Saturday, October 27, 2012

Health update

I don't often post anything personal (or really anything at all, for that matter), but I'm going to make an exception today.

Today marks 9 months since I started working on losing weight and generally improving my health.  At the time, I weighed somewhere around twice what I should (maybe more), and I hadn't been at a healthy weight for nearly 20 years.  The scary thing is that I really didn't see myself as that heavy, but obviously my self-image didn't match reality in the slightest...  As a co-worker put it, you don't get to that size without a healthy dose of denial.

2 years ago
It took a weight loss competition organized by another co-worker to get me motivated, but I decided in January that I was going to lose weight and get back to some level of physical fitness.  I've had a lot of success, as anyone who knows me can tell, so I get asked a lot how I lost all the weight.  The short answer that I give is that I lost it the old-fashioned way - diet and exercise.  There is a much longer answer though, so bear with me...

Diet was definitely the biggest change for me.  I've always eaten way too much food.  It wasn't necessarily all bad food, although it often was, but the sheer quantity was what got me in trouble.  I decided to do three things to address that.  First of all (and most importantly), I finally started logging what I was eating (as my wife had been trying to get me to do for years).  I found the Lose It! app, which made this painless.  It was absolutely invaluable since it let me see what foods were OK to eat and which weren't (and to see just how bad those things were).

Second, I tried to eat more of the right foods, like lean proteins and vegetables.  I started to avoid sugar, starches (no pasta, bread, or rice), and high-fat foods (with a few exceptions like almonds, which became one of my favorite snacks).  Conveniently, since I was watching my calorie intake, the things I was trying to eat are low-calorie, which meant I didn't have to starve myself at all.

The third diet change that I made was to start snacking through the day, usually eating something every couple of hours.  This was the weirdest part, focusing on eating regularly and often in order to lose weight, and it was odd never really being full, but at the same time I never really got hungry enough to have impulse control issues.

Note that when I say "diet", I'm trying to avoid the connotation that the world normally holds.  I never meant for any of this to be a short-term change in my eating, but rather I considered this to be a lifestyle change.  I have no intention of going back to anything resembling my old diet, no matter what shape I'm in or how active I am.

Speaking of activity, I struggled a bit to find exercise that I was physically capable of doing for any length of time, without hurting myself.  My friend Artie (who had recently lost a large amount of weight himself, and who was my biggest inspiration for putting in all this effort) worked for a while to convince me to go out for short walks with him.  With my bad knees, walking was extremely uncomfortable.  Eventually I gave in though, and we started walking as often as possible.  At first, a 15-minute walk would nearly kill me.  I kept walking as often as I could though, either at lunch, in the afternoons just to clear my head, with my family in the evenings, you name it.  By May, I walked a 5K with Artie (in just over 50 minutes).  It was looking like I would be able to run a 5K this past month, but unfortunately an injury slowed me down just enough that I wasn't able to.

Somewhere early on, I started riding our stationary recumbent bike (which had sat in our house, collecting dust for around 5 years).  At first, I was lucky to do 5-10 minutes.  After a few weeks, I recall doing an hour, non-stop, and feeling like I wasn't going to be able to walk afterwards.  At some point around then, I started riding my real bike and found that I couldn't climb a hill.  I kept working on it though, and eventually I was able to ride 10 miles, 15 miles, 25 miles, 33 miles, and ultimately 50 miles.  (At some point in the near future, I'd like to try to ride 100 miles, but that's a pretty massive time commitment.)

The most rewarding part of this entire experience has been the lifestyle change that my entire family has gone through.  It's one thing for everyone to diet together, but that's not what we've done.  We're all eating differently, cooking together, and finding ways to be active together.  My wife Kara has been incredibly patient and understanding, even when I've been overly single-minded about trying to hit whatever goal I had on any given day.  She has been on-board since the beginning, and has also managed to lose a significant amount of weight.  (I'll leave it to her to give details.)  All of the changes have been great for our daughter Emma too, who is in better shape now than she has been at any other point in her life.  I know a lot of people who try to lose weight on their own, and I'm sure it can be done, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it.

I'm fortunate to have a great support system.  I mentioned Artie before (thanks, Artie!), but I also have to thank Mike for pushing me to do more, go a little faster, or go a little farther.  There are many others (yes, I'm looking at you, Emma) who have helped, and I apologize for not naming every one of you, but I do appreciate all of the support.

As of this morning, I have lost over 36% of the weight I was carrying at the end of January.  I need to get to 50%, give or take, so I still have quite a bit to lose, but I have complete confidence that it will come off over the next few months.  I have had to replace my wardrobe multiple times now (I'm already wearing shirts 4 sizes smaller than I was wearing when I started), so I'm perfectly OK with the loss leveling off for a while.  :-)



Unknown said...

Great post and dead on...welcome to the true believers lifestyle...not really a diet at all. :)

Unknown said...

Great post and dead on...welcome to the true believers lifestyle...not really a diet at all. :)

Christof Damian said...

Cool post.

I like the point about denial.

I also agree about your methodology. I want to loose some weight too, last year I was slightly overweight and just by a food and weight log I managed to loose quite a bit.
The big change came this year when a change of jobs allowed me to commute by bike. At the same time I discovered, which is brilliant to gameify your commute and sports a bit.
I also use the noom app, which is a mix of food, weight and sports log, not brilliant but it works.

I really should blog about it too :-)

Jayson Rowe said...

Very awesome my friend. I've been on a similar journey - I've lost from 320lbs to 160lbs over the past 2.5 years, I'm running my second half-marathon on Saturday and plan for my first full marathon this upcoming February. I love to hear of others with similar journeys who have the perseverance to push through and achieve awesome results.

Wolgamot said...

WOW! You look great. What an amazing effort you've made. Almonds are my choice of treats too. Low carb and high fiber. Keeps you regular and takes the edge off hunger with little impact on blood sugar levels.

Katerberg said...

Really great job man. A healthy lifestyle is a commitment but definitely worth it.

Great to see folks bucking the IT stereotype. ;)

Unknown said...

Good for you, Steve. On the same plan. Same results. Do what works.