Monday, June 18, 2012

Don't worry, I just hit pause

It's been a few weeks since my last update.  I'm still here, I've just had a couple of [legitimate] distractions.  First, the numbers:

  • June 19 - 222.4
  • May 26 - 222.2
  • January 2 (start date) - 256
I have been weighing myself sporadically over the last three weeks, and I have ranged anywhere from today's weight up to 228.6.  These are normal fluctuations, and I hovered between 224 and 225 for most of the time.  My next goal is under 220 (219.8 or lower) by June 30 (the day I fly back to Ohio for a couple days).  I am starting to get down to my next scary goal: I have to un-beard when I get to 210.

As the title suggests, I simply hit pause for a couple of weeks.  The reasons (not excuses; I accept and planned for each of these) include a trip to Baltimore from my family over Memorial Day, a long weekend in Atlantic City, and eye surgery last Thursday.  The only goal in this journey is to figure out the right balance for me when it comes to my dietary health while still enjoying the things I love (  That is, I want to weight 180 pounds and be able to eat a slice of pizza.

I would be lying if I didn't mention I am a little bit concerned on my ability to lose weight over the next two weeks.  While my surgery was only on my eyes, I still have strict doctors orders to not swim for two weeks (that means the next time I can jump in the pool is June 28), and I have to take it easy on the weights for a week or so (as far as eyes are concerned, it was a fairly invasive surgery).  This only means I have to double down on my diet. (Note that I can still do cardio, yoga, and light weights; I just have to scale back my workouts for a couple weeks.)

Finally, and completely unrelated to the rest of this topic, I wanted to share a thought from a recent episode of Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition.  First off, I am a sucker for these types of shows, and in this particular case they take a morbidly obese patients and work with them over 12 months to lose insane amounts of weight.  The only surgery involved is skin removal surgery.

The episode I am referencing took place two weeks ago, and it followed a man who lost 200 pounds in one year (again, this is all from diet and exercise).  He went through some pretty extreme tribulations during his year (including living out of his car and his youngest son passing away), but he did something small that was incredibly courageous: he stood up to his live-in fiance as someone who did not put his health ahead of her needs.

Every day that passes, I am reminded of a very wise thing someone very close to me said: when you have someone else looking out for you, you don't have to spend any time looking out for yourself.  In his case, the opposite was true.  Albeit guilt, not wanting to put forth the effort, or even jealousy, it was really sad to see her not put her partner first when he wanted to be healthy for the both of them.

I am extremely fortunate to have the exact opposite in my life, and without the support of others this journey would be impossible.  Thanks to everyone for the cheers and understanding, and a special thank you to those who anticipate my needs; I can only hope I return the same.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Memorial Day Dining

If you would have asked me a month ago, I would have laughed at you if you had suggested I would be this low going into Memorial Day:

  • May 26 - 222.2
  • May 20 - 224.8
  • January 2 (start date) - 256
Looking back at these last few weeks, the only thing I can think of that is helping this weight melt away is ensuring that I lift weights at least once/week.  I also had a small win yesterday: I put on a pair of Banana Republic slacks with a size 36" waist and wore them to work.  This is the first time these slacks have been worn in at least three years, and I may have worn them five times in my life.

I am contributing to a fair amount of Monday's BBQ, and I refuse to settle on either health or taste.  To accomplish this I am preparing sweet potato fries (so freakin' good) and sliders, specifically:
  • Ground chicken with Frank's Red Hot Sauce and blue cheese
  • Ground turkey with sauteed apples and onions
  • Ground beef with Worcestershire sauce and pepper
Each slider will be two ounces (and measured); this way everyone can have one of each and only total six ounces of meat (yes, this is technically more than the four ounces one should have, but compare this to the two brats, once steak, and hamburger smothered in ketchup and mayonaise one typically has).  I'm even going to pick up some small rolls on which to eat them.  Yum!

God bless our troops, past and present, and have a safe Memorial Day.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Stop! Weight! I can't hire you!

Now onto a subject that I am not sure how I feel: limiting who a company is willing to hire based on health indicators.  In this specific case, a Texas hospital refuses to hire anyone with a body mass index (essentially a height to weight ratio) greater than 35.  To put that in real terms, a 5'5" tall woman cannot weigh more than 210 pounds, where as a 5'10" man cannot weigh more than 245 pounds.

I see this debate in two chunks:
  1. Whether BMI is a valid indicator of health
  2. The ethics of making hiring decisions based on life choices
From a pragmatic standpoint, the first bullet is making a myopic decision on a limited datapoint.  Using BMI as the only health indicator to determine whether someone is "healthy" (or at least healthy enough to hire) is like calling a Yugo a good car buy because it is small and small cars tend to have good gas mileage.  While there is plenty of data that supports BMI as an indicator for downstream health problems, it is very short-sited to exclude indicators such as body fat percentage and blood pressure (note that 6'1" 250 pound linebacker Ray Lewis has a BMI of 33.0; I dare you to tell him he is fat and out of shape).

Bullet two is more of an ethics question (similar to the smoking ban to which I referred in a past posting): should employers be allowed discriminate (regardless of the side on which you sit, let's call a spade a spade) based on individual choices?  On one side, overweight employees increase an employer's insurance risk pool and increase costs, and in this particular case one could make the argument that the employer is a hospital and has a responsibility to the community to set a healthy example.  This one hits home for me; when I hired into my current employer (a hospital) my BMI was 36.7 and is currently 32.3.

The purpose of this post is not start a political debate but instead to provoke thought.  With that said, we do live in a society that discriminates (again, let's call a spade a spade) for health care based on access to health insurance (often by proxy of income or employment status) and not on behavioral choices (that is, someone who eats food high in cholesterol and sodium still qualifies for employee-provided health plans despite their self-imposed hardening arteries).  Perhaps this is an example of our society becoming more consistent in standards.

