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Update – Changed Gyms, Then Quit Gyms

It’s been a month since my last post, and I apologize for that!

So what’s been happening?

Well, let me start by saying that I have not regressed, and have noticed a marked improvement in my overall health, as judged by the simple question I ask myself multiple times per day now – “How do I feel?”

The answer? I have been feeling GREAT! I have been for well over a year now. But I assure you it’s not just because I dropped ~65 pounds and have effortlessly maintained it for the past 6 or 7 months. It’s because I’m constantly tinkering and improving my lifestyle choices around:

  • Diet/nutrition
  • Fitness activities
  • Daily activities
  • Sleep
  • Stress levels

A month ago, I was focused 100% on really hitting the weight room hard. I cancelled the membership to a nice but pricey local squash club (I was playing squash for a while but my partner, once I got good enough to start winning more than half the time, punked out on me and decided he didn’t want to play anymore). I switched to another local gym that was half the price and offering a 30 day trial. The weightlifting area of this new gym was far superior, and I was very enthusiastic to start doing the Stronglifts routine. Problem was…I learned that I just can’t do a barbell squat. I know the proper form, but physically my body is not flexible enough to do it correctly, or even close. It is downright painful. So I switched to doing body squats, under the guidance of Mark Sisson’s site/fitness recommendations. While I don’t get as low in the body squat as I’d like, it’s getting better. And what I found was that, particularly with the mostly great weather here now, I just don’t need a gym. With constant baseball/softball games (3 days a week) that I have to bring my kids to at a local park with an awesome track, fields, etc., there’s just no reason to pay money to a gym.

So I canceled the membership trial (had to jump through some hoops – boo to you, SWEAT Fitness). I’ve been more active the last month just keeping busy with the usual stuff. So much so, that I try to avoid just ‘sitting at a computer’ much. Hence, no blogging. And my day job has been so hectic, so busy, that I can’t even sneak in a post during the day.

Enough with the Whining…What Have You Done This Month?

Sleep – I’ve been making sure to get to bed by 10pm. Usually I can’t sleep until closer to 11, but that’s okay. I’m getting 8+ hours per night. I’ve noticed a definite better overall feeling when doing this.

Introduced “Safe Starches” and Greek Yogurt – when I was still weightlifting, I introduced a routine of eating a big ass sweet potato within an hour of finishing a heavy lifting routine. That infusion of quality starch/carbs did wonders and my body tolerated it just fine (gas aside). Since I’m not doing the heavy barbell work anymore, I don’t need to eat them and haven’t, but have added more quality carb sources like greek yogurt (the Fage brand, with some honey squeezed into it, is incredibly good). It’s hard to find the full fat greek yogurt (or any full fat yogurt for that matter), but it’s worth the hassle. It is great tasting stuff – with the honey it is basically a desert and tastes like ice cream. Love it.

My weight is at 193. I’m guessing I’m in the 16% bodyfat range, but have no way to test that. I haven’t weighed myself very often – maybe once every 10 days. I am so active, and so in tune with my body, that I just don’t worry about it. At all.

So that’s the latest.

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Update – Still Going Strong

So the past week has been a big success. I’ve been VERY physically active along with what I’m so happy about – I have been able to sustain a weightlifting routine with no ill-effects. No loss of energy, etc. This confirms, at least for now, that my theory of low glycogen reserves was the cause of my prior weightlifting failure.

Yesterday morning I woke up at 6am. Knowing there was no way I was gonna get back to sleep, and having the kids’ baseball/softball practices from 9 – 12 that morning, I figured I’d go to the gym and do my routine early. Got there and…they were closed : ( Until 8am : (

I recently joined a new gym on a 30-day trial. The weight room is 1000x better than my other gym, which is really a squash club with some fitness areas. I liked the atmosphere of the other place better, and the class schedule at this new place is a joke (average one class per day, whereas the other place averaged 3 or 4 per day, but the problem is that the non-spinning classes only attract women, which is kind of awkward for a tough, heterosexual male like me : ) Regardless, I’m going to stick with the new gym and cancel my membership at the other place. The weight setup at the new place, SWEAT Fitness, is just way better, plus it is half the monthly cost compared to what I’m paying at the squash place. The downside is that there is a 1 year contract, but it’s not a ‘will I use it?’ situation. I’ve certainly established that over the past year. Even when my energy levels weren’t good and couldn’t lift weights, I still at least did light cardio.

So, the sweet potatoes seem to be doing the trick. Of course, yesterday and this morning I felt a bit lethargic because right after the weightlifting routine yesterday morning I had to rush the kids to the softball/baseball practices, did some walking and light jogging while they practiced, along with literally standing in the windy cold watching their back-to-back practices for 3 hours : ( Then, we went to another park to participate in a friend’s new business venture – basically a mini-orienteering thing. That was an hour+ of walking the park.

I was beat, but in a good way. Still am. Will take it easy to day and just do a Primal ‘play’ day. Will post back later in the week with something more than simple rambling, I promise : )

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Today I’m Feeling Awesome!

