Monday, June 30, 2008

Round One is a Tie, Round Two Begins

So my friend and his accomplice both achieved their goals. Yes my friend managed to drop the 10 pounds and tip the scales at 255. The competition logged her second 4-pound weight loss week to exceed her goal by two pounds. Both win, the jackpot rides, and round two is under way.

This time they have five weeks over which they must maintain the rate of loss they picked for the first round. That means by August 4 my friend must lose 7.5 pounds to tip the scale at 247.5.

But while I have focused primarily on my friend, it is his opponent who we can all learn from. The keys to her success are a virtual how-to for losing weight in a way that leads to life-long maintenance. They are as follows:
  • Pick a fitness regimen and stick to it -- rigorously.
  • Eat a moderate, healthy meal or snack every three hours or so.
  • Occasionally cut yourself some slack and enjoy the things you usually avoid.
  • Be consitent. Five or six good days and one or two so-so days, over time, will get you to goal. Three or four excellent days will, over time, never be enough to undo three or four horrible days.

My friend was more than a little surprised he pulled off the tie, but he knows he's gonna have to copy his opponent's strategy if he wants to keep up with her for the long haul.

Congratulations to both!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The night before

A quick update on "my friend's" weight bet. It ends tomorrow. If he has lost 18 pounds, dropping from 275 to 257, he wins. (At least half the cash.) That means he's had to lose 10 pounds in the past four days. What it really means, is that he will have sweated off a bunch tomorrow morning.

His plan for the morning: many cotton sweats and roadwork. If it stays hot, like it is tonight, he stands an okay chance. Maybe.

Anyway, once this madness is over, he can go back to slow, steady, Point-counting weight loss.

Wish him luck. He's gonna need it.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Two Days till Weigh-In

It is Saturday morning, and my friend -- the one with the weight bet -- is sweating. Not literally yet. He had 10 pounds to lose and four days to do it. Now he has two days and no scale. (He keeps it at work.)

So what's the plan? Starve himself? No way. That'll backfire. Saturday or Sunday night will come around, and he'll snap and pizza, beer and chips will fly into his mouth like planets, stars and asteroids getting sucked into a black hole. So he's just gonna to eat light, avoiding sodium. And he's going to drink. A lot. NOT beer. Water. Probably not diet soda, either. That somehow seems to make him hungrier than drinking water. Maybe that's just psychological. Maybe it's all just psychological.

So the keys are these:
  • Eat light, lots of fruits and vegies.
  • Avoid sodium.
  • Drink water like a big, thirsty sponge.
  • Move. Walk, work around the house, jumping jacks. Anything.
  • Don the sweats at 4:30 Monday morning and SWEAT.

Every bullet is key, but the last will be the clincher. He'll be going to the weigh-in pretty much blind, not knowing if he made it or not, so the morning sweatshop session will be key.

And if he loses, it's not the end of the world. He actually likes his competition and would be happy to see her succeed. But he would be even happier for her to lose all but .5 pounds of her goal and for him to exceed his by the same amount.

Either way, he's going for it.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Lose 10 Pound in 4 Days! What?!

First off, let me go on record as saying I am totally opposed to crazy diets. In the short term, they seem miraculous; in the long term, they are disastrous. I know.

So what's with the title of this post? Well, you see, I have this friend. Not me. A friend. And he made a bet with a co-worker. The terms were these:
  • The bet spanned Q2 2008, three months.
  • He had to lose a pound and a half a week, she had to lose about a pound a week. (Men lose weight more easily, and since he weighs at least one and half times what she weighs, it makes sense he should have to lose one and a half times as much weight.)
  • They each put in $5 a week, for a total end-of-the-bet pot of $130.
  • If neither makes their goal, the pot rides and the bet continues for another quarter.
  • If both make it, they can either split the pot or let it ride.
  • If only one makes goal, that one takes the money and runs.

So the bet terminates on Monday, four days away. The co-worker is two and a half pounds from victory, and she is hitting it hot and heavy: running, eating salads, the whole nine yards. She wants it.

My friend, on the other hand, got off to a good start, but languished in the final stretch. Now, with 4 days to go, he is 10 pounds away from his goal weight.

So my friend comes to me, distraught, panicked. I resist retelling Aesop's grasshopper and the ant story. Instead, I unroll a map and spread it out on the table between us.

"What's this map got to do with it?" he asks.

"Nothing," I answer. "It's just for effect. Like a couple of officers planning a nocturnal assault."

"You have no idea what to do, do you?" he asks.