At the end of the day, I am not supportive of this policy strictly on the fact the hospital is using only one indicator that happens to be easy to calculate rather than taking the time to see the big picture.  The gray area exists on whether an employer has the right to discriminate based on individual choice, especially one that will directly impact such a large percentage of the American population.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Five and zero: two milestones

Here are the numbers:

  • May 20 - 224.8
  • May 13 - 228.2
  • January 2 (start date) - 256
That's right; not only have I lost 30 pounds to date, but I lost a five (that is, I am now under 225 pounds).  The last time I was at this weight was in October 2009 (this date sticks out because a back injury that took place during that month that really made me lose focus), and does it ever feel good.  As an added bonus, my arms have never looked this good (thank you, swimming and yoga).

I have been randomly snapping pictures of my progress, and it is getting completely obvious now.  Check these out (the before was taken January 2; the after was taken May 11):

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day, fitness style

First, here is the weekly update:
  • May 13 - 228.2
  • May 5 - 228.6
  • January 2 (start date) - 256
Slow and steady wins the race (although I did shave 2 minutes and 10 seconds off my mile this week), and I am still going in the right direction.  I also had a really cool thing happen on Friday.  I have been receiving treatment for plantar fasciitis, and on Friday I got a cortisone shot in my heel.  Knowing the intense pain that was going to kick in within a couple hours of the shot, I went straight to the pool.  I swam until I could not stand it anymore (which was about 40% of a mile), and when climbing out of the pool I was not the slightest bit tired.  Does that mean I am in shape?

This week's blog is dedicated to moms, and more specifically my mom.  Other than just being generally awesome, just three years ago she decided to change her life from sedentary to active.  So active, in fact, that at the age of 51 she decided to start training to run a 5K.  Since that day, she has a half dozen 5Ks under her belt, and she finished the Toledo Zoo 5K yesterday in just 35 minutes 57 seconds.  Not bad for someone who just started running three short years ago!

Keep up the good work, mom, and your son is proud of you!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Look what I can do!

First, and update:

  • May 5 - 228.6
  • April 28 - 229.2
  • January 2 (start date) - 256
Progress is progress, and I think I have officially hit the point of hard work.  I am not worried, though, because the number one thing that impacts my weight is my diet, and mine is completely straightened out.  Besides, I do not know if my body could physically handle me going back to a junkie diet again.

When driving home from an activity this weekend, I came to a realization as to how far I have come since the beginning of the year (do not get me started on when I weighed nearly 270 pounds).  Since 10AM Saturday morning I have:
  • Swam a mile (in 55 min 40 sec, mind you)
  • Performed some minor yard work
  • Washed two cars
  • Bleached a deck
  • Cooked/grilled out for company
  • Chores around the apartment
  • Set up a scanner
  • Cooked lunch for company
  • Helped someone list an apartment on Craigslist
  • Walked around Fells Point, Baltimore for two hours
  • Played drums for an hour and a half
  • Laundry (in progress)
Yes, this was an exceptionally busy weekend, but that is not my point.  My point is I would not have had the energy to do all of this in 36 hours just a couple months ago.  I also know that I am going to get an incredible night's sleep tonight (also a rarity when you are morbidly obese), and I will be ready to take on the week.

It feels amazing to have all this energy!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The little decisions

I really feel like I'm in a grove on this whole get-healthy thing.  I now have a weekly routine where I (for an hour each):

  • Swim
  • Yoga
  • Lift weights
  • Play drums (this is actually closer to two hours)
One thing I have learned to do is to listen to my body, specifically when I lift weights.  Historically I have ratcheted the weights up quickly (the one positive physical attribute of mine is that I get strong very quickly), but this has also been the mode of my injuries.  I am limiting myself to only two sets of 15 reasonable reps on the upper body and one set of 15 on the lower body (the latter being where most of injuries have occurred).  This is about getting healthy, not getting bulky.

While none of these have an immediate visual impact, my energy is increasing just a little bit more each day.  My clothes are also fitting a little better (and too loose in some instances; I will most likely only dry clean one particular suit one more time until I have the wait taken in on the pants).

Another thing I tried this week was going to bed by 10:00PM (instead of 11:00PM) and going into work by 7:00AM (instead of 8:00AM).  I then force myself to leave the office between 4:30PM and 5:00PM.  My original intent was to have more time to be social in the evenings, but I have noticed that I am more relaxed when I go to bed.  We shall see how long this lasts (and most likely I will not go in until 8:00AM on Friday, because, well, it is Friday).

On that note, happy Thriday!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I need to I am

Let us first start off with a weight loss update:

  • April 28 - 229.2
  • April 22 - 230.4
  • January 2 (start date) - 256
I'm in the 220's!  At this point it is incredibly unrealistic to lose my next zero in time for Memorial Day, but I am perfectly fine with that.  The goal is to get healthy, and part of being healthy is developing sustainable life skills.  One pound per week is plenty fast of a weight loss, and if I keep that pace through the end of the year I will be a svelte 194.2 by New Years.  I may need to have my tuxedo taken in.

Speaking of taking stuff in, I just got back a set of slacks I had to send to the dry cleaner to have 2" taken out of the waist.  I also had to buy two new belts (one brown, one black) last night.  These are the little wins that feel real good.

As I previously mentioned, I started yoga few weeks back.  This is a Tuesday night event put on at work (one advantage of working at a hospital is there are wellness opportunities all over the place), and I think the best way I can put it is that I am adequately contorted.  I was pleasantly surprised by the muscle workout (my upper body is exhausted), and as expected flexibility is an issue.  While yoga is not yet enjoyable (and it won't be until I learn these poses), I do like the fact that it will help me stay not-injured by improving my flexibility.

I want to finish this up with a quick shout out: my best friend back home in Ohio just finished his first 5K in just 23 minutes and 19 seconds.  He has also managed to lose 40.2 pounds and 12% (1,200 basis points for those business people) in body fat.  Congrats, Jake!  You are an inspiration!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Even taking care of the parts I don't see

Yesterday morning I had a lab follow-up to my annual physical, and it was pretty eye-opening.  When the doctor pulled up the results he asked if I wanted to hear the good news or the bad news, and I simply requested he started at the top of the pile and work his way down.

