From 270 to 200

This is the story of my journey trying to lose over 70 pounds, regain my life, and hopefully help others have success doing the same thing.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Long Run

Kind of a double meaning this week.  First of all, yes, I'm incorporating a bit of running into my daily walk.  I have a three-mile loop in the neighborhood where the wife and I do our fitness walking.  When she's not with me, I will sometimes add some running.  So far it's only been on the downhills and flats, but it's a start.  At the moment running amounts to about 30-40% of the loop--not too shabby for now!

As for the other meaning... one of the biggest obstacles in weight loss is motivation. It's easy to forget that if it took years to gain the weight, it's not going to come off in a hurry--at least not if you expect to keep it off. Success requires you to look at the long view.  Here's what I mean.

From the time I graduated college just over 25 years ago, I had gained one hundred pounds! (I know--even I can't believe it when I see it in print...).  Now, in order to gain one pound, you have to take in 3500 more calories than you burn.  That means that those 100 pounds equates to 350,000 calories. That's 497 Big Macs.  That's 1,458 Hershey bars.  That's 301 pints of Chunky Monkey ice cream.

You know what else it is?  If you divide it out by day, that's half an apple, each and every day.

That's right--25 years, 365 days per year is 9,125 days. Do the math--it's 38 calories a day.  That means that if I eat half an apple each day more than I burn, I gain the weight.  It's frightfully easy to do.  That's why being diligent in your health is essential.  If you're not aware of what you are eating and how much you are exercising, you likely will fall into the same trap I did.

The good news, though, is that it doesn't take a huge change to your lifestyle to lose the weight--if you take the long view.  Don't try to lose 50 pounds in six months.  It can be done, but it will require such a radical change to your life that you aren't likely to maintain it. And if you go back to old habits, it's right back to the weight gain. (That's what got you there the first time--why would it be different this time?)

That's why I feel good about my current plan, as opposed to my multiple previous attempts.  This time, rather than going on the Atkins/South Beach/Grapefruit/Garth Brooks Juice diet, I'm changing how I live.  First of all, I'm actually paying attention to what I eat.  Every day, every meal, every snack.  Also, I'm paying attention to my activity level.  I'm building a habit of getting some exercise every single day.  And each and every day I try to make sure that the calories burn are greater than the calories taken in.  Yes, it's that simple.

I know people like to say, "I hate counting calories."  But that's like trying to balance your checkbook without keeping up with income or spending--it can't be done.  Calories are the (only) reason you gain or lose weight.  If you want to change your weight, you have to change your calorie intake/output balance.  If you want to do that, you have to be aware of what your intake/output levels are. And the only way to do that is to count them.  Sorry...

But on the bright side, it doesn't require draconian cuts to have a positive impact.  Just like how you gain it, it will come off just as steadily if you flip that balance.  And you CAN flip it--and if you make a habit of it, you'll lose the weight.

In the long run...

Friday, July 26, 2013

Band on the Run

Well, last time I posted, my blog title was almost valid--I was at 274 pounds, almost back DOWN to my "top" weight of 270 that is in the title of the blog.  Well, I'm pleased to say that I am now WELL below that.  As of my last weigh-in this morning, I am at 258 pounds!  This is the third day in a row that I've weighed in below 260, so I'm calling it official.  My next goal is to reach the weight that I was when I got out of the Air Force in 2007--250 pounds.  I figure at a pound or two a week, it should take one or two months, but it's going to happen.

Over the last six years of my airline career, I've had to get a physical every year.  I keep the medical certificates from previous years in a file.  Since each one shows my weight at that physical, I can compare my current weight to my weight over the years.  I had a physical yesterday, and my current weight is the second lowest of any I've had yet! Only my first airline medical from 2006 (the one I had to have before my interview) was lower--247 pounds.  And when I got that one I had just completed a triathlon!  (OK,a short one, but it was still a triathlon...)  So I feel pretty good about how things are going.

