Monday, July 9, 2012

Weight Loss and Training Tips Part 1

This was me three years ago on the summit of Gannett Peak.  I was 170lbs and was about 6% body fat.

This is me about a week ago.  About 200lbs and about 17% body fat.

My goal is to get back to 170lbs and 6% body fat or less.


Almost two years ago I got married to the most wonderful woman in the world.  It was the best decision I have ever made.  But sometimes there are bad side effects of our good decisions.  The one bad side effect that became apparent pretty quickly was 20lbs.  Now, that's not a bad side effect of being married to my wife, that's a bad side effect of how my lifestyle has changed because of marriage and my lack of discipline in controlling my diet.

Throughout my life I have been slender and I have never had to worry about my weight.  I always exercised enough that I could eat whatever I wanted and however much I wanted and wouldn't gain weight.  In fact, about four years ago I decided to count calories for a week to see how much I was eating.  I averaged about 7,000 calories per day to maintain my 170lb body weight.  (At the time I was installing carpet 10 hrs/day, biking almost 200 miles/week, bouldering or sport climbing 3-4 times/wk for about 2-3 hrs each session, and trail running when I found time).

Well, I got married and suddenly didn't have nearly as much time to exercise.  The amount of time I biked or climbed was cut by about 2/3, but my diet wasn't cut by 2/3.  Therefore, over the first year of marriage I gained 20lbs.  When I realized how much I had gained and how quickly, I decided to cut back a little on food and increase exercise a bit.  Unfortunately, the change wasn't enough, and in the next year or so I gained another 10lbs.

So, approximately two weeks ago I was hovering around 200lbs and didn't know it.  I stepped onto a scale and was totally surprised by the result.

I could feel the additional weight whenever I rode my road bike in the mountains.  The average speed at which I climbed was a couple mph slower than average on the uphill and it felt more difficult.  Same thing when I rock climbed.  When I'd be climbing difficult routes, I felt like I didn't have the same strength to make explosive, powerful moves.

I ignored these signs because I was still in good enough shape to hike 25 miles in a day or do marathon climbs (on easy to moderate terrain).  I didn't feel as good while I did them as I used to, but I could still complete these things so I figured I was doing fine.

The 200lb mark scared me, however, and I knew at that point that something needed to change.  I talked to my brother who is a Physician's Assistant and asked his help.  I also read some of the books I have about training and nutrition for endurance athletes.  The information I found (and really already knew) was not groundbreaking.  It is simple and effective and, well, difficult.

So, the following are guidelines that I have been following to lose weight and get back into the shape I used to enjoy.

My Guidelines for Attaining a Healthy Weight

  • Commit.  I first needed a desire to lose weight and then I needed to commit.  The 200lb mark scared me enough to commit to a healthier lifestyle.
  • Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.  Eating fruits and vegetables is important for your body to work efficiently.  They allow your body's digestive system to work properly and provide the nutrients for your body to fight disease and other ailments.  They also provide quality calories.  However, most of the fruits and vegetables found in stores are deficient in these nutrients.  Much of the fruits and vegetables on store shelves are picked before they're ripe and sit on shelves for weeks or months.  Eating one apple or one orange that are picked from a tree offer more value, usually, than three apples or three oranges from the store.  And fresh fruits and vegetables taste SOOO good, and those from the store don't.
  • Go to bed early, wake up early.  A lack of sleep has been shown to lead to obesity.  But, I think just as important as getting enough sleep is waking up early.  The same discipline it takes to wake up early and get going with your day will help you say no to unhealthy foods or to overeating.  So, go to sleep early so that you can wake up early and still get enough sleep.
  • Don't eat late at night.  I decided that I wouldn't eat food after 7pm.  I know the science behind this is controversial, but I decided not to eat after 7pm because it helps me eat less.  Normally I would start to feel hungry around 9pm after eating dinner at 6pm, so I would have a snack.  That snack usually ranged from about 350-650 calories, depending on how hungry I was.  Because I have decided not to eat after 7pm, it is easier for me to say no to the additional calories that I would normally consume.  Whether or not the time of day that you eat really makes a difference on gaining weight, this guideline simply helps me eat less.  I also notice that when I snack at night I usually don't eat the healthiest foods.  I am much more likely to eat healthy foods before 7pm than at 9pm.
  • Drink more water.  It's difficult to drink too much water, and being hydrated helps the body work so much more effectively.  Especially for somebody who is active, staying hydrated with water is critical in your body being able to perform at it's highest level, especially in the heat of summer.  Also, when I start to feel hungry, I drink a glass of water and it helps me deal with the hunger.  I used to drink a lot of milk, but 0-calorie water has replaced the high-calorie milk, further helping me decrease my caloric intake.
  • Eat smaller portions.  This is a difficult one for me.  I have trained myself to eat until I feel full instead of stopping when I feel satisfied.  This habit, along with a decrease in activity, has led to my weight gain.  Now I try to take a big portion of fruits and vegetables at a meal and a smaller portion of meat or other calorie-rich foods.  I also don't go back for seconds anymore, unless it is for more fruit or vegetables.
  • Exercise more.  My brother said that diet is more than half of the weight loss battle, but exercise is important too.  Because my goal for losing weight is to be a better athlete, I obviously have to keep working my muscles and lungs to keep them in top shape.  The combination of more exercise and less food is difficult for me because I always seem to feel hungry, but the longer I go, the easier it becomes.  The goal for weight loss is burning more calories than I consume, so exercising obviously helps me burn more calories.  As I drop weight, the same rides or climbs that I normally do start to feel easier and my motivation to keep going increases.  My exercise program has increased from about 70 road bike miles and 15 trail miles per week to about 120 road bike miles and 30 trail miles per week (either hiking or running), as well as sport climbing twice a week for a couple hours instead of one moderate marathon climb every two weeks.  The sport climbing is helping me build more muscle in my upper body (and one of the quickest way to burn fat is to build muscle) and the other exercises are helping to strengthen the biggest muscles in my body, the legs, and increase my cardio fitness.  I also know from experience that daily exercise allows your body to adapt more to the exercise and makes the exercise more enjoyable and less painful, compared to a big whopper of a workout every few days that takes three days to recover from.

The Results

I've never really had to lose weight before.  This is a new experience for me.  My goal is to get back down to my 170lb weight.  Before I got married I was about 170lbs and about 6-7% body fat.  It is my goal to get back down to 170lb and 6-7% body fat.  Almost two weeks ago I was at 200lbs and and 16-17% body fat (depending on my hydration).  I have a ways to go.

As of yesterday, I am about 190lbs.  I didn't measure my body fat percentage, so I'm not sure how that has changed. 20 more pounds to go.  I have noticed a difference already in my ability to climb hills on the bike.  My wife says she can see a little bit of difference as well in my physique since the diet started.

Part of the reason for writing this post is to give ideas to those that are in the same boat as me.  The major reason, however, for writing this post is to help me be accountable for reaching my weight loss goals.  I'd love to hear from others who have been through this process, are going through this process, or who would like to start this process.

1 comment:

  1. Great tips! One thing that I always share with people is that fat burner supplements can really be helpful. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise with the supplements helped me lose 20 pounds! Thank you for sharing this with us!