He started with the good news, which included that I do not have diabetes, am HIV-negative, my liver works great, no kidney problems, and I do not have syphilis (which, by the way, who gets syphilis nowadays?).  Then he dropped this bombshell:

My triglycerides came in at 457.

To put this number into perspective, below 150 is healthy, up to 200 is slightly above normal, and 500 or greater is considered a very high risk of heart attack and stroke.  This number is so high that they couldn't get an accurate reading of my LDL (bad cholesterol), and my HDL (good cholesterol, which is believed to keep LDL in check) is only 37 (this should be 40 or higher).  This number puts me at a statistical likelihood of having a heart attack or stroke between the ages of 40 and 45 (in less than seven years!).

While he complimented me on making the right behavioral choices and instructed me to keep up the good work (including losing weight, eating right, and exercising), he did explain my number is genetic.  Basically my body does not process fat like a "normal" person's body would, and that I can blame the paternal side of my family for it (although my maternal grandfather did have his first heart attack in his early-30's).

The good news is this is a treatable disease.  There are a couple minor lifestyle tweaks I need to make (eat fish oil pills, back off a little more on the salt, and trade a little bit of my meat for more vegetables), and I now on a medication that will help me process these fats.  I go back in two months for another round of tests, and the best news is that I have plenty of time to straighten this out.  I am extremely grateful to have gone to my annual physical.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What is more expensive?

I am pleased to report that I am still moving in the right direction:

  • April 22 - 230.4
  • April 15 - 231.2
  • January 2 (start date) - 256
I am so close to losing a zero, and it is feeling pretty awesome.  In order to hit my goal of 220 by Memorial Day I need to lose on average slightly more than 2 pounds per week; this is a tough goal, and it will surely be down to the wire.  I am looking for a big week next week (3-ish pounds) to get me rolling.

I also knocked a few more seconds off my swimming mile time and clocked in at 57 minutes 10 seconds; I would have been in the 56 minute range had I not had to share my lane for 15 laps.  I also got a comment this afternoon on the improved definition in my arms (hubba hubba).

I came across an interesting study performed by the Mayo Clinic regarding the cost of smoking versus that of obesity, and while I am not surprised by the results the magnitude of difference was staggering.  When the study determined the total cost of care (treatment for behavior-related disease) the annual cost of smoking was $1,274 to $1,401 and obesity $5,467 to $5,530.

In our economy-obsessed American society, health care policy makers should be leading with this type of information.  Diseases such as type-II diabetes, high blood pressure, and orthopedic injuries (fortunately, the latter is the only one currently affecting me) are, for most of the population, avoidable yet incredibly expensive.

The moral of this study is that by losing weight around the belly you can gain weight in your wallet.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Back on the horse; a very fast horse

After a one "meh" week and another "oh crap" week, I am finally back on the horse.  Here are the numbers:

  • April 15 - 231.2
  • April 8 - 234.2
  • January 2 (start date) - 256
That's right, not only did I lose 3 pounds since last week, but I am also .2 pounds away from dropping a total of 25!  As a sidebar, I also swam my first sub-60 minute mile; it took me 57 minutes and 30 seconds today.  Both of these accomplishments make me feel pretty awesome right now.

I think the success of this past week is that I intentionally made time to do something almost each night.  Tuesday night I did yoga for the first time (more on that in later posts), Thursday night I did the Wii Active (it is a surprisingly intense workout), and Friday night I played drums for an hour-plus.  These little things clearly added up.

Now it is time for a shower; the smell of chlorine and sweat is not very appealing.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Flatlining to a lesson

So this week I decided it was a good idea for not to write down everything I ate.  Here is what happened:

  • April 8 - 234.2
  • April 1 - 234.2
  • January 2 (start date) - 256
The good news is that I didn't put on any weight.  The bad news is that it will be really tough to hit 220 by Memorial day now (I will have to average slightly better than 2 lbs./week).

To be clear, I am in no way discouraged by this week's result; I am someone who is programmed to work harder the tougher things get.  It is, however, an important reminder that I have to treat my food fundamentally different that I had been historically: in order for me to lose/maintain weight over the long term, I need to write it down.

As a sign of good news, I missed hitting my mile in less than an hour by five seconds.  I'm so close I can smell it (for the record, it smells like a weird combination of sweat and chlorine)!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Now I see it!

I just got back from the first full-body strength session since January, and before jumping in the shower I snapped a few photos of my body.  For the first time my change is obvious, and frankly it is amazing what a difference 20-ish pounds makes.  Here you go.

First, here is what I look liked on January 2:

And this is how I look today:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Moving in the right direction

Today's weigh-in was one of those pleasantly surprising ones.  I ate out a couple times; I only swam once (however, it was a whole mile and four minutes quicker than my first attempt); I made it to the gym only once for weights (although I likely made up for this with two at-home elliptical sessions); and despite this imperfect week I still managed to drop a little weight.  Here are the numbers:

  • April 1 - 234.2
  • March 25 - 234.8
  • January 2 (start date) - 256
I know it is just over a half pound, but the most important thing is that I am still moving in the right direction.  Also, over the last two weeks I have dropped 2.6 pounds (an excellent pace).

As I have mentioned several times on this blog, the purpose of this journey is to get healthy.  Unfortunately that also includes a trip to the doctor.  Between last Tuesday and this coming Monday I have/have had the following appointments:
  • Primary care physician for a general physical
  • Ophthalmologist (which led to an appointment with a Strabismologist a month from now) for my double vision
  • Podiatrist for plantars fasciitis (with another follow-up that may lead to a cortisone injection in my heel; I do not want this)
  • Dexa scan as a bone density test
As my PCP put it, I have a very complex medical history given I am only 33 years old (yes, he actually said that).  In spite of this, I still need to do the right thing and take care of those things that ail me.  If I am going to put all this effort into losing weight, then the last thing I want is for another condition to prevent me from being able to do something.

