed myself at the same time on the same day each week—Thursday mornings before breakfast.
While researching dieting and excercising (what a geeky thing to do) I came across several myths.
Disclaimer: You should consult a physician before making radical changes in diet and exercise.
- You must eat at least 1200 calories a day
- I could find no reason for this. It seems to be more of a rule of thumb than anything else. Doctors are known to prescribe sub-1200 calorie diets to obese patients. The supposed reasons that I found for not going under 1200 calories were: you’d be more likely to rebound the weight, you’d be less likely to get the necessary nutrition, and you’d enter starvation mode. My thought was that as long as I knew about the potential for rebound going in, then I could plan around it. My nutrition I could supplement with vitamins. As for starvation mode…
- Starvation mode
- A 1950 Minnesota Semi-starvation Study: ~40 young, healthy, lean men were put on a diet of less than 50% of their basal metabolic rate (BMR) caloric needs per day for 6 months. Their BMR dropped to about 50% of what it had been. They did lose some muscle, but overall they lost mostly fat until their bodies reached 5% body fat. Starvation mode doesn’t seem to be something that the average dieter needs to worry about.
- Muscle weighs more than fat
- It’s true, but unless you’re a world-class athlete you should just pretend that this is a myth. Muscle gain will most likely only amount to about 0.4 pounds of muscle a week while you’re dieting to lose fat. To really gain muscle mass you should eat more than your daily caloric intake, and then you’d still only end up gaining about 0.8 pounds of muscle per week (I read it on the Internet, it must be true)
Workout Routine Breakdown
Beginning weight: 196 pounds
Began walking and watched my serving sizes (who knew that a serving of rice was just one cup?). result: 197.3 (+1.3)—GAH! I never should’ve attended that bacon party!
Continued walking and watching my serving sizes. result: 194.4 (-2.9)
Walked a lot at the Steampunk World’s Fair. result: 193.3 (-1.1)
Aggressively began a restricted calorie diet and counting calories: eating smaller meals every 2.5 hours (7:30, 10:00, 12:30, 15:00, and 17:30). result: 190.9 (-2.4)
I started my test run in the hotel gym at Balticon. Began running 15 minutes alternating 7.5mph and 4mph. result: 187.8 (-3.1)
Increased pace to 8mph and 4mph + did a longer run alternating 8mph and 4mph on Wednesday + began a test set of morning calisthenics + made a conscious decision to exercise before I ate. result: 186.3 (-1.5)
Morning calisthenics: 12 sets of double negatives (just the controlled downward motion of a pull-up, performed twice) with 1 exercise (10 rep) break; Extra long runs on Sat & Sun. result: 182.8 (-3.5)
12 sets of 1 pull-up with 1 exercise (12 rep) break; Hickory Run Camping: 18-Jun to 20-Jun; Baseball 24-Jun; Began running 9mph for 8min and 4mph for 7min; result: 182.1 (-0.7)—Yay! did my first full pull-up ever; Monkey Bread is pure evil—Delicious, delicious, evil.
6 sets of 2 pull-ups with 2 exercise (15 rep) break; Run 9mph for 8min and 4mph for 7min + began alternating exercise days: sprints/running/calisthenics; result: 179.0 (-3.1)—Graduation party! Woo! (note: Italian party food is not calorie conscious!).
5 sets of 3 pull-ups with 2 exercise (20 rep) break; I binged on Tuesday. At this point I had lost 20 pounds of the planned upon 30. result: 175.7 (-3.3)
Spent an extra week at this level to work on form: 5 sets of 3 pull-ups with 2 exercise (20 rep) break; reconfigured calisthenics to better reflect 300 challenge. result: 174.8 (-0.9)
NO EXERCISE: I was sick and I relaxed my calorie restrictions to feed my cold. result: 175.5 (+0.7)
Virginia Beach: 24-Jul to 1-Aug; Sushi, sashimi, oysters, crab, scallops, lobster, she-crab soup… Seafood is yummy! I also left the Wii balance board in Pennsylvania, so I missed my official weekly weigh-in.
Return from Virginia Beach: 24-Jul to 1-Aug; Began Martial Arts training 1x/week on Thursday night with White Eagle Martial Arts. result: 176.40 (+0.9)—not bad considering that I gorged myself on seafood.
Getting back to exercise after about 3 weeks off. Double calisthenics (morning and evening), worked on form: 5 sets of 3 pull-ups with 2 exercise (20 rep) break, switch lunges for single arm clean-and-press (10-lbs); still only running halfheartedly. result: 172.4 (-4.0)
4 sets of 4 pull-ups with 3 exercise (28 rep) break. result: 170.90 (-1.5)
Double calisthenics 4 sets of 4 pull-ups with 3 exercise (28 rep) break; increased dumbbell to 20-pounds. result: 169.60 (-1.3)
4 sets of 4 pull-ups with 3 exercise (28 rep) break; increased dumbbell to 25-pounds; increased run to a minimum of 15 minutes at 8mph with no more than one 2 minute walk (with the goal of being able to run 15 minutes straight); between the treadmill and sprints I’m moving about 12 miles/week. result: 167.10 (-2.5)
Very little exercise and I binged on wings at a zombie movie marathon; increased dumbbell to 30-pounds. result: 169.9 (-0.2)
Decided to hit the gym extra hard this week: ran nearly every day, and did calisthenics (either single or doubles) nearly every day. Double calisthenics 4 sets of 4 pull-ups with 3 exercise (28 rep) break; Hit goal of 2 mile run. result: 165.4 (-1.5)—it’s frustrating to see that I may be plateauing. If I don’t lose 3 pounds next week then I’ll officially declare it a plateau. For now I’m chalking up my lack of progress this week to a celebratory 1 pound burger and a party that I attended with my local Browncoats.
Anything worth doing is worth overdoing: Beginning in week 21: I’m adding another day of Martial Arts class (Sundays); adding a day for Yoga (for balance and flexibility); replacing my sprints with swimming (3-4 times/week); adding a 90-pound barbell to my calisthenics for proper dead-lifts and floor-wipers; and will continue to increase the calisthenic reps weekly until I hit 50 reps for each exercise.
The goal: to be 146 pounds (or at the very least, lose 20 pounds of fat) putting me dead center of a “normal” BMI by mid-October; to be able to complete a 5k run; and to be able to complete the 300 challenge by November 25th, Thanksgiving Day.
Maintenance! I’ll use this 10 week span to eat my required calories (no more restricted calorie dieting) and exercise to stabilize my body. The goal is to get my body attuned to this weight. I’m hoping that by focusing on maintaining this weight (and lifestyle) I’ll be able to lock it in.
Weather will be getting warmer: Rock Climbing? Parkour? Tai Chi? After all this I’d like to see where my new body takes me next.