As I have spoken about in my last couple of posts, I have a new tool in my weight loss journey-- the Jawbone UP.  You can see the details in the other posts, but basically, it is a wristband pedometer.  It was really good for my motivation--for a while. Unfortunately, I walked it to death!  It gave up the ghost about a month and a half ago.  I applied for warranty replacement, and they say they are going to do it, but of course MY size and color is on back-order.  SO--I've had to do without it for a while.  My pace of weight loss has definitely slowed.  Since I'm not logging my walking, I don't think to log my EATING, and I'm quite sure I'm taking in more calories than I was when I first got the UP.  (Still less than before I started this, but not as MUCH less...)  Hopefully, my band will come home soon, and I can get back to this in earnest.

Having said that, I'm still walking a lot--three to six miles a day about six days a week. (Sunday, too, if I can work it into my schedule, but that's rare...)

Keep walking!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Things are looking UP!

So let me tell you about the Jawbone UP…

At its simplest, it's a wristband pedometer that you wear 24/7.  It tracks the steps you take in a day and compares your results to a goal that you set (the default it 10,000).  By syncing it to your smartphone or tablet, you get feedback on how you are doing. It also (based upon your age, weight, and gender) computes how many calories you burn during the day. 

Secondly, it's a sleep monitor (I know…weird). You put it into "sleep mode" when you go to bed, and it tracks a)how long you sleep, b)how DEEP you sleep, and c)if you wake up.  Like the steps, you set a goal (default is 8 hrs, mine is 7 hrs), and each day it reminds you how well you've done relative to your goal.

Also (what? we're not done yet?), the software that comes with it allows you to track the food you eat, doing all the calorie counting for you.  Just tell it what you ate and how much, and it does the rest.  If you eat something pre-packaged, you can just scan the UPC (I do that with snack bars).  SO--if you know how many calories you took in and how many you BURNED, losing weight is simple: if calories burned is greater than calories eaten, you're losing weight! (Notice I said it was SIMPLE.  I did NOT say it was EASY--there's a difference.)

So what's the point?  Personally, I'm a goal-oriented person.  I can't just say, "I'm gonna exercise more" or "I'm going to eat less."  I have to SEE what's going on, because that's the only way I can control it.  Every day, every time I pick up my PHONE, I'm reminded that I need to walk more.  I find myself making excuses to walk MORE, rather than less.  Before I eat, instead of thinking how much I want bad stuff to eat, I KNOW I'm gonna have to look at it on the app and I make better choices.

I've had the band for about two weeks.  I've only really tracked my food for the last 8 days.  Over that time, I've burned 4131 calories MORE than I've taken in.  That's over a pound of real, honest-to-goodness weight loss (not water weight). And that includes a couple of days like Friday (my niece's graduation nite!) where the after-grad party included cake, yeast rolls, and cajun chicken pasta! 

I still eat what I want--I just find myself WANTING different things.  Having to confront my own bad decisions on a daily basis makes me more responsible.

Basically, if you're honest with yourself, it WILL work.  Losing weight is simple math.  UP is a great motivator, at least for me.  It's available at (here's a link) for $129 (same price everywhere).  I have the large band in light grey--you can pick a color to suit your wardrobe choice, eye color, etc  ;)

I have been VERY pleased with this thing since I got it.  A friend had one and got me interested, and I got one for myself and one for the wife.  We both are taking maximum advantage of them. 

Hope this helps.  I know I have sure hated being overweight, and I wanna stop.  So I am. 

Today's weight:  According to the hotel scale, 274 pounds.  Maybe the title of this blog will be valid again soon!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Welcome (back) to my increasingly inaccurately named blog...

So when I started this blog, it was about 3 years ago, and I weighed 270 pounds.  I wanted to get down to 200, so I named it "From 270 to 200."  I wrote a bit, worked out a bit, watched my eating a bit.  Then I quit.  All of it.

About a year went by.  I gained 5-10 pounds, then decided to start over.  I couldn't rename to blog to "From 280 to 200", so I just went with it.  But not for long.  Soon I gave up.  Again.

So here I am.  Almost two years since my last post, and again, things haven't changed.  In fact, I topped out at almost 290 pounds (286 to be exact) and finally I had had enough.  It was time to get serious.

I had my first "real" physical in about 10 years.  I say "real" physical, because as an airline pilot you get a flight physical every six months to a year.  They check your vision, blood pressure, give you a cursory body exam, and (if you are over 40) an EKG.  I had NO problem passing that physical each year, but I finally realized that it wasn't proving anything. So I went to my non-flight doctor and told him to run the gamut.