Onward to the next week!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

One day, three milestones

As the title suggests, I accomplished three things today:
  1. I swam my first mile
  2. I have officially lost more than 20 pounds in two months
  3. I fit into a shirt that I haven't worn in over two years
Let's start at the top. As I have mentioned many times on this blog (almost to the point that one could mistake the focus of my writings on swimming; my focus is on a broader get healthy effort) I have been working on a couch to one mile project over the last six weeks. Today was the capstone, and I crushed it! It took me 65 minutes, and I could barely get out of the pool in the end, but I have two great observations coming out of today's swim. First, I felt completely weightless the first half of the swim; this means that I have become a better swimmer (as one would expect). Second, I have more energy after every time I swim than before; this is the first time in my life I have felt a "runner's high."

Here are the stats on the second bullet:
  • March 25 - 234.8
  • March 18 - 236.8
  • January 2 (start date) - 256
Knowing that weight loss tends to taper off, I am trying to think of what my next goal should be. For now I am going to shoot for 220 by Memorial day. My strategy is to continue a balanced and realistic diet (e.g. I still drink an occasional beer and eat a cookie from time to time, but these are treats and my regular meals are measured and well controlled), and I think I am going to pare the swimming back to once per week and switch to weights the other two days.

Finally, I fit in one of my favorite shirts. It is J. Crew, tapered, and my gut has prevented me from wearing in quite some time. Hooray for looking good!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Swimming, music, and meditation

I am currently employed at a Catholic hospital, and the organization is extremely focused (as it should be) on the mission; we exist to help the sick and in-need. To help foster the broader mission (that is, helping the sick in line with the values of a Christian-based organization) all employees are exposed to regular presentations on how we can best exemplify our mission.

While there are several common themes on achieving mission-based leadership, the element I am focusing on with this blog is meditation. To meditate is to simply focus on a single idea and release all other thoughts. This can be a Bible verse, concentrating on a critical task for the day, or something ultra-simple with the purpose of clearing your thoughts. Meditation is something my brain is not naturally wired to accomplish; if you know me then you fully realize that my mind moves at light speed all the time.

One place I am really focusing on meditation is the pool. As I ramped up the laps in my couch to one mile exercise series, keeping track of what lap I was on became very difficult (I swim in a 20 yard pool, meaning that one mile equals 88 laps). A friend suggested that I repeat the lap number in my head that I am currently swimming. After the first night doing this (I was up to a 30 lap series) my head was completely relaxed. I have since extended this tri-weekly meditation to a morning routine of meditating to various songs for ~15 minutes. Both practices have allowed me to reset my brain on a daily basis, and it feels amazing!

As a quick update on the couch to one mile, tomorrow is the day for the one mile. I feel ready and conditioned, and at this point it is just a matter of doing it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Trimming the wardrobe

A cool thing happened this last weekend: I am officially too small to wear two articles of clothing. The first is a 569 cut Levis (they are the loose/baggy ones that haven't been in style for a least four years). I wore them while I worked on my house (that now happens to be on the market; please buy it!), and it was like I had no butt (remember these?). The other was a green polo shirt I wore Saturday night in honor of St. Patrick's Day; the really cool thing is it is a J. Crew shirt, a company that tends to cut things for those of more athletic builds (i.e. skinny guys).

I am not too broken up over not having to wear either article of clothing again (also, the shirt is a pea green that is terrible with my fair skin), and I am even more excited to start wearing the clothes that have been sitting in the back of my closest for so long. In fact, as soon as the house sells I am going clothes shopping with some of the proceeds.

The old, slim fit suits are heading to the front of the closet!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Surprise! Bigger drop than expected

I know that I am blogging a little bit earlier on Sunday than I usually do, but I have a busy day ahead of me and wanted to get my weigh-in over with. Note that I weigh myself throughout the day during the week (yes, this is a bad habit), and the mornings tend to be a "heavier" time of day. Despite that, check this out:
  • March 18 - 236.8
  • March 11 - 238.2
  • January 2 (start date) - 256
There are two surprises coming out this number: first, I figured the time of day I weighed in (post-breakfast as opposed to pre-dinner) would have worked against me, and second, holy crap I lost 1.4 pounds this week! I was far from perfect, but at the same time on the days I "cheated," the rest of the day I really budgeted my calories. I feel good about this week not only because of the significant weight loss, but I also love the fact that I am managing my diet in a way that allows me to live healthy and enjoy food. This is the sort of progress that is sustainable through life.

Today I begin my search for a local band. It has been almost five years since I last played outside of a garage and/or basement, and this is a key piece of me (and by "me," I mean a critical part of what makes David, David). In fact, every morning for the last week I have made it a point to "meditate" to 10 minutes of music before going to work. Even though I am not playing it, listening to someone else make music and focusing on those sounds have reminded me how happy I am when I am around music. I suppose this, too, is part of my journey of re-centering myself (that is, add music to health and finances).

On that note, I leave you, the reader, with some music (while the video is weird and/or creepy, I am "Feeling Good"):

PS - Only .8 pounds away from my frist 20!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Just breath

A really cool thing happened today: my body reacted negatively and I regained control of it.

Specifically, I was doing my laps, and on lap 8-ish of my first set of 30 I got a terrible side stitch. In my experience, this is typically driven by breathing too quickly (not quite to the point of hyperventilation, but still breathing heavily). Cardio is something I really have to keep on top of, otherwise it really affects my ability to lift weights, do any sort of circuit, and frankly go up more than about three flights of stairs. Breathing too heavily less than 10 minutes into a 60 minute workout is a symptom of this weakness.

I could have panicked. I could have stopped to take a breath. Instead, I centered myself and slowed down my breathing. In two laps, the side stitch was gone.

