Some thoughts on losing weight from someone who doesn’t really know that much about it…

When I first came down to the US, I had to pick a doctor and go in for a physical, and when the doctor was done with all the various procedures he needed to perform, he asked me if I had any particular health concerns. I really only had one, but I didn’t see the point in mentioning it, I didn’t really think there was anything he would be able to do for me anyway. I decided I had better let him know though, it seemed stupid not to tell your doctor about your only real medical concern. “Well..”, I said, “my only real concern is about my weight… I’d really like to drop some pounds”. The doctor’s face seemed to light up and he said, excitedly, “I have just the thing for you, I can tell you exactly how to get rid of that excess weight…”. At this point, I have to admit I felt a little surge of excitement, however unrealistic it seemed, maybe he knew of some great solution that I had never heard about, so I waited for his next words eagerly. He sat down in front of me and told me the answer: “Eat less, do more… it’s that simple”. Ah… funny guy.

He was definitely right about what was required, I have no doubt about that, but that simple formula never seems quite as easy to accomplish as healthy people make it sound. That was almost three years ago, and it didn’t really cause any change in my activity level or my weight.

Around a year ago, I mentioned that I was hoping to lose some weight, a blog posting that I quickly learned to regret as it showed just how many of my work colleagues read my main feed (including my boss’s boss’s boss, who used it as an example of the personal side of blogging at several large meetings). Well, I can’t say that I have any particular knowledge around what works and what doesn’t, and I haven’t reached my goal weight yet, but things are looking good.

Why am I telling you folks about this, if I don’t have any great wisdom to impart? I could be unusual, but I like reading about other people’s experiences with working out and losing weight, and it seemed like the right time of year to bring the topic up. The gym I go to gets crazy busy from the middle of January until around the middle of February and then drops right back to normal, so perhaps this is a good time to talk about working out… like I already said, I’m not an expert on this, and I’m still quite far from being classified as fit by most definitions… but here’s my story anyway.

From last December to around July, I didn’t accomplish much, I dropped 5 or so pounds but that was with going to the gym 4-5 days a week. That level of effort should have produced better results, but I’m quite certain that I wasn’t really pushing myself and the fact that I totally ignored my eating habits pretty much guaranteed that I wouldn’t accomplish much. Around August though, it was getting close to the birth of my daughter and I guess I started to realize that I was going to be a fat father in the eyes of both of my children, and that it was pretty likely that I would drop dead on them at some point (earlier than expected that is) the way things were going. I’m not positive that was the reason, but I know I started to feel pretty cruddy about staying this weight for the rest of my life, and I went to the bookstore (a real one!) and picked up the South Beach book by Dr. Agatston and started into the relatively unenjoyable Phase 1. Three weeks later I was into the next phase and it was starting to seem like something I could stick with for the long term.

Four weeks in, I had dropped 10+ pounds, which was more than I had lost at any time previous, and I continued to lose weight more slowly after that point. When you decide to cut out sugar and reduce your fat, it has quite an effect on what you are able to eat. Basically, everything I normally ate outside of dinner was suddenly off limits. Mochas had to be turned into non-fat sugar-free hazelnut lattes, pizza for lunch turned into wraps or a chicken breast and salad, etc… cheese sticks and nuts for snacks instead of cookies or PB & J sandwiches. Eventually I plateaued after having lost around 20 pounds, bringing me down to my current weight of 176-177, which would probably have seemed like enough for me to lose if you had asked me last year. I think about 15 lbs. of this weight loss was due to the change in my diet, but to lose any more it was essential that I increase my activity level quite a bit. I’ve been doing mild cardio (30 minutes) and weights 3-4 times a week, and I’ve recently added more intense cardio (35-60 minutes) 2 times a week. We’ll have to wait and see on the results of this increased level of activity, but I think it is a good idea. All in all, the South Beach plan, without going beyond the guidelines set out in the book, has worked well for me and seems to be working for quite a few other folks, but I think the key to maintaining this weight loss and to hit my goal of dropping another 10-15% body fat is to keep the focus on the weight lifting and high-intensity cardio…

I think you need to really get excited about working out though, if it is going to work… if you had given me $120 to spend on myself a year ago I expect I would have picked up a couple of XBox games or some DVDs, but this year when my wife and I decided to just give each other around that much to go and pick out our own presents (yes, it takes a bit of the fun out of it, but we’re busy these days ๐Ÿ™‚ ) I picked up a heart-rate monitor as my Christmas gift and I think that is really helping me understand how hard the cardio workout really needs to be if I want it to work. Over the past year, I’ve basically gotten myself equipped, choosing to spend more and more of my ‘mad money’, which is usually ear marked for gadgets and video games, on various bits of fitness gear: I’ve hit the factory outlet stores for Nike to pick up some nice workout gear, I have a good music player that I use for working out, I’ve subscribed to a fitness-focused magazine (helps keep your interest level up… really it does!), a body-fat scale to try and track a better metric than just weight, I even picked up a bag last year that seems to make it quicker to get in and out of the locker room. I had to make other changes in my life to make this work though, I used to get up at 8am and go to bed around 2am, and now I’ve shifted that two hours earlier… I pack my gym bag the night before and then get up at 6am and head right to the gym… not an easy task for someone who has been a night-owl for at least the last 10 years…

Well, I don’t think I’ll be posting my weight every week or anything like that, but I might talk about this type of thing from time to time… and feel free to post questions and comments, I might not know the answers for you, but you never know who might be reading this stuff!