All in all, it wasn't TOO bad.  At least not considering I'd gained 30 pounds since leaving the Air Force 6 years ago.   My overall cholesterol was a bit high (212), but that didn't worry the doc too much. He was more concerned about my triglycerides and my LDL cholesterol.  When I asked what I do about that, he gave me the bad news--I needed to get more aerobic exercise.  (Crap...) 

The exercise.  They say that it takes 21 days to build a habit.  I'm now at day 30 or so, and I can't really say it's a habit yet. 
As John Pinette would say, I could quit anytime.  You won't see ME in the exercise wing of the Betty Ford clinic.  However, I HAVE been trying to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity every day, and for the most part I've been successful.  And in that area, I have a new ally...

The Jawbone UP is basically a 21st century pedometer that syncs to your iOS or Android device.  It measures your activity level, counting your steps through the day.  Additionally, it monitors your sleep.  It (theoretically) tracks when you are in light sleep, deep sleep, and waking.  I say "theoretically" because I don't think it's entirely accurate.  I wake up a could of times a night and look at the clock, and it doesn't catch those.  Maybe it classes that as "light sleep", I dunno.  

As for the pedometer part, though, that DOES seem to be helping. During setup, you set a personal daily step goal.  The default is 10,000 steps per day.  As you sync it, the app tells you how you are doing relative to your goal.

Another fun aspect of the UP is the ability to form a "team."  If you know someone else with an UP, you can monitor each other's progress, cheer each other on, and keep each other honest.  It puts a bit of "social" in your workout.  My wife and I (members of "Team UP Yours") have been trying to stick to our 10,000 step goal.

Finally, the app also has a food tracker module that lets you chart calorie consumption.  It's not the easiest to navigate, but it works okay.  And by comparing your calories burned to those taken in you can make wise choices about what to eat, how badly you need to work out, and how to live your life.

At my physical, the doctor also prescribed fish oil.  Lots of it.  Four grams a day.  For perspective, MOST people might take up to 1 gram per day.  I am now taking FOUR.  That's four horse pills a day.  At first, the fish burps were miserable, but as my body has adapted, that has gone away.  I also added some other supplements (some common sense, some as recommended by Dr. Oz, some as recommended by the "working-on-commission" bunch at GNC).  Here's what I am taking:

  • Fish oil
  • Green coffee bean extract
  • Raspberry ketone
  • CLA (Conjugated linoleic acid)
  • Multi-vitamin
As you might guess,  the GNC folks smile when I come through the door.  It may be that, as Sheldon of "Big Bang Theory" would say, all I have are the ingredients for expensive urine.  But, they may help.  We'll see.

So instead of renaming my blog "From 286 to 200", I'll stick with the original title.  After a month, I occasionally see a "7" as the middle digit when I get on the scale, so we'll call it close enough, shall we?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

So it's really (really!) time to get back to it.  Everyone needs a kickstart, and the other day I had my motivation to get back to how I should be living.  I got a call from a friend of mine.  He is a good 2-3 inches shorter than I am, and when we met, we were about the same weight.  We both retired from the Air Force, and both started flying for the airlines.  While I put on about 25 pounds... he put on about 100.  All of us who knew him were worried about him.  Well, eventually, he got worried too.  He went through surgery to help his sleep apnea, and in the process started losing weight--and in the last six months, he's lost 50 pounds. 

We had quite a discussion about it.  We have similar problems.  We live a highly irregular, highly mobile lifestyle.  We both like to eat a lot (with both possible meanings:  we REALLY like to eat, and we like to eat large quantities).  So when I heard that he'd started having some success, I was curious.  Turns out he's been enrolled in one of the weight loss programs involving pre-packaged meals.  I thought about it and considered joining up, but the cost and uncertainty of it put me off.  So I decided to create my own "program."

One of my big problems is portion control (remember liking to eat a lot?).  Eating out at restaurants all the time makes that problem almost insurmountable.  However, being away from home makes it difficult to do anything else.  However, several companies are now making reasonable portion (approx 220 calorie) meals that don't require refrigeration..  Also, the selection of meal replacement bars (high in protein and fiber, approx 250 calories) is getting better.  So here is my plan...