As someone who clearly has a hard time maintaining control of his body (how else do you get a 30+ BMI?), it is a pretty awesome feeling to be able to control something as simple as the rate of my breathing. I will never forget Labor Day weekend 2007 in Castlewood Canyon, CO, where my friends almost had to carry me out because I could not catch my breath on a medium difficulty hike. Sure, factors such as my general health played into that situation (being 5' 10", weighing 270 pounds, and having a resting blood pressure of 160/120 makes it tough to breath), but the mental toughness and control is something I think I learned tonight. While in the pool.

Today was a great day. Tomorrow will be even better when my first circuit is 50 laps. I am 2/3 of the way to my first mile!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Keepin' on with keepin' on

And the success continues! Here are the stats:
  • March 11 - 238.2
  • March 4 - 239.6
  • January 2 (start date) - 256
It feels really good to be closing in on my first 20 pounds, and it looks like I will do it before April 1 (and I am not fooling you). I am also keeping pace on my goal of weight of 180 by December 31, although there is not a lot of buffer room. Something I will need to remind myself is that it is more important to weigh 180 pounds three years after I achieve this goal weight than the date on which I get to the point of my goal.

It is really cool experiencing my body changing for the positive. Last week I wore a pair of slacks to work that last fit over two years ago, and Friday night I wore a shirt out that hadn't been on my back for at least as long. In fact, I just put on an old slim fit suit jacket (a 46R jacket designed for someone with a 36" waist) and managed to button it (note this does not mean it fit, but rather I just it onto my body, which is a feat in and of itself).

Swimming is definitely helping. I feel energy I have not felt in quite a while, and my joints are not constantly achey. I am also regaining (at least a little) the definition in my arms and shoulders. I still have a long ways to go before I have earned my beach body, but it is also important to notice the subtle changes in my body as they happen.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

More from photo week!

Now that I am two months and 16+ pounds into losing weight, I though I would post a couple more topless pictures.

First, here is how I looked on January 2:

Here is how I look tonight, March 7:

While I still have quite a ways to go to be considered svelte, I am really pleased with my progress to date. It's pretty clear as to where I carry my weight (around the abdomen), and I will definitely have to work on my slouch as part of this (I never knew it was that bad!).

Monday, March 5, 2012

I buttoned my jacket in spite of chain restaurants making it difficult

First off, excuse the Fallout Boy- or Panic! at the Disco-esque blog title, but I hit a very important milestone twice in the last week (actually, I hit two milestones, but I will take them one at a time). I buttoned not one, but two of my suit jackets this week. This feat has not been accomplished in well over a year, and here is the photographic proof:

Technically this is a sports coat, and I also realized this outfit makes me look like a college professor. I do not think I will wear this ensemble again; that is, I will not unless I get some leather patches sewn onto my elbows.

The other important milestone is that I dropped a zero. Here are the stats:
  • March 4 - 239.6
  • February 19 - 241.2
  • January 2 (start date) - 256.0
I am well on my way to my goal weight of 180, but the challenge of doing so by December 31, 2012, will only increase as time goes on. I am on pace today, but as anyone who has tried to lose weight knows it only gets tougher the more pounds you shed. I am hoping for at least two more months of 8 pounds/month, and then I will be scraping to get a pound a week.

The other day I came across a really interesting article that supports a stat I heard a while back that the average American underestimates their caloric intake by 98% when eating out (I couldn't find a source link, but I heard it while watching the Today Show). To put this in perspective, simply double the amount of calories you are eating in that Ruby Tuesday's cheeseburger and that is roughly how many you are eating. recently published a very interesting article on what food providers (be it processors, grocery stores, or restaurants) do to hide the real caloric intake of their foods. There is a very strong trend (and has been for a very long time, as showcased with the Pop Tarts example) to not clearly reflect how many calories are being consumed in a package by using the deceptive phrase "serving size."

The biggest culprit in the article is Uno Chicago Grill's personal pan pizza. While Uno is no stranger to making lists of bad foods (and here; and here; and here), calling a 2,310 calorie option "personal" is deceitful at best. I can at least understand splitting a P.F. Chang's dish two ways, but who has ever split a personal pizza in half?

Finally, I would like to leave you with a motivational thought on why it is important to go to the gym. During my Sunday afternoon trip, potential Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders were auditioning for the 2012 season. You never know who you will run into while at the gym.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Controlling More Than My Diet

I am back on track, and in fact I had a great week. I swam three times for 30 minutes at a time, and I even spent 3 hours climbing up and down a ladder this afternoon. For all this effort (and keeping my diet straight) I dropped 3.4 pounds. Here are the stats:
  • Starting weight (January 3): 256
  • Last week (February 12): 244.6
  • This week (February 19): 241.2
An additional good sign in this is I am actually having a hard time eating all of my calories (if you start shorting your calories by too much your body slows its metabolism, thus defeating the purpose of weight loss). A cool thing related to swimming is (aside from some muscle tiredness) my body isn't achey; for those up to speed with the various orthopedic injuries I've suffered over last few years, not being joint-sore is a big deal.

A long time ago I was forced to cut back my spending due to a job lay-off, and this acted as a catalyst for initial (and significant) weight loss. I have since been very blessed by gaining great experience working for one of the top U.S. health care consulting firms, and then I was equally as blessed by being offered a leadership position within a hospital's supply chain. Over the last four years I have been repeatedly in the right place at the right time, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunities that have been presented to me.

Despite these advantages I have let my money go out of control, and righting it will require a commitment as large (if not larger) than getting healthy.

To put the extend of my financial situation into perspective, I have no problems paying my bills every month (however, if someone doesn't rent my house within the next 6-9 months things might get tight). My problem is I should be focused on building wealth, but instead I have chosen to spend to the point of my credit card balance being equal to nearly 16% of my annual income.

The inspiration behind entering a financial conversation into this blog comes from Larry Winget's Your Broke Because You Want to Be. Winget is a hard nosed financial guru and TV personality, and one of his (non-scientific) observations is the tendency for people who allow their finances get out of control are generally also overweight (if you want more scientific evidence, look no further). Okay, so my obesity is not related to poverty, but it is closely tied to losing control: I have a difficult time controlling my food, and it is obvious I also have a hard time controlling my finances.

Based on a recommendation from a friend I am going to use a framework similar to that of Dave Ramsey's seven baby steps. I did add one element to his approach: I put myself on a spending diet. I have built a spending budget (much like my calorie budget) and I am sticking to it. I have distinct goals for next 6, 12, 18, and 36 months. I have to reel in my spending if I ever want to do more than just be comfortable.

Finally, and to lighten up the message a little, isn't it ironic that I am responsible for savings seven-figure amounts from a hospital's supply budget but yet I personally pay hundreds of dollars every month on credit card interest?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Big Fish

As I alluded to in my last post, I decided to embark in the swimmer's version of a couch to 5K (instead of a 5K, it is a swimmer's mile, or 1,650 yards). While I resemble more of a whale than a fish (I have to backstroke the whole thing because I am not flexible to freestyle; it's not pretty), the workouts have been amazing!

Note that I am only two workouts into a six week program, but it feels good to work out and not have every joint in my lower body hurt. I also get the "I feel good and will sleep well" feeling before going to bed, and my mood is improved dramatically over the last couple of days. Tomorrow is a true test, as I will do it two days in a row.

The short of the program is that it slowly ramps you up to a mile (88 laps in a standard pool). Right now my program is 28 laps at various intervals, and it takes me about a half hour. This half hour workout equates to approximately 400 burnt calories (yes, 400 calories is a huge number for a workout, but after testing the numbers across a few different sources the number passes the sniff test because of my 240+ pound frame).

Finally, the best part of this workout is I found out that a gym I subscribe to has a location two blocks from my work. Convenient and it's good for you!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Getting Back on Track

I did not fare well over the last two weeks, and I now feel like I am an alcoholic or drug addict who fell off the wagon (yes, this is a dramatic comparison, but there are more obesity-related deaths/year than alcohol- or drug-related). It all started last Saturday (as in eight days ago) when I partook in a poker game. I got one too many helpings of the delicious pasta made by the host, drank two too many Guinness-es, and then let it continue into Super Bowl Sunday (there were wings and wonderful cheese/sausage/greasy dip). While the choice of diet since then has been suitable, I fell into the old bad habits of terrible portion control.

Here's the damage: my current weight is now 244.6; this is up one pound from two weeks ago. I will keep things in perspective and acknowledge that I am still down 11+ pounds since January 3, but I am also going the wrong direction.

The old adage of calories in, calories out holds completely true. The only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you consume, and 3,000 calories of net burn is about a pound. Portion control is my struggle with calories going in (I don't necessarily crave bad-for-you-food, but I am capable of eating way more of the healthy stuff than what is considered...well...healthy), and my broken body (injuries include multiple bouts with tendonitis, only have ~1/4 of the cartilage remaining in my left knee, and stress fractures in my foot and back) is a huge limitar in how I can work out (no running, I have to watch the weights, and even the elliptical is hard on my back).

To address portion control, I have to measure and document everything (something I haven't done in a week-plus). I can't trust my body to make the right decision on how much food I can eat, and instead I have to log everything. As for exercise, I'm moving to the pool. This will be a first for me, and I am going to try this workout. It's like a couch to 5K, but instead it is a couch to one mile. Wish me luck!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Holy Ceviche! I'm Down Another 2.2!

After a lackluster drop from last week, I'm back on track. Not that I should really complain about .6 pounds per week, but 2.2 pounds in the last seven days feels pretty great. Here are the numbers:
  • 256 - Starting weight on January 2
  • 246 - Weight on January 22
  • 242.8 - Weight on January 29
Not only is dropping 12.2 pounds in less than a month a pretty good feeling, but being able to do it while eating great food is the best. For example, take a look at this:

While I can't take credit for doing anything beyond choosing fish, I can take credit for...well...eating delicious ceviche. For those culinarily-challenged, ceviche is (at its most basic form) raw fish cooked in citrus. It's cool and slightly scary all at the same time: the acid from the citrus cooks the fish. Delicious, delicious citrus fish.

Here's the recipe (this served two of us):
  • 4 limes worth of freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 lemon worth of freshly squeezed juice
  • 1/4 cup of grapefruit juice (from the bottle)
  • 1/4 pound of scallops
  • 1/4 pound of shrimp
  • 1/4 pound of tilapia
  • Cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Red onion
  • 1/2 Avocado
  • Salt and pepper
Mix everything together (again, put the scallops, shrimp, and tilapia in raw) except for the avocado, cover it in plastic wrap (make sure there is no air between the food and wrap), and let it sit about an hour in the fridge. Take it out, and add the avocado just before you eat it. This whole dish is only 320 calories. If you don't like avocado (which I have no idea how one could not like avocado; yes, I'm talking to you, mom) that will save you 80 calories.

By the way, here's the main dish (clams marinara over penne pasta):

Depending on the pasta, and assuming put the proper portion on the plate (note this is a small plate), I ingested ~300 more calories.

As a guy who has a very difficult time with portion control and saying when, I go out of my way to ensure that every morsel that enters my mouth tastes as good as possible. These dishes are proof positive that great food does not have to be a diet-killer.

Bon apetite!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Three Weeks, Ten Pounds

Only 20 days into eating right again, and I am already down ten pounds. Here are the key numbers:
  • Weight: 246 lbs. (I started at 256)
  • Neck: 18" (down 1/4")
  • Waist/Girth: 47" (same)
  • Hips: 42" (same)
Slow and steady wins the race, and I foresee similar week-over-week losses going forward (.5 - 1 lb./week). Also, I am really looking forward to my dress shirts loosening up further around my neck (I have to wear a tie to work four days/week).

Aside from this minor update, I really don't have anything to add. Next up: time to get back in the gym.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Sweet Potato

I love sweet potatoes. And as posted in one of my classic blogs, they can serve as a healthy alternative to less nutritious options (the sweet potato French fry is one of my favorite foods in the world, especially when dipped in Gulden's brown mustard!). In fact, this evening I was stumped on what to eat and whipped up a chicken breast, sweet potato, mushroom, and Old Bay stir fry. It was simple, nutritious, and healthy.

