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May 18, 2008

I have reached a plateau

In the past month, my net weight loss has been close to zero. I knew this time would come; I am not surprised. The question now is: what will I do about it? The way I see it, I will have two options for getting off this plateau: wait it out, or change things up.

One thing I will not do is get discouraged and stop going to the gym. Right now, that’s the one fitness goal I’m pretty sure I can meet. I think the best strategy at present is to focus on process goals like getting to the gym four times a week and packing my own lunch every day. It’s not wise to get caught up with the numbers on the scale or even size.

First of all, let me assure you that there is no fat to muscle alchemy going on, at least not in a big way. Yes, muscle weighs more than fat; however, I am still not doing any weight training. The only exercise I’m getting is on the elliptical and that’s mostly cardio, although I’m trying to up the resistance. This month, I half-heartedly made a fitness goal of being able to do a full pushup. I tried for a couple of weeks to work up to one by doing incline pushups. Maybe I’ve gotten slightly better at incline pushups. I don’t know. Anyway, I’m not really doing anything to grow muscle and given that I’m still the consistency of a gel-filled wrist rest, in don’t think I’m toning the muscle I have.

I think it’s more likely that my metabolism has adjusted to my new activity level and caloric intake. I’ve attained equilibrium. I could further increase my activity level, or decrease my caloric intake; either one of those steps could knock me off this plateau. However, I’m not willing to make any changes to my diet or exercise that I’m not prepared to keep up for the long term—potentially, for the rest of my life. Ask me to give up fast food? OK. Ask me to give up half and half in my morning coffee? No way. Ask me to give up my morning coffee? Leave now.

I’m willing to bet that if I keep up my current routine, my weight will start to creep down again eventually. And maybe after I get accustomed to eating better and moving more, I’ll decide to make additional changes. I’ve lost twenty pounds so far and have ten pounds to go to reach my goal. Even though my weight hasn’t changed in weeks, I am still ahead of the pace of a pound a week overall. If I never lost another pound, I would be disappointed, but I would be mostly OK because I feel more like myself again.

06:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

April 18, 2008

Yay! I’m overweight!

That is: I am no longer officially obese. Not long ago, I dropped to a weight that, according to a calculation of my body mass index (BMI), places me in the merely ‘overweight’ category. You can find examples of BMI calculators here and here.

The BMI is a measure of your weight relative to your height and it roughly estimates the amount of body fat you have. It has limitations; for example, it may overestimate the amount of body fat for athletes or exceptionally muscular people. Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem for me. There are other ways to measure body fat like skinfold thickness measurements with calipers or underwater weighing; but these methods aren’t always affordable or DYI.

I don’t take this designation too seriously, but it still gives me a grain of satisfaction. It’s another milestone achieved. I would have to lose another 30 pounds to fall into the ‘normal’ weight category. This will probably not happen. At the very least, I plan to drop another 15, but everything after that is gravy, or rather, lack of gravy. I think it’s quite possible that I will have to remain ‘overweight’. Or, I could grow a few inches taller.

04:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

March 26, 2008

shocked

I knew I shouldn’t have posted that update on my weight loss progress. As soon as I hit ‘Save’ the number on the scale started to creep up. And so, I was horrified, but not completely shocked, when I pulled on my pants this morning and noticed they were fitting a bit tight. Then I checked the size. I was wearing a pair from the ‘pants too small to fit me’ pile.

04:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 21, 2008

two down

Seeing as things are not going poorly, I will give an update on the fitness and weight loss situation.

It has now been nine weeks—just over two months—since I started going to the gym. For those nine weeks, I’ve managed four workouts per week and have progressed from an hour on the treadmill to an hour on the elliptical trainer.

I’ve lost 13 pounds, which is an average of 1.44 pounds per week; so, if I continue at this pace, I will have lost 37 pounds by my birthday. I assume that I won’t be able to keep up this pace, especially as I approach my goal, but my original target still looks reasonable.

I have yet not dropped a pant size, but I have more room (and no muffin top) in my current size. The cruel and familiar irony of my fitness pursuit is that although I am almost exclusively training my lower body, at this point, I appear to be losing weight primarily from my upper body. I have yet to formulate a personally meaningful way to add strength training to my routine.

Someday, perhaps, I’ll say something about the alteration in my eating habits that has gone along with all of this. I will not say that I am dieting because I believe that to maintain any weight loss a fundamental change in my relationship with food has to occur.

No matter where I end up weight wise, I feel the best outcomes of this effort will be the regular exercise and dietary changes. I cannot deny that I have more energy and my mood is a little lighter.

Four months to go.

04:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

February 24, 2008

I joined a gym

I joined a gym.

It is not a shiny chrome and glass gym. It is the equivalent of your neighborhood dive bar. It's the tiniest bit seedy. I would not be surprised to arrive one day to discover that it has burned to the ground because too many treadmills were plugged into the same outlet. Nevertheless, it is (relatively) clean and the equipment appears to be in decent shape. The other patrons seem to be a reasonable bunch. There is a large contingent of beefy, bald guys strutting around and a few middle-aged women (like me) who show up to use the elliptical machines.

Because I started at such a low level of fitness, I spent the first month exclusively walking on the treadmills until the gym owner badgered me into considering the ellipticals. I now divide my time between the two.

Despite what the gym owner thinks, that treadmill time was necessary for me to develop the habit of going to the gym. I needed a non-threatening workout that I didn't dread just to get me in the door. An hour strutting to my tunes was sufficiently motivating at first.

Additionally, about a week after I joined the gym, the coworker who recommended the place to me proposed an incentive bet that has also given me a push on my low-energy days. We both have the goal of getting in four workouts a week. It's a draw if we both meet or miss our goal; however, if one of us makes it and one doesn't, the 'loser' owes the 'winner' a beverage. So far, I am up 2-0-2. This little bet made me drive to the gym after work on Wednesday instead of rushing home to sit on the couch (which is what I really, really wanted to do).

Along with my weekly goal, I also have some long-term goals. I'd like to lose 30 pounds by my birthday—that works out to just over a pound a week. I'm on track with that. I'd like to drop two pant sizes so I can wear a former favorite pair on my birthday. That shouldn't require me to lose the full 30—so that's potentially achievable even if I fall short on the first goal. Finally, I'd like to be in shape enough so that when I attend a conference in Tahoe this summer, I can hike and bike without feeling like my lungs are trying to escape my body. That one theoretically doesn't require me to lose any weight at all, just increase my cardiovascular fitness.

It's only been a month and I have a famously bad track record when it comes to working out, so we'll see how all this turns out. If things go poorly, I will likely never mention this again.


11:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)