BREAKFAST:  I drink a Slim-Fast (170 calories) for breakfast.  Honestly, I'm not much of a breakfast fan, and so having "only" a Slim-Fast doesn't feel like I'm giving anything up.  If anything, I am ahead of the game on this meal.

LUNCH:  Meal replacement bar (270 calories).  Usually when I'm on the road, it's difficult to get access to a microwave during the day, so one of the pre-packaged meals isn't the best option.  The meal bar, followed by a piece of fruit (80 calories), makes for a decent meal.

SNACK:  I have a piece of fruit or a V-8 juice (70-80 calories).  Low in fat, reasonably high in fiber.  A bit high in sodium, perhaps, but lower than the salt on the french fries I would usually eat for lunch...

DINNER:  Pre-packaged meal.  As I mentioned, these range between 200-240 calories.  There are meals that go higher than that, but there's no need to go that high. 

So here's the rundown:
BREAKFAST:      170 calories
LUNCH:               270 calories
SNACK:                80 calories
DINNER:             230 calories
TOTAL:              750 calories

Now, I know what you're thinking--that's not enough calories.  Well, you're right!  BUT--that's my "framework."  I can add a meal bar here, or a piece of fruit there, and get the calorie total up to the 1500 range if I want to.  Given that my previous total was probably in the 2500 calorie range, this is a DRASTIC improvement.

Will I stick with it? Who knows--but it's a start.  Today was 274 pounds.  Let's head back toward 200, shall we?  Next post will be about my exercise plan.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Hi... remember me?

(he said as if anyone actually reads this...)

SO... about a year ago, I get this bright idea to lose a bunch of weight and blog about it as I went.  Since I was gonna go from a rather rotund 270 pounds to a (relatively) svelte 200, I titled it "From 270 to 200."  As anyone who actually READS this has found, I started late and actually got up to 278 before I started, making the title rather inaccurate. 

All went well for about three months.  I lost about 20 pounds by exercising more and eating less.  Then you'll notice a break in the blog.  A long break. 

It all started with a case of strep throat.  I was actually on an exercise bike at a hotel in Indianapolis when the battery on my phone/MP3 player died.  I went up to my room to get my backup when MY battery died.  I suddenly felt like someone hit me with a truck.  I could barely get the energy to walk across my room, much less finish my workout.  The next week was REALLY the pits since a) the docs at the MedStop were SURE it wasn't strep (though they had no better diagnosis) so I lived with it till the end of the weekend when my REAL doctor could look at me and b)since the strep had set in completely, it was very tough to kick.

The GOOD part about that (there was a good part?) was that I lost about another 5 pounds, and got all the way down to 250.  Unfortunately, that was the beginning of the way back up.  I didn't feel like working out for a LONG time, and then once I COULD have worked out, well.... I didn't.  Just couldn't seem to get motivated.  Of course, at first, the weight stayed off, so heck... not so bad, huh?

Then the weight started to come back.  But it was only a pound or two--nothing to worry about.

Ice cream.... my downfall will always be ice cream.  I'm an addict.  There should be a 12-step program.  And the fact that Kroger has AWESOME cookies and cream ice cream (which just to make it worse is about the cheapest in the store) didn't help.  So I started the climb back up.

Welcome back.  Back to 270 (plus) again.  After losing 28 pounds in 38 days (plus one strep infection), I bottomed out, and took 10 months to go right back where I started.  So now it's time to start over. 

Shall we begin?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Balance in the universe

There's a phrase I use quite a bit: "there's balance in the universe."  Think about it--the balance of gravity and speed allowing planets to orbit stars.  Charge balances mass and speed as electrons orbit nuclei of molecules.  And usually when you get screwed over in some way, there's an up side in there somewhere. 

OK, not as cosmologically accurate, but it seems that way, doesn't it?  This applies in weight loss, too.  For instance, it was MUCH easier to gain this weight than it will be to take it off.  However, it seems that I am seeing results sooner as the weight goes down than it did when it went up.  Already, I can start feeling some muscle tone.  I'm actually aware of my muscles (which were darn near non-existent two months ago).  I can feel my energy level improving already, even with only 5-6 pounds gone. 

All this serves to motivate me a bit.  I've been more patient this time than in previous attempts to get my weight/life under control.  Hopefully this means that I'll be more successful.

I'm changing my life.  The weight will follow.