The nutritional content of a sweet potato is pretty amazing. In just 103 calories you get 4 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, and only 24 grams of carbohydrates. Fiber and protein help keep you full, and the carbs are low enough that it helps keeping you from over-consuming (not that I am promoting low-carb diets; carbs are energy, and you need energy to burn fat, but unused carbs also turn into sugar, which in turn becomes fat). As an added benefit, this medium-sized sweet potato also gives you a third of your daily vitamin C and four times your daily required vitamin A; both nutrients provide improved immunity.

Be sure to love your sweet potatoes.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Another Weigh-in & Scary Mortality Data

Weigh-in Success

Another week, another weigh-in. This week I'm at 246.6. Note that I bought a digital scale to replace the crappy Ikea analogue one; while I don't expect the difference in how it weighs to be huge it likely had a slight impact of around 1-1.5 pounds in apparent weight loss. Either way, I am still on the downward path, and I'm loving the progress. Clothes are already starting to fit a little better.

I also want to brag a little bit on how I handle these last couple of days. Friday night Libby and I ate out dinner, and I budgeted for it throughout the day (and, in turn, I did not exceed my calorie budget). I also had a day-long event with ridiculous amounts of meats and alcohol around me; in the end I allotted myself to 3-4 drinks in a 12 hour period and normal quantities of food. I think I deserve a gold star, especially because those who supplied food were amazing cooks (there was a whole suckling pig!).

Scary Stats Time

As I've mentioned in the past, I work in a hospital. I have been in health care for nearly four years, and my previous employer was a health care research and consulting company. Not only has this shaped my opinion of not being all that scared of Obama-care (read the bill; there is actually some good stuff in there), but it has also developed a consistent focus on health care policy issues.

The first group of stats that came out last week originates from the Centers for Disease Control but were reported to me from my previous employer. Ten of the top 15 causes of death in the U.S are now at least partly preventable disease (including the top four). Diet choices directly impact heart disease, likelihood of getting cancer, stroke susceptibility, etc.

The second study I came across (also from my previous employer) is completely in line with my near-obsession with personality profile and books like Now, Discover Your Strengths. An individual's personality appears to drive what type of eater s/he is. The cool thing is the more we understand how personalities tie to eating habits the better the treatments can be created to help those of us who have problems controlling our eating habits.

Finally, and most depressingly, bacon and sausage are being tied to pancreatic cancer. Noooooo!!!!!!!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tobacco Tests for Employment

I know this topic isn't specifically about my weight loss journey, but it is directly related to health and wellness. The first I heard of an employer not hiring individuals based on their decision to smoke was the Cleveland Clinic. Their CEO takes health issues very seriously (going so far as saying "If I could, I would not hire obese people"), and since 2007 they have had a non-smoking policy for new hires and residents (this, of course, is a simplification of the full policy). Without a doubt, the Cleveland Clinic is a national (if not world) leader in health care delivery, but do they go too far with this policy?

In full disclosure, I enjoy the occasional cheap cigar and have been known to share a hookah amongst friends. In spite of these unhealthy indulgences, I am torn on whether these policies are ethical. On one hand this is an issue of personal freedom. On the other hand there is a pragmatic realty that tobacco-related disease is a huge drag on health care expenses (and in turn health insurance premiums).

The Cleveland Clinic can also claim they are a health care delivery system, and they have a duty to create a healthy community (community wellness, by the way, is a key concept in Accountable Care Organizations, a big part of Obama-care); how better to start on improving the health of its own community than by looking within? If health delivery organizations get a free pass, what about other companies such as Wal-Mart offering discounted health insurance for non-smokers?

I love a good policy debate, but that is not the purpose of this blog post. It is to illustrate that companies are becoming wiser to how an individual's choices impact their annual insurance premiums. It is hard to blame them, as it now costs on average $5,429 per individual and $15,073 per family per year for employee-provided health insurance (compare that to the $100/month you are putting in, and think about how much the employe needs to make up).

How do we bend this cost curve? There are a lot of issues in our very inefficient (and comparatively ineffective) U.S. health care delivery system that need to be addressed, but one of the top four drivers in health care costs is the management of chronic disease (diabetes, heart disease, etc.). Knowing that money in and of itself will not drive a long-term change in behaviors (unless, of course, you are in sales or banking), the cost of not taking care of myself today is a driver in the change of my behavior. Simply put, I don't want to pay for blood pressure, arthritis, or diabetes medication when I have the ability to avoid it.

I suppose at the end of the day I would honor my employer's policies. I do question the long-term effectiveness of the heavy handed approach, but if it saves a few lives and makes the insurance risk pool less expensive it could be considered a success.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Budgeting for Beer

So tonight is quiz night at the local watering hole, and a couple colleagues and I started attending just last week. Given I was just starting on my healthier diet during opening night I took it easy and had a double of Jamison (Jamison is roughly 80 calories/shot); as I alluded during an earlier post the first week on a new diet consists of your body's metabolism fighting against your blood sugar levels.

Now that I am past this phase I can finally enjoy a couple of beers this evening. I will be drinking diet beer (specifically Guinness, which has very diet-friendly nutritional content), and I am allowed to have two over the three hour period. The only reason I can do this is because I budgeted for the calories; that is, I knew when I woke up this morning I was going out tonight and adjusted my daily meals accordingly. This would not be possible (and done right!) without tracking everything that I eat throughout the day.

Cheers to balancing good help with frosty beverages!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Six Days, Four Pounds

Keeping Progress

As the title hints, I have lost four pounds in the last six days. This great early progress, but I also know that things will even out over the next one to two weeks to a more consistent one to one and a half pounds per week. I will certainly take this, though.

