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.