Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Weighing in one year later

Taking a moment to update the blog which has been left unwritten so long, I would like to share one small, but important milestone.  One of my personal objectives of the sabbatical was to get more healthy.  We certainly did that as a family and it has persisted.  However, for me, I was shocked to find that rather than continuing or going down from my 205 lbs at the start of the trip, I somehow had gotten up to 220.  I was obese.  I learned the following:

Exercise is not enough.

I was easily doing 10k steps a day based on fitbit reports.  And I thought I was eating healthy, but I clearly was not.

I set a goal to lose 10% of my weight in 6 months, and having done that another 10% in the following 6.  I would cut back on calories and I would maintain and if possible increase my exercise.  I would NOT go back to my life of commuting, sitting at work and eating to comfort myself.

1 year later (on the anniversary of weighing in at 220), I hit my follow on goal to lose another 10%.  I'm 177.2 lbs.  Rather than being somewhat obese, I'm now somewhat overweight.

I have many strategies and techniques which helped me get there, and it's worth recognizing those now.
  • Track exercise, calories and weight.  By doing all three, it caused me to encourage exercise, discourage eating so much and see the results of that approach.  I already used the fitbit for tracking exercise, so that was easy.  Midway through my year I bought the Fitbit Aria which tracks weight.  Expensive, but it made tracking weight really easy.  Tracking calories was by far the most difficult because it is a bother to remember to do it, and one must do a fair bit of guess work with portion sizes.  My advice -- be brutally honest if not harshly unfair.  When I ate half a box of cookies, I put myself down for it.  When I used a tablespoon of olive oil cooking, it went into the mix.  Fact is, the weight doesn't care about what you write down, but reading what you write down correlated with your weight gain (and loss!) helps you learn.  And the fitbit app seems to make it pretty easy w/ the bar scanner and large library of foods.
  • Cook - I started cooking healthier meals.  Mostly in the slow cooker because I could cook on one day, and the following day was reheated (and tasted better!).  If you can make the time, Slow Cooker Revolution from the Test Kitchen folks is awesome.  A lot of work, but not one recipe has failed.  Considering the number of bad slow cooker recipes we've tried, this is amazing.  By cooking, I kept much better focus on what I was eating.
  • Drink smart - Coffee w/ cream and sparkling water are my drinks of choice and habit.  On the trip we discovered the Sodastream, and I picked one up.  I fill water from the tap and then fill with CO2.  No flavoring.  It's refreshing and fills the stomach better than plain water.  And we don't have all of the bottles & cost from purchasing water.  And as for the cream (or whole milk), fats are satiating.  When I have fats, I fill up -- unlike the carbs of breads, cookies, pasta etc.  I would have a couple of drinks/week and stop it there.  I've come to learn that alcohol also messes with my sleep so there's little upside.
  • Protein and fats are the way to go.  I really did love bread, cookies, baked goods and all that.  But I cannot eat them freely and lose weight.  I have a 1-3 slices of bread/day at most and typically try to keep it to one slice -- my breakfast is eggs in a hole w/ 2 eggs, 1 slice of bread, 2 coffees, a solid tablespoon of butter.  Oddly, I found that beef really threw me off.  So I learned to have beef 2-3 times/month at most.  Pork, chicken and seafood were all good.    Potatoes and rice were also minimized.  Plain Fage Greek Yogurt (not Chobani or any of the other "greek style" yogurts -- Fage) was also critical.  Very high protein and fairly high fat especially if you get the full fat (which I'm now trying out to see if it works better -- it tastes even better!)
  • Fruit & Vegetables - I kept the fruit bowl full and visible.  When I snacked, I had fruit.  Similarly, with dinner or lunch, I would load up on vegetables & salads -- minimal potatoes, rice or other starches.  I would still have sauces and dressing, but I wouldn't have the whole portion.  Just some.
  • Occasional treats - By tracking my consumption, I could see a day when I was well under target calories, and then I would have ice cream (with lots of fat to satiate!  Baskin Robins Chocolate Peanut Butter...  Goood...) or maybe put some honey in my yogurt as a small treat.  I would avoid cookies because once I started on cookies there was little turning back.
  • A break - every 7 days or so, I would go over my target calories.  Not hugely over like a Tim Ferris 2 lbs of bacon and a whole chocolate cake kind of binge, but 500-1000 calories over my daily goal.  It was amazingly easy to do this.  BBQ ribs or large instead of eating a few of my kids fries would do it.  But I saw the weight gain almost immediately.  Oddly enough, because I saw such a big setback, I was often able to get back on the plan and break through to the next level quickly.
  • Walk - Some like running.  I tried.  after a couple of days I hurt my foot and had to slow down.  But I was still losing weight.  So, I just kept walking.  My ritual was breakfast, drop Sarah at school and then continue to walk -- at least 4 miles.  And whenever I need to run an errand, if it was less than 1 mile, I would walk.  And after I did that, I always had a piece of fruit or a yogurt.
  • Take it slow - 0.5-1lb/week over time is fine weight loss.  It took me 15 years to get from 183 to 220, how could I expect to lose it ALL in 6 WEEKS!  I had to change my mind set and many of my habits, and to do that I had to keep doing it.  The above points were gradually added over that year.  On July 28, 2014 I started to pay attention.  And every day thereafter, I continued to pay attention.
  • Reflect - Most of all, I kept looking back at all of my records during the year.  Because my exercise patterns, weight and consumption were all tracked, I could see when things were working and when they were not.  I would then be able to see when I was getting into a bad pattern, and what worked to get me out of it.  Some of the things I did may not work for you, but reflecting definitely will.
I have a goal of another 10% in 6 months.  To reach a normal weight for the first time of my life (I came out 10lbs, 6oz), and then keep it in that neighborhood.  It will be a particular challenge doing this when living in Chicago w/ the winters and big food portions, but this too, I will do.