One thing that has been very eye opening for me is how out of control my caloric intake must have been. Given my weight, my target number of calories per day is 2,760; this target allows me to lose 1.4 pounds per week. My resting calorie target (that is, if I lay in bed all day) is 2,286 (this is call the basal metabolic rate, or BMR). To put into perspective how huge these numbers are (and how heavy I am), in order to lose one pound a person needs to burn approximately 3,000 more calories than s/he consumes, and most males are recommend to eat about 2,000 calories/day.

While it is incredibly easy to hit my calorie targets right now, I have to keep in mind that I need to make every calorie count. To do so, I'm going to start brown bagging my lunch. This will not only save me $20-$30/week in lunch money, it will also ensure that I know what I am eating and almost certainly reduce my saturated fat and sodium. Also, I work in a hospital; my food will taste better than the cafeteria's.

More Numbers

Not only will I measure my weight every Sunday evening, I will also have my girlfriend measure me; in space (or volume, if you may). Here are the numbers:
  • Hip (what most people call their waste): 42 inches
  • Waist (directly above my belly button): 47 inches
  • Neck (and to think I'm cramming this into 17.5" shirts!): 18.25 inches
I'm a very analytical and numbers-driven guy, and while movement in these numbers will keep me on track the waist measurement is just plain scary. Specifically, a men's waist greater than 40" (36" for women) is an indicator for increased risk of heart disease. Given heart disease runs in my family, I need as few risk indicators as possible.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Keeping Track

As a quick update, I am on track from a nutritional standpoint. Every day this week but one I have consumed the requisite number of calories to hit my target weight of 180 by December 31, 2012, and that one day I was only over by about 300 calories (this was made up by other days in which I consumed fewer calories than needed). I have also learned two things about my diet:

  1. I never thought I was a salt person, but my use of frozen meals (even the Kashi ones) tends to put me slightly over my daily sodium intaken; sodium, when over-ingested, is bad for the heart
  2. While I do not over-eat fat (i.e. I stay under the 84 grams recommended for daily fat intake; note these 84 grams are based on my caloric intake, which is in turn based on my weight), my saturated fat tends to be high (20-27 grams/day); this, too, is bad for the heart, and I have not yet cracked the code on reducing it
I cheated and did a mid-week weigh-in and am down two pounds; the official weigh-in will be tomorrow night. I am also having my girlfriend measure my neck, girth, and hips tomorrow so I can start tracking to that, too (you can calculate rough body fat percentages with these numbers plus heigh and weight).

For those of you who have adjusted your diet to healthier decisions you likely went through the same thing I did this week: you constantly feel hungry. The good news is that I am starting to get over the constant hunger, and I will now have the energy to get back in the gym. Next week I will start tracking my workouts. For now it is just to increase my calorie burn, but in 4-6 months it will be to stop being flabby.

Here's to looking good naked!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tools for Success

As the title to this posting suggests, I am covering what I deem as the tools for success in this life change. This is not intended to lay out the requisite mental and emotional tools; mental toughness and motivation are baseline requirements to be successful in an endeavor such as this. Instead, I am going to focus on the more pragmatic.

First, I bought a bathroom scale. I have not owned a bathroom scale in well over two years, and it certainly shows. Perhaps if I had this mechanism to help keep me in check I wouldn't have let myself go as far as I have.

Second, I bought a food scale. Everyone has their main struggle in maintaining a healthy lifestyle (be it smoking, living a sedentary life, etc.), and mine is by far portion control. It is amazing how full you can get on 5 ounces of chicken; it is equally as amazing how large chicken breasts actually are out of the package (10-12 ounces is common). On a side note, what do these chickens look like? I've seen a chicken, and 24 ounces of breast meat is just ridiculous. Anyways, weigh and measure everything; it is the only way to know what is actually entering your body.

Finally, and illustrating my tech-geeky-ness, I purchased an iPad and iPhone app called MyNetDiary. It is super easy to use (it is designed for Apple devices, after all), contains a food database of over 450,000 items, and it even tells you how many calories you should eat based on your goal and current weights. Finally, it also calls out when the non-primary nutritional elements (I include calories, fat, carbs, protein, and fiber as the primary nutritional elements) are out of whack, such as sodium and calcium (i.e. it not only keeps your weight goals on track, it also points you to healthy choices). The cost of this app is $9.99 (far less than most diet books), and it syncs across both devices and a web site.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Life Changes, Focus Changes

Two-hundred Fifty-six

That is where this story ends, but let me lay out some background as to how I got (back) here. Since my last post in January 2009 some pretty significant changes have taken place in my life, the largest of which being a divorce. I also went through a pretty rough period at work that ended in me switching organizations. Finally, in the last 15 months I have resided in five different addresses.

Each of these events are valid stressors, but the only reason why I put back on nearly all of the weight I worked so hard to take off is I took my focus off of taking care of my body. While I feel sick to my stomach (and in full disclosure, I am fighting back tears right now) typing these words, it is very important for me to acknowledge to myself that I lost my way.

One-hundred Eighty

The new story starts with a real goal. Despite not achieving this goal the first go-round (I did get down to about 210 pounds) I am as determined as ever to do it. For those who know all...failure is not something with which I cope well. More importantly, I change those things necessary to prevent me from failing in the future.

The requisite changes I have made exhibit two major themes: stability and work-life focus. Regarding stability, I am committed to live in the same address for at least two years (for the record, I have changed addresses 26 times in the last 15 years). To help my work-life focus, I have accepted a position that allows me to sleep in my own bed every night, and I am committed to take at least one class on something this year.* Finally, and touching both stability and work-life focus, I will not do things in my work life that will disrupt the stability of my personal life (i.e. taking an assignment that requires unpredictable hours or time away from those things important to my personal life).

Finally, and I have not yet figured out how often I will post pictures, I do want to create a photo journal of sorts to help track progress. I will still track the numbers, but seeing my flabbiness posted on here will keep me motivated (lucky for you, I have a body-length mirror in my bedroom!).

*Note: I am stuck on taking a class on meditation, health care economics, or vocal lessons; I may end up attending all three.