Rather than waste my breathe responding to his pessimistic fatalism, I lay out his path to victory:

First, you cannot lose 10 pounds of fat in 10 days. Not without lyposuction. A pound of fat is the bodies way of storing 3,500 calories you took in but didn't put out. For example, if I need 2,500 calories a day to exist -- for my heart to beat, my lungs to breathe; to move myself around, etc. -- and I eat 6,000 calories, for instance 10 Big Macs, I will gain one pound of fat. Pure and simple.

Now, by the same token, if I need 2,500 calories a day, but I only take in 2,000 a day, that represents a 500 calorie/day deficient. That means I have to take out a withdrawal at the fat bank that is my midsection. At the end of a week (7 days times 500 calories a day deficit), I will have withdrawn 3,500 calories. In other words, I lost one pound.

That's not true, I hear some of you saying. I went on a crash diet and lost 10 pounds in one week. Yes, you did. But you didn't lose 10 pounds of fat. The majority of that 10 pounds was water and waste. (Yuck.)

To prove my point, I need you to do a little test. Step on a fairly accurate scale. Write down your weight. Now go fill up a container with 32 ounces of water and drink. (Hey, Marines have to do this all the time. The DI says "Drink," and they have to down their entire canteen.) It might take you a while, but when you're done, step back on the scale. Since a gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds, and since a quart is a "quarter" of a gallon, you will weigh 2 pounds more after drinking the water. Did you gain weight? Yes, in that you now weigh more, but no, in that after a trip or two to the potty, you'll be back to normal.

This is all complicated by the fact that high sodium foods make your body retain more water. It is also complicated by the fact, that at any given point in time, there is a good deal of food in various stages of digession coursing its way through your body. (I will not go so far as to suggest experiment #2: weighing before and after using the restroom, but you get the point.)

So, after explaining all this to my friend, I suggest the following:

  • Eat a healthy, low sodium, moderate calorie diet for the next four days.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables than anything else. (These are high fiber and high water content -- you get the picture.)
  • Get moving -- all four days, but particularly the morning of the weigh in. (I won't recommend one of those crazy vinyl suits, but two or three sets of good cotton sweats wouldn't hurt.)

"That's it," he says. "That's all you've got?"

"Okay, eat cabbage and celery. They're diuretic."

"They cause high blood sugar?"

"No, idiot. Diuretic. They'll make you pee more."


Friday, June 20, 2008

Progress Report, 20 June

Just a quick checkin. You will notice in the graph above that, despite a little blip, I am once again on track. From a high of -- cringe -- 280, I was down to 264.5 on Monday. I have had a good week of eating with restraint and walking or jogging pretty much every morning.
I am hoping that I was able to knock off a few more pounds by this Monday and then hit the magic number of 257 by 30 June.
I have to up the intensity of the morning roadwork, but right now it seems all I can do just to be up and moving. Any motivational ideas will be taken under consideration. [In other words, feel free to comment. And click on those ads! While I can't vouch for them, I can and will readily spend any money I make from them.]

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Can't Lose Weight? Wanna Bet?

Losing weight and getting in shape can improve your health, increase your lifespan, reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. It can improve your relationships, let you live a fuller, more satisfying life. It can increase your confidence and, as a result, allow you to earn more and progress more quickly in your field.

And yet somehow, while all these benefits may fail to motivate us, bet someone $100 you can do it, and, BAM, you are all over it!

I am the greatest transgressor when it comes to this. I made my first of countless diet bets while I was in high school at Choate. When my plans to become a football hero were dashed by a nasty broken leg -- one of those twisting, shattering, full-cast-for-six-months kind of breaks -- I managed to pack on some extra pounds. When the piano player in my band, Caruso and the Busboys, said there was no way I could get back in shape for our big gig at the end of the month, I bet him a bass guitar I'd lose 20 pounds in 4 weeks.

And I did.

"So what's wrong with that?" you ask. Nothing. Except that I gained it right back. This has been a theme ever since. Gain weight. Get fed up. Make a bet. Loss the weight, collect the prize, and start the upward climb almost immediately.

But I have learned something in the process. With that first bet for the bass guitar, I lost 20 pounds in 4 weeks and gained it back in...five? I don't remember exactly, but it came back fast. The last bet I made was a couple of years ago. I lost about 30 in 3 months, and it took me a whole year and a half to get back to square one.

So what's the significance of this? "It's still a yo-yo," you say, "just a slow yo-yo." The significance is that you have to slow down before you stop. And what I have finally learned is that the thing you have to slow down is the rate at which you lose the weight.

This is America. We are the land of instant gratification. The land of silver bullets. The land of no payments till 2009. Unfortunately, this is not how the body works. Millions of years of evolution have hardwired various survival mechanisms into our DNA. One such mechanism is the "don't starve" mechanism. That's the scientific name, I believe. Simply put, our bodies will do what they can to prevent us from starving to death. That means, at the first sign of starvation, the body turns down the furnace. In other words, our metabolism slows so we need fewer calories. That is how prisoners of war are able to survive for years on bowls of gruel. The body slows down when we cut our intake dramatically.

