I am starting to get a decent amount of questions about my weight loss. I find this a little strange because I’ve not made a secret about any of it and most of the people that ask are people that have even commented on some of my FB posts. I pretty much say the same thing every time: “I eat less calories than I expend”. What people don’t seem to grasp is that I’m not dieting. You see there’s no magic bullet to take off weight and keep it off. If you want to lose weight and keep it off then you have to change how you live. If you want to eat the diet to which you are accustomed and not be a fat bastard like, then you have have to eat less of the same things. If you want to swap out some of the beef in your diet for fish and chicken then you can eat a little more. The trick is that this is a change you’ll want to keep around. You cannot cut weight and then go back to eating like you did before losing the weight and expect to keep it off.
Diets can help you lose weight and sometimes rapidly but the trick is keeping that weight off and the only way to do that is to eat few enough calories that aren’t gaining weight. It all boils down to thermodynamics and a lot people don’t seem grasp that. If you eat more calories than you need to maintain your weight, at your current level of activity, you will gain weight. If you eat less calories than your body needs to maintain its weight. at your current level of activity, you will lose weight. When it comes to weight loss you can’t target any specific area and you will lose muscle mass at some point while you’re losing weight so there are some things to take in to account when trying get healthy but as far as simple weight loss goes the only answer is to eat less calories than you burn. There is no other way around it. It doesn’t matter whether you’re using a points system, counting calories, eating specific diet, or what you’re doing if you’re losing weight you are creating a calorie deficit. Period.
I’ve used some psychological tools, like milestones, to help myself make the changes I need to make but in the end the only thing that matters is the calorie deficit I create. Of course it’s best to eat healthy food, I don’t you could argue that it’s not, but you can lose weight eating nothing but Twinkies if you create a calorie deficit. I have slowly changed my diet and am still working on that side of it because I would like to be more healthy overall but the most unhealthy thing in my life, the most dangerous, a bigger risk than smoking, is the fat I’m carrying around so that’s the most important thing to change right now. Other tweaks to my life can be managed more slowly, over time, as I change bad habits and try to develop good ones.
You may have seen my morning walks posted on FB. When I walk before work I wear an HRM to get a decently accurate calorie count and I eat those calories back. I don’t lose more weight when I walk because my calorie deficit is 3500 kcal a week. This translates to about 1 lb a week lost weight. That is a sustainable and not all that hard to accomplish. So when I walk I track those calories and make sure to eat them back. For instance, I need to eat 2040 calories a day, right now, to lose 1 lb a week, so if I burn 400 calories walking before work, I eat 2440 calories that day. You can safely lose more than a pound a week but for me that is too much change and I end up blowing it because I can’t sustain the deficit needed and still feel satisfied.
Satisfaction is a huge thing. You do have to give your body time to adjust to living with a caloric deficit but if you are miserable after three or four weeks then you aren’t going to stick to it. I am using the deficit I use right now because I can eat, feel satisfied, and still lose weight. I think it took me about two weeks to get used to the deficit but even those two weeks weren’t all that bad. I still blow it some days and some days I eat under my goal but I average that 3500 kcal deficit every week and I keep losing weight.
I use a lot of apps to keep track of the things I am tracking, My Fitness Pal for calorie counting, Endomondo for my morning walks (it ties in to MFP), a couple of Runtastic apps for strength training, and FB for posting my results and getting the boost you get when your friends and family are supportive. I can talk about motivation all day but that has to come from within you and how I stay motivated probably won’t help you at all. I’ve talked about it some other posts so I’m going to skip it here.
In the end, in all the words I’ve written here, losing weight comes down to the simple mantra of: eat less fuel than you burn. Anything else you tack on to that is up to you. I advise against huge changes because while the rewards are bigger so is the letdown when you fail, and you will fail, I do, all the time. It’s not about being perfect, it’s not about being perfect, it’s about what you do with your failure. I will always choose slow and steady over high risk, high reward. I screw up all the time but the system I’ve developed allows for that and make correction easy. If I was shooting higher I would fail more and end up discouraged.
The last point I’ll make is that you need a support system. I have my wonderful wife along with Walker and Casey that I count on for support and pep talks when I slip. I have a lot of FB friends who post positive comments and like my statuses about getting healthy and this may sound silly but that helps more than I can quantify. Find a friend that will hold you accountable, make a plan, and then execute your plan. You can only fail if you don’t try. Hell if you want you can join MFP, send me a friend request, and we can do this together. Hell if I can lose weight then anyone can.
I used to be bad at planning, to the point I’d have to pick on of three things on a Friday night and be genuinely shocked that I put myself in that situation. Michelle wasn’t a part of this, she went where I went and such. No that wasn’t a control thing, she has social anxiety disorder and my social life became our social life because it was easier that way. These days I’m not so bad at planning and she manages to remind me when it looks like I’m going to over-commit. This weekend I put off grocery shopping until Monday night because stuff just kept popping up. What I didn’t consider was the rest of the family’s schedule. Children’s Museum, Teen Time at the library, and music lessons in the evening which all add up to my plan being exceedingly ill advised. I got the shopping done but didn’t get home until 11 PM. The only upshot is that we got rid of a bunch of leftovers by delaying the shopping.