Some thoughts on losing weight from someone who doesn’t really know that much about it…

10 Responses

  1. Great post Duncan. Having seen your office I keep imagining you with a all of your nerdy books attached at each end of a pole and using it as a barbell ๐Ÿ˜›

    I was only just thinking about this topic before you posted – it was wierd. Within the space of 20 or so minutes I saw something on Discovery channel about weight issues and dieting and I also heard that new song which talks about the “great obesity epedemic of 2004”. — Not saying that you are obese, becuase clearly your aren’t.

    It’s a very interesting topic. My parents are both very large but I’ve been quite lucky that I’ve always been very involved in sports (Field Hockey and Cricket). So much so that, I’ve often envisaged that, if I worked on campus over there I’d love playing extreme frisbee during the week and cricket with the Indian and Pakistani guys on MS fields during the weekend.

    I’d be interested to know how you feel about the gym – i.e.: the underlying interest in going there. Is it a chore to go or, are you accutely interested and competitive about the activity of it all?

    Darren Neimke January 25, 2005 at 9:32 am #
  2. Though I do not need to lose any weight, I recently decided to cut out the 7-11 Blueberry muffin for breakfast. I did that 3 weeks ago. I got on the scale then and now, I’ve lost 5lbs!

    I also went from 100% coke to 50% coke, 50% diet coke.

    So yeah, reduce the intake and\or increase the “outtake” and you are good to go!

    Greg Robinson January 25, 2005 at 1:58 pm #
  3. Knee surgery forced me to quit martial arts a couple years ago. I stopped exercising and started eating. I got quite unhealthy and heavy.

    I find diets and whatnot restricting. Over the years, I have tried the Atkins (horrible diet, unhealthy), the South Beach (not so bad, but annoying) and others. Last year, I read the online book, “The Hacker’s Diet.” (Google on it, it’s the first link, usually.)

    3,500 calories = 1lb of fat. If you subtract 500 cal per day from your normal burn rate (~2000 cal for me) (based on sex/age/height) that is 1lb/week loss. I restricted my food intake to 1300 to 1400 cal/day and lost 7lb/month. As of November when I relaxed my intake restrictions, I had lost 41 lbs in 5 mo.

    I experienced just what you did and realized that that exercise has nothing to do with weight gain/loss. Exercise IS important for fitness’s sake, it just has nothing to do with weight. (Well, exercise can raise your metabolism so you burn more cal, and the cal you burn during exercise comes right off the top of your daily budget, but both effects are minimal when compared with food intake.)

    For exercise, I bought the Yorself!Fitness software for the Xbox. It is a freakin cool “game” and a very good workout regimen. It is easy to work with, configurable for your schedule and it tracks your progress and ramps your difficulty based on your feedback.

    Good luck with your fitness program, Duncan. We all find what works for us.

    John Morales January 25, 2005 at 4:20 pm #
  4. Hey Darren, I don’t find the gym to be a chore now, but I always used to see it that way… it is all part of getting into working out though and once you start seeing some results I think it is very motivational ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Duncan Mackenzie January 25, 2005 at 4:23 pm #
  5. When I came here, I also found myself in the situation where the entire culture is talking about loosing weight and working out to do so. I came from athletic family and this concept was foreing to me. I truely believe that working out is for getting in shape, which makes you to loose weight. our body is very smart when it come to things like this one.

    I have setup yet another blog, this time i will be sharing my experience with workouts http://gearedtowin.com

    my two cents, maxim

    Maxim V. Karpov January 26, 2005 at 1:58 pm #
  6. Last year I too saw that I needed too lose some weight. Not much just about ten to fifteen pounds. So I set a goal for myself. To run in the Walt Disney World Half Marathon. In the process I lost twenty pounds and went from running a half-mile to thirteen miles! Two weeks ago I ran in the marathon and I can honestly say that it was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. I think next year I’m going to attempt the full marathon. Isn’t fitness fun!

