Weight, that is!
Cue ominous music… A SEDENTARY lifestyle led this man to WEIGH 1000 POUNDS!
But… I don’t weight 1000 pounds, in fact, I’m pretty average.
NO you aren’t, TUBBY! Your BMI is in the “FAT” range!
Well, yeah, but that’s just a guideline. What’ I’m really doing is…
…SO HE TURNED TO THE LATEST IN FAD DIETS – PERHAPS THE CABBAGE SQUEEZIN’ DIET or the ALL BACON DIET…
Hey! No! It’s not that at all. Let me explain:
Two years ago I weighed 180 pounds, give or take a daily fluctuation. In the intervening two years, I’ve been “moderately active”, running two Louisville Triple Crown series and two Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathons, a handful of triathlons and other local running races. In the last year, I’ve started cycling a fair amount (I did likely 1000-1500 miles in 2008) while helping my wife train for the Ironman, learned to swim decently, started going to gym regularly, joined a cycling team and commuted to work via bike every day in October.
My weight after those two years? 180 pounds. No foolin’! I intend to get to the bottom of that – to understand the why and wherefore of this machine I call a body. more after the jump…
My body has changed, especially in the last year – my legs are leaner, I’ve got more muscle tone and I’m faster on the run and the bike. Likely I’ve traded muscle for fat (muscle is heavier), but apparently at an extremely consistent rate. So – why no weight loss? Well, ’cause I didn’t really watch what I ate – or more to the point, how much I ate. I ate when I was hungry or at least when I thought I was hungry – but I have no idea about my average daily calorie intake. It seems that to maintain what I’ve got, I’m shooting for 2600 calories and to lose 2 pounds a week it would be 1700. But how do I know?
So, being the scientifically-minded kinda guy I am, I’ve decided to take the step of counting calories! (I can almost hear the shocked gasps and puzzled looks now…) Counting calories and dieting in general in the United States gets a bit of a desperate rap against it. And who can blame us? We Americans love our get-skinny-quick diets of all-meat, no-meat, all grapefruit juice, all this or no that. Counting calories and eating rice cakes (poor, poor rice cake, a veritable outcast) are just as bad, right?
Wrong. I considered that maybe I should really take a good hard look into what and how much I’m eating and what is recommended for a person of my age, weight and lifestyle. Am I actually hungry (in need of sustenance) at 3PM or do I just think I’m hungry out of some well-conditioned response? I aim to find out.
Have a problem? The Internet likely has a tool for you.
So, to help me I started looking for calorie-tracking programs on the web. Totally unrelated to my cycling habit I’ve been curating, one of the best is actually on the LiveStrong.com website – it’s called The Daily Plate. I’ve been using it for about the last two weeks and it makes finding and logging the calories I eat for store-bought products a snap….
Kroger Whole Grain Toasted Oat Cereal – 2 cups / 220 calories…
Kroger Seedless Raisins – 1/4 cup / 160 calories…
Brownberry 100% Whole Wheat bread – 2 slices / 180 calories…
You get the idea. You also get to add in your physical activities for each day which – surprise, surprise – require that you eat more for the day!
Bicycling, Stationary, Vigorous – 60 minutes / 850 calories…
I don’t know what “vigorous” means exactly, no. As far as the calorie counting goes some days I’m under, some days I’m over. Some days I can’t find exactly what I ate in their database of foods (this is rare). Some days I call into question the amount of calories I’ve burned. None of it is calculated to my particular physiology, so you have to use it as a guideline.
Perspectives on Eating
I think that Kelly and I eat pretty healthy – we buy whole grain (non-enriched) breads, we don’t use a lot of butter, we avoid high-fructose corn syrups (bad for the blood sugars!) and excessively starchy foods like potatoes. We eat lean meat and drink only skim milk. Chips and candies are rarely found at our home. So that was a good first step. But it’s not so much the WHAT of your eating, but the HOW MUCH you are eating.
Go and pour out a 200 calorie serving of raisins – betcha can’t! I know I couldn’t before I started measuring… This has led to some very worthwhile knowledge gained – I now know what two servings of Cheerios looks like. I now know that that cupful of raisins and peanuts was likely as calorie-dense as a Big Mac. I now understand the filling nature of salads. Eventually I’d like to come to an instinctual understanding of just how much I should be eating and I can leave tools like LiveStrong.com behind.
The End Result
The end result of this is not some arbitrary weight loss number – 5 pounds, 10 pounds – but rather a deeper understanding of what it takes to power me and keep me within “healthy” norms. Like I mentioned earlier, my BMI (Body Mass Index) is slightly into the “overweight” category – it breaks down like this:
WEIGHT * 703 / (HEIGHT IN INCHES)^2 = BODY MASS INDEX
180 * 703 / 69^2 = 26.5
The World Health Organization says that a BMI of between 18.5 – 24.9 is “normal”. If I lose 15 pounds, I’ll be at 24.4. It also says that I would be on the bottom-end of the “normal” scale if I weighed 135 pounds. Those of you who know me know that I would look like a Holocaust survivor if that was the case, so BMI needs to be taken with a grain of salt as it doesn’t take into account muscularity, frame size, bone density, etc.
I’m being rational about the whole thing – I’ve seen nutty diets before based on little more than promised outcomes and I know they aren’t well-rounded and likely will fail without some manner of inspiration, and I think I’ve got the right approach and the appropriate inspiration.
About that Inspiration
When I told my buddy M@ that I was “counting calories” he asked Why? and I said that I’d like to lose some weight. He countered “Do you really?” which I took as a complement as I don’t think most people upon brief inspection would consider me “overweight”. But the fact of the matter is that I’ve got some fat around the mid-section I wouldn’t mind losing… oh, and I’m going to be cycling on a team in lycra come the spring. I’m comfortable in such skin-tight clothing having been running and triathlon’ing the last two years, but I’d also like to climb hills a little faster and if I can lose 10 pounds, that’s 10 pounds I don’t have to haul up a hill. So yeah, when I pass by the box of office donuts in the morning, I don’t take one and instead relish the idea of tearing up a hill on my bike, leaving my would-be attackers in the dust… or perhaps running the miniMarathon in under 1:50… or just lookin’ good in a swimsuit.
So while I’ve got those personal, selfish inspirations, what I always come back to when I’m sweating it out on a run or mashing pedals on a hill are two things:
1. The ability to be and do what you want is fleeting. There are some people out there – like my own father – who will likely never know what it is like to run again, to hop on a bike again, to achieve that level of mental clarity that only physical exertion can bring. We are all stupendous badasses after all, and I intend to make the most of it.
2. I’ve got a kid coming. I’ve only got one life to give, and I’d like to be around as long as I can.
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