While my plan was ill advised I’m really proud of Michelle right now. She has stuff planned for the kids almost every day of the week that coincides with their school stuff. She has really upped the game this year on the school front. The kids were doing fine last year but the work was bland. It was all computer based and the same every time. You can learn that way but it appeared to be dome of the most boring stuff I’d ever seen. This year almost everything is hands on, from math manipulatives to read actual books and not just passages. Toss in regular field trips, homeschool park days, videos, and more and school seems pretty exciting right now.
She originally asked me for help but as it turns out all she really needed was a little advice. I did what I could but once you get her going there’s no stopping her. She uses me for my library skills because I can put words in to Google and get back exactly what I want pretty easily. I’m fine with her using me for that, as an assistant or a reference, I’m good at it. And she’s really good at what she’s doing. The kids are really enjoying themselves as well. Sure there are hiccups and off days but that’s life and we all learn how to take those days in stride.
Right now I am sitting at work, staving off the long blinks, and regretting my poor planning. I am very happy with the reasons my planning was poor. I couldn’t be happier with my life at home right now. I’m struggling with the ADD a little bit at work but that too shall pass. I may be making a lot of changes but it’s all to make my life better and not because I’m unhappy with where I am in life. Actually it’s probably due, in part, to where I am in life that I’m able to make the changes that I’m making. I’ve a little less than an hour and fifteen minutes left today and I can’t wait to get home. I’ll probably pass out pretty early tonight but I’ll do it with a smile on my face.
And I’ve learned a valuable lesson about planning things on weeknights, check with Michelle first about the sanity of my plans!
Don’t you ever make the mistake of thinking of the past as the good old days
It’s a son of a bitch being young and holding your youth like a loaded gun - Micah Schnabel
As I took Roisin for a spin around the dining room tonight, to a Cory Branan record on an actual record player, I got to thinking a little bit. It was the record, part of my growing collection, that kicked off a spiral of thought. Vinyl is making a comeback and it been for some time. I think the why of that is interesting. Some folks honestly believe it sounds better and some of the current collectors are hipsters who I honestly don’t believe couldn’t tell vinyl from lossless digital in a blind test.
I think the real reason is that it’s physical, more than anything else. I have a 1TB hard drive full of music, it’s quite the collection. But in the evenings, recently, I’ve been going through the ritual of putting a record on the record player. There’s something about taking it out of the cover, slipping the sleeve off, placing it on the player, getting the needle in the right place, and being rewarded with music. There’s an appeal to it that I can’t explain.
I’m not one to shun technology for the good ol’ days. I’m writing this post on a tablet while streaming House Of Cards on Netflix over a Roku 3 to an HD TV. I have read 62 books this year, every one of them on the same tablet I’m writing this post on. At the same time I use a Moleskine to take notes at work and play records at home. I preach using the right tool for the right job which doesn’t jive with using handwritten notes in my choice of careers.
I think that there’s something about the physical that appeals to us on some level. I can’t explain why I don’t care about books when I prefer handwriting notes. It honestly doesn’t make sense to me but it is what it is.
The quote from Micah I used at the beginning of this piece is where my brain ended up after all of that. People live in so much fear these days that it’s staggering. It’s truly awe inspiring. We are inundated with fear from all sides 24/7 and most of us never stop to try and actually process anything beyond our first gut reaction.
I think that might be the connection between the things I do that seem outdated and the things that don’t. Physically writing something down makes you think about what you’re writing, putting on record is a commitment of sorts, and reading slows down the whirlwind regardless of the medium. There’s something personal about all of those things and they are meaningful in some way. They also command a certain attention.
This is a little disjointed and that’s alright. I started this not knowing where I’d end up and it’s not as well thought out as some of my recent pieces but that’s alright as well. I have a little bit more of understanding of why I do things. I think some of these things need a little more fleshing out but that’s part of the process.
The last two weeks have been rough on the getting healthy front. Actually it’s been three weeks. Now it’s not that I’m not losing weight, I’m still on track there but I haven’t been walking and have been moving calories around and eating badly, while still meeting my goal. I really feel it today. I’m more lethargic and not in as good of a mood as usual. I’ve been on some sort of auto-pilot and it’s not working. Just letting the day move past as you as do the minimum is not any way to live and that’s what I’ve been doing. I am grateful that I know what not doing that feels like so that I know what I’m feeling can be corrected and I can do better.
I can identify the point at which this started, it goes all the way back to when I hurt myself exercising. It was right around that point that I had some depression and didn’t manage to fight it off as well as I thought. I think I’m back on track now and I intend to go back to walking every morning, Mon-Fri, along with actually getting up on time so I’m not just phoning it in.
So as scattered as this is (it’s actually two posts mashed together) that’s what’s been going on with me as of late. I’ve got some stuff percolating that I’m going to need to write about as well and I may come back to this and follow some of the threads but I was feeling like I couldn’t go anywhere else until I posted these. Yeah, I’m a little silly, but it is what it is.
I’ve been making a lot of changes lately, at least when you look at the aggregate. In reality I’ve been making these changes over a long period of time, using milestones to know when to try and change the next little thing. My whole goal is to change the things I don’t like about my life but to do it in a manner that’s sustainable. I don’t want any of these changes to be temporary. I think that realizing how I absorb change and how I form habits was an important piece of the puzzle for getting my life in shape.
Of course the underlying reason for these changes is that I wasn’t happy with my life. I’m not happy with it yet but at this point I can see how I’m going to get there. There’s still a lot wrong that’s not my health or fitness. I am holding together a house I shouldn’t have bought to begin with and every time something else falls apart it takes a little more to stay positive. Actually, if I’m honest, I’m not all that positive. I put up a good front because the things I’m not feeling upbeat about aren’t really things I can do much about right now, but at the same time there are things I am genuinely positive about. I let that come through and use it to fight the minor depression running just under the surface.
The house is the major cause of that depression. I shouldn’t have bought it, I’m underwater on it, and it’s falling apart. It’s not unlivable, it’s just not pretty. I have to get the majority of the house re-floored, there’s a decent amount of sheetrock that needs replacing due to various plumbing issues, painting that needs to be done, and various other bits and pieces. I can do some of it but some of it I’ve got to bring in help and that costs a decent amount, at least for competent help. I can’t see the end of that, yet, but it’s because I can’t see the beginning. We had started getting ahead of things but then I lost my job and things screeched to a halt.
This isn’t a complaint, I love my new job, but the fact is I make quite a bit less money than I did when I was at M.D. Anderson. Some of that is mitigated by getting my insurance, for the whole family, for nothing out of pocket and a little is made up by only driving 1/3 the distance to work but not all of it. So money is tighter than it was before and this time of year we’re laying out for school and so on. In the end, I can’t do anything about the house right now but I’m not willing to accept the state it’s in, not even until I can change it, because that leads to complacency. Now that’s only a little bit of negative side of things but the other stuff isn’t stuff I’m going to going to air in public.
What keeps me going is the other changes I’ve been able to make and maintain. I can look at those and realize that while things aren’t perfect, and likely never will be, that I’m making progress and I’ll get there eventually. For a couple of weeks before my birthday party that wasn’t enough and I was pretty depressed. I’m glad that changed and I know it’s chemical but I don’t why it did. I have no choice but to keep moving forward and maintaining the changes I’ve made so far. I’ll get there, I’ll make it happen, it won’t be easy, but I don’t think I have any other choice. The short term upshot is that I’ve got a show this weekend that’s not outside of the budget, at which I won’t be drinking, and that’ll give me a boost.
I don’t know who all, if anyone, actually reads these but it’s nice to have a place where I can write this stuff out, it really helps me think through it and sometimes someone offers decent advice because I wrote something here.
I had my birthday last weekend and it was totally amazing. I got to see a bunch of my friends and make my last night drinking for a while very memorable. The drinking thing isn’t an alcohol issue, it goes back to my post about excesses. I’m going to lay off and try to gain some discipline in that respect, in other areas, and then go back to have a cocktail or two when I go out, like a normal person, instead of a dozen like I do now. It’s all for the best really and I feel ready to make this change. But I digress…
The point of this missive is to talk about support. I’ve mentioned the personal changes I’ve been making and I don’t think I could have changed this much without the help and support of my friends and family. Every time someone likes the FB post about my morning walk, offers advice on working out, or mentions that they can see that I’m losing weight it add to my resolve to keep going. They are all little things but every one of them adds up. When I’m debating getting out of bed and strapping on the HRM, those are the things that are in my mind.
When old friends take the time to message me and give me really personal advice that’s predicated on years of friendship it really helps all the more. None of this has been easy and I’ve had to develop discipline at a level of which I’ve never known myself to be capable. I’ve kept at this longer than I’ve kept at trying to get healthy any other time and it’s working.
I have come to realize how much a support system is necessary. Doing it because I need to should be enough but some mornings, it just isn’t. One day it might be but since this is a marathon and not a sprint, the day to day is hard sometimes. To say I’ve done this without struggling would be a barefaced lie. I don’t know that anyone makes these sorts of changes on their own. The strength and dedication I have comes from the people I have surrounded myself with and that have chosen to associate themselves with my particular brand of sanity over the years. Every one of them is indispensable to me.
I’ve got work that needs doing so I’m going to wrap this up with an admonishment. Take a look at your support system, those people you love and who love you as well. Those folks are a large part of what make you who you are. They help shape you in small ways over time and hopefully it’s for the better. I hope you take the time to let them know what they mean to you.