Today was a great day, for a number of reasons. Felt great, even with a major slip last night of Kiwi frozen yogurt (a Dad’s gotta do what he’s gotta do…).

Upping the total calories and adding in some complex carbs has been good so far. Yesterday I reported some weight gain/bloat, which I had felt most of the week. This morning when I woke up, and throughout today, I felt like I was starting to lean out again, which is cool.

Yesterday and today were ‘play’ days – after doing my weightlifting routine on Saturday, I was pretty sore and felt a little rundown yesterday so I stuck to just ‘moving slowly’ most of the day and also took my son to the soccer field for some goofing around with the soccer ball.

Today, I took the kids and dog to a local nature preserve for a hike, and then played some more soccer later in the day.

Tomorrow is a heavy weightlifting day, so I will cut some fat intake (not much though…I mainly just won’t over-do it on the bacon/sausages in the morning like usual), and will eat some bananas and my post-workout big ass sweet potato, which seems to be doing the trick.

If, after a few more days, I continue to feel this great and feel the progress in my body, and do not gain more weight, then I’ll definitely feel like I’ve found a breakthrough.

On a related note….I started reading The Primal Blueprint the other day. I’ve been meaning to buy this book for over a year, but figured I knew everything in it. And, well, so far I basically do. Nothing new thus far (though I haven’t hit the detailed chapters yet), but the way it is written is really interesting, and I’m surprisingly digging the Grok/paleolithic ‘day in the life’ chapter. It definitely helps to put things into perspective. I didn’t realize how much our brains have shrunk since then, which is quite sad….

As for practical application of the book so far – I made it a point to *try* to go to sleep earlier last night, but it didn’t work. Well, it did a little – I wound up falling asleep around 10:30, which is an hour earlier than usual. Tonight my now 9-year old daughter (tomorrow is her ‘official’ birthday!) is having a big sleepover, so there are a bunch of little kids running around and will likely be making noise all night. So not sure I’ll be successful getting sleep tonight.

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What I Eat

Someone on the Fat Loss 101 page left a comment that they would like to see my food journals, menus, etc. If keeping a food journal or pre-planned menus work for you, then go for it. But, for me, I never did that. I guess I approached weight loss a little less organized than some but, in my opinion, more realistic for the long-term. Here are the key things I’ve done to lose the ~65 pounds and maintain that loss successfully (so far, without any major effort):

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USDA “Guidelines” Forced on Parents

Just saw this story and, sadly, am not surprised…

The girl’s turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips, and apple juice did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, according to the interpretation of the agent who was inspecting all lunch boxes in her More at Four classroom that day.

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Some Great Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) Links

Found these two great resources this weekend and wanted to share them. While I am constantly on the lookout for quality sources of information and inspiration, I am not usually so enamored with what I find that I bother to post it to my blog. Let’s face it – the thing that I think makes an LCHF diet (or Paleo, or Primal, or Low Carb, or whatever you want to call it) doable and successful is that it can be done simply and without a lot of research. Then again, considering that 99% of what is out there on TV, the web, etc. regarding nutrition and diet is misleading or incorrect, I guess it does…anyways, on to the links:

The War On Insulin, by Dr. Peter Attia

This fairly new blog by Dr. Peter Attia is *fabulous*. It is both well-written and really informative. After reading a number of his posts I learned a number of new things like:

  • Watching your protein intake is important; he mentions a ‘zone of misery’ which is basically anything over 50g of carbs per day AND/OR 150g of protein. The theory is, and it makes total sense, is that too much protein will convert to glucose and move you out of ketosis, which we know is to be avoided. I never really paid too much attention to protein intake before but will start looking at that now.
  • I have been staunchly anti-supplement/vitamins. It goes against the primal/paleo principle, and more importantly: I’ve tried some and got no benefit. Not to mention that opinions/research on most are very conflicting. About the only vitamin/supplement that seems universally supported as being beneficial is fish oil, and that is only if you don’t eat enough fish. I am the only one in my family that likes to eat fish, as my wife and young kids won’t even try it or be around it, so the only time I get any is on business trips, which isn’t very often anymore. I’ve tried the fish oil capsules in the past and noticed no effect. Dr. Attia uses a liquid concentrated form, which makes sense. I will give it a try. If any of you have a recommendation on a brand, let me know.
  • As for supplements – I dabbled in Egg White Protein-based shake mix (the Jay Robb stuff) last year but stopped due to cost and I just didn’t like them that much. Only reason I tried them was to get an energy boost pre/post workout but I felt no effect. I’ve noticed a number of blogs mentioning the benefits of liquid MCT oil. Dr. Attia takes a couple of teaspoons daily as an energy boost. I will definitely give this a try.

I urge you to check out his blog. It’s a great read. It is also now my new favorite blog.