The only way to circumvent this is to lose weight slowly. The slower the better. One to two pounds a week max.

There is a lot more to all of this, but it'll have to wait. I've got to get something to eat.

To be continued...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Day Two

I am on the train from Boston to Franklin, my fingers sticking to the keyboard with each keystroke. I took the Red Line to Park Street and then walked from there to South Station so I could pick up an orange and a grapefruit from the sidewalk vendors in front of CVS. I ate them en route (the fruit, not the vendors) and, despite the earnest use of napkins taken from Au Bon Pain inside the train station, my fingers are still sticky with fructose.

I wrote a great blog entry this morning on the train, but I tried to post it at the exact moment my Sprint card lost signal, and the entire piece -- brilliant, as I recall -- disappeared into cyberspace. I have been trying unsuccessfully to recapture its brilliance, but alas, I have failed. Oh well.

So here's the problem with blogging: it's hard to think of something meaningful to say day in and day out, week after week, month after month... [Wait. This is only my third entry... Not a good sign.]

Well, I've stuck to my 38 points so far. I know, women on Weight Watchers are slamming their laptops closed in anger, since men get so many more points than women. Well, we get more heart attacks, too. And we lose our hair more often. And you know those ads with the stupid-looking guy who walks around smiling and waving at everyone? Well, you get the picture. Don't begrudge us a few extra points.

For those of you unfamiliar with Weight Watchers, Points are sort of like shorthand for calories with both fiber- and fat-content taken into consideration. To get a rough estimate of a food's point content, take the total calories and divide by 50, then round up the nearest whole number or the nearest point-five (e.g. 3 or 3.5). To get a closer approximation, take the total calories, add 4 1/6 calories for each gram of fat, then subtract 10 calories for each gram of fiber up to 4 grams. Then divide by 50 and round up.

Here's an example:

Let's say a bag of chips has 150 calories, 12 grams of fat, and 2 grams of fiber. That's 150 plus 12 times 4 1/6 (or 50) minus 2 times 10 (or 20). That's 180. Divide that by 50, and you get 3.5 or 4.

In The Healthy Elvis Diet, a diet I made up based on healthy versions of Elvis Presley's notoriously unhealthy favorite foods, you can use L's instead of points. Since L is the Roman numeral for 50, just divide a food's total calories by 50 to get the total number of L's. (L's -- El's, get it?)

I'll share more about The Healthy Elvis Diet in later posts.

Okay, enough for now. Eat light and prosper.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Day One

Woke at 5:00 a.m. Fumbled around for some black cotton shorts to go with my black cotton teeshirt. Searched for the iPod. Figured out how to work it. Listened to Marine Corps marching cadences and walked 20 minutes. Those damned Marines march fast!

I have actually been at this most recent campaign for a while. Here's a glimpse of the progress to date:

Yes, that little bit of backsliding at the tail-end of the line is what has provoked this new initiative. I have been 280, and I have no intention of going back there.

I ate a can of sardines and 1 1/2 cup of pasta breakfast and wrote it all down at WeightWatchers online, so I'm off to a good start.

More later.

Monday, June 9, 2008

One more round, Tommy, one more round

Okay, let me dispense with the sorry details:
  • I'm past 39.
  • I weight 268.
  • Instead of a six-pack, I've got a pony keg.
  • My feet hurt, my knees ache, and I'm in worse shape than the fat kid in Full Metal Jacket.

I could go on about how I used to be in better shape, but that's a little like taking my head and using Photoshop to attach it to the body of Fabio. Now is now, and now...I am fat and out of shape.

So why should you care about my pathetic condition? Because I am about to completely transform myself. I have decided to get down to 208, the highest acceptable weight in the eyes of the U. S. Marine Corps for someone of my height. I have also decided to build my stamina and chisel my physique so that the 50-year-old Jason Hunt would put the 20-year-old Jason Hunt to shame. And kick his ass, to boot.

So how am I going to do it? Good question. I'm going to follow the old adage: "Go as far as you can see, and when you get there, you'll be able to see a little further." In other words, all I have is my Phase One.

Here's what Phase One entails:

  • Weight Watchers for Men online (a new-fangled way to watch calories and eat a healthy, well-balanced diet)
  • Roadwork to Marine Corps cadences (I've got marching and running cadences on the iPod)

I'll keep you posted on my progress. If you've got some pounds to drop, I hope I can provide a little inspiration. If you don't, perhaps I'll provide a little entertainment.

Either way, buy something from the ads, and you just might provide me with a little extra dough. :-)