    Jorriss January 26, 2005 at 6:54 pm #
  7. Hi everyone, it’s early and I googled (loosing weight on a budget) because I’m desperate at this point. And my lack of motivation is frightning. I’ll tell my story. I’m 33yrs old. My weight for most of my life had been 110-115lbs. then I gained about 10 lbs. due to excessive drinking (we’re talking beers with every meal)Obviously I had much more than a drug problem. I sobered up and due to no alchohol intake alone I started to lose weight…..alright also soon after went to an awful heartbreak…and we all know what a help that is. I went to an outstanding 100-105lbs. I was getting up early and riding my bike to the lake and back, and when I came home from work I’d do it again. Hardly wanted to eat. Mind you I’m only 5ft tall, so this weight was great, although I was not achieving this in a healthy way. I never felt better as far a my ego goes. I felt desirable and sexy. That’s a great feeling. But I was alone and it was easy to go to bed without dinner. Like my daddy used to say, if you’re hungry and there’s nothing to eat do like dogs do and just go to sleep, and tomorrow is another day. Fast forward about 3 yrs. and I did the unthinkable. I met someone online fell in love and went to Canada, where 2 women could marry. Little by little my weight creeped back up……she cooks very well and I love to eat(when I’m happy) I was introduced by a co-worker to weightwatchers. And got motivated as hell ,she had lost 40lbs and had kept it off for over a year now. I was doing okay, when my father’s long term illness due to nicotine reached an end. This changed my whole life. My wife and I moved in with my mom….whom I adore. Were all pretty happy. My mom and I show it more though. In over 1 yr. I’ve managed to get myself to 145-150lbs. from a size 6 or 8 to a 12 or 14. I have a fit if I’m changing clothes and my wife’s eyes arent closed.(she hates this) I got hooked on bearclaws from starbucks, sometimes I’d get 2 or even 3 at a time. Big junkfood based lunch and big dinners with my favorite 2 women in the world. I eat bread with everything. This leads me to today. I’m currently going to sleep betwee 830-900pm(I know we don’t have kids, so I can) Get up shortly after 5am I’m one of those weird morning people.
    what led me to my desperation?
    1.) my cholesterol is 212
    2.) My belly is splitting in 2 parts.
    3.) I itch, probably from my skin stretching.
    4.) stretch marks (never had children either)
    5.) 34-C is the past the present is 36-D( and it’s tight)
    6.)My clothes don’t fit.
    7.) My thighs are sore from rubbing against each other. (they burn)
    8.) I’m depressed.
    9.) Butter pecan sometimes 2 generous servings in 1 day.
    We have a treadmill, I’m gonna get on it right now and I plan to change my intake. I’ll give my brutally honest report ina week.
    Thank you for reading this.

    Jess April 23, 2005 at 11:32 am #
  8. I just happened to find this doing a search on alchohol and sugar content/dieting. Anyways, I’m going to start the SBD (south beach diet) this Sunday. My stats are 30, 5’7″, about 8 lbs shy of a deuce. But no one ever thinks I weigh as much as I do. Well, being single and non-homebody-ish…I go out a lot. Where do I go? Bars, pubs, restaurants with friends, karaoke’ing, etc…. What do all of these places have in common – alchohol. So me & a couple of my gal pals are going to start and cut out ALL alchohol. Don’t know how we’ll do, but we shall see. Everyone has told me that SBD does totally work if you just eat the foods it says to eat. I’m getting rev’d up for this thing to start! I am a member at a gym and I regularly swim. I lag on the weight lifting though. I think it’s going to be fun! For those of you wanting to start – get a friend or two to do it with you – it’ll make it that much easier and the support will be a BIG help! (typed on 7-15-05 @ 1:30pm – Chicago time).

    jennieo July 15, 2005 at 6:31 pm #
  9. i suggest you see a doctor or a really knowledgeable gym personel who can fill you in on your bodys metabolic rate (how many calories your body needs to maintain its health) and what your body weight is about (fat vs. muscles vs. bone vs. other stuffs like organs) and then, from there, design an exercise program that fits your lifestyle (mornings are best because although most of us arent morning people, its the best time of day to focus on yourself and forces your body to burn fat for energy more than any other time of day) and design a menu (not a diet) for you to eat nutritiously. ITS ABOUT KNOWING yourself and what youre capable of doing. ITS ABOUT FOCUSING on your strengths and self confidence and feeling proud of your accomplishments. dont beat yourself up for eating a donut or caving into that butter pecan tub – it happens – but DO consider why youre falling back when you were doing sooooo well?! you have to do some psycho-self-analysis here to really make the changes youre making STICK. its not about looking like you stepped off a page in the latest fitness magazine or fashion show. its not about winning the affection of your husband/wife or other significant back. its about being the best you that you can be. youre the best person youve got. treat yourself right and life seems to kiss you in the face everyday. *smile*

    julia June 8, 2006 at 12:33 pm #
  10. Hello,

    I came across your site while searching in Google, with the purpose to find new link partners for my weight loss related sites. (Please forward this to your webmaster!)

    I’ve found your site very attractive and I’m very interested in getting a link from it.
    I can give you backlinks from:
    http://www.weightloss-information.org
    http://www.weight-loss-research.com
    http://www.superseek.org

    Or we also could change articles with several outgoing links in them. This would increase our content and improve our listings in the search engines in the same time.

    Please let me know what do you think about this!

    I’m looking forward to hear from you!
    Regards,
    Ann

    Ann Vogel February 5, 2007 at 2:18 pm #

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