Ask The Low Carb Experts

The second really great resource I found recently is a new podcast by Jimmy Moore. It’s not really a podcast – it’s a live call-in show. But it is also available for subscription and listening just like any other podcast. It’s called Ask The Low Carb Experts. I have only listened to the latest one, where Mark Sisson responds to many questions.

These newfound resources are awesome. Having been successful in losing the majority of my excess body fat and maintaining the loss for months now, I didn’t really think there was much more to learn but I still learn new things from the community.

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Holiday Blunder

Thus far I’ve posted mostly all successes on this blog. How I lost the weight eating great food, etc. Well, this past month has been a disaster : ( I was down to a very comfortable weight for my body type, hovering safely between 197 and 199. It sounds like a lot but I have very large thighs/calves naturally, so although I would prefer to be in the 185lb range it might actually be too skinny for me.

Regardless of that dream….I’m now back up to 202. The holidays have been killing me – constant parties and lack of discipline on my part are not a good combination. In years past I would have eaten completely differently at these dinners/parties – as much beer, stuffing, pie, etc., that I felt like eating. After all, “it’s the holidays!” This year I felt like I was eating pretty sanely. Much more than usual, but definitely sensibly. Nonetheless, the uptake in carbs was not met with an uptake in exercise and I think that was the culprit. I stopped doing typical cardio a while back as I was bordering on the chronic cardio addiction that is so prevalent. But I then slipped away from going to the gym for a couple of weeks straight, which was not good. Add to all of this the fact that I have just not been good about learning to cook for myself, and my wife has basically not cooked a meal at home in a month and we’ve been going out to eat constantly, and you can see how this has happened.

Tomorrow is the New Year and I have been trying to think about what my goals for 2012 should be. I’m still amazed at what I was able to do in 2011 and the awesome life changes that I achieved. I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit the last 4 or 5 months and I think it’s time to finally make the change and commit to a true Paleo/Primal diet and exercise routine. While 80% of what I do is aligned with it, I’m going to go heavier on the non-processed foods, and start following Sisson’s workout routine very strictly of moving slowly a lot, lifting heavy things, some HIIT, and sprinting. I’ve already started that this past week and now it’s time to implement the rest. So here are the key diet goals going into 2012:

  • Conform more closely to the Paleo/Primal way of eating and exercising
  • Learn to cook. Really.
  • Macronutrient breakdown goal of 65% fat, 30% protein, 5% carbohydrate
  • Organic, grass-fed, etc. as much as is practical. It’s worth the expense.

The biggest change here are bullets 2 and 4: learning to cook for real, and going full with the organic and grass-fed stuff as much as is practical.

I don’t really plan on ‘learning to cook’ – I plan on learning to cook my own damn food. I do a little bit of cooking – I cook breakfast every morning, and usually do my own lunch. Dinner has been a problem. My wife and kids eat mostly carbohydrate like most other family. That said, my wife is very good, when she cooks, to cook something that I can eat. So, for example, if she cooks spaghetti and meatballs she’ll always cook lots of meatballs for me to pair it up with a salad. But really, I need to just have a ‘food divorce’ from my wife  and agree to split up and I cook my own dinner. Ideally I’d like to cook for the family a paleo dinner a couple/few times per week and share the responsibility with her, but only if she commits to eating right.

As for the organic/grass-fed foods. I’m gonna try going to Whole Foods and find a local natural food store/source and see what the true cost of this stuff is. I know it’s pricey as hell. But, and I know I sound like a car salesman here, I see it as ‘an investment’.

So that’s it. Sorry to disappoint : ) Tonight we’re going to a friends house for New Years Eve and I’m sure I’ll have beer and some type of junk food. Tomorrow, I’ll join the legions of Resolutionaries in implementing new life changes. Onward and upward.

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Review of an old book – Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution

As my wife, friends, and acquaintances will probably tell you – I can’t shut up regarding how much I appreciate the work of those who have started to put an end to the misinformation out there regarding what a proper diet for the typical person is, and more specifically, how a fat person becomes fat and how to reverse it.

Over the past year I’ve been reading constantly – research studies. theories, opinions, and lots of bullshit (unfortunately most of which has come from people who should know better – doctors, nutritionists, and most sadly – our government).

During my weight loss journey, when people ask me what I’m doing to lose weight, I tell them one of the following, depending on my mood:

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Still Losing Weight and Feeling Great

My progress has been good, though very erratic/strange (to me, anyway). I’ll go 2 to 3 weeks with no weight loss and then bam, a pound a day for 3 or 4 days. It’s just odd.

Regardless, I currently weigh in at 212lbs. As of November 1, 2010, I weighed 258.

I’m still following the principles in Taubes’ Why We Get Fat book, with one key exception – in early May I joined a gym (www.fairmountac.com) and have been working out daily ever since. Not because I force myself too, but because I actually enjoy it. When I tried low-fat diets in the past I always hated working out. Watching the really fat people do senseless fitness routines these days at the gym reminds me of those days. I feel sorry for them. I want to scream out to them, “Get off the damn treadmill, dude, and do the following: