Friday, 28 June 2013

Another month down, it's measurement time! [with pictures]

So June, 2013 was a momentous month for me, workout-wise.  I began incorporating actual rest days into my workout routine this month, which, although initially a real challenge, appears to have been paying dividends.  I hate to admit it, but I feel super strong and energized the day after my rest day, which is the entire point, I suppose. 

But the month was momentous also for the fact that I broke into the overweight class this week, for the first time in more than a decade.  Weight loss is like a time machine - - I have traveled back to the weight I was around 2001.  I know this is the case because a couple of weeks ago I put on my canvas jacket (last done up in 2000-2001), and not only was I able to zip up the jacket, but it was easy to do so!  To be honest, I have been carting that damn jacket from place to place hoping that I would eventually be able to wear it again, and it finally happened this month.  Just in time for a heat emergency all week in Toronto.  Ah well, no one said life would be convenient. 

Today's weigh in was going to be the big mystery - - would I be able to hold onto my loss and stay in the overweight class, or would the delicious dinner the Nerd and I enjoyed last night push me back into obesity? 

STILL OVERWEIGHT!  (again, I appreciate the irony of someone being happy to be overweight - - you have to consider the direction I am coming from here).

Today after my weigh in I checked in down slightly from yesterday at 202.7 pounds, for a total loss of 2 pounds this week, and 131.2 pounds lost overall.  This brings my BMI down to 29.9, nicely at the top of the overweight zone.

I am still on track to hit my 165 pound goal somewhere between the end of November, 2013 and the end of January, 2014. 

Being as it's the end of the month (or near enough!), it's measurement time.  I am delighted to report that I lost another 3+ inches from various bits and pieces:

This month I saw decreases across the board, as everything tightens up.  So far to date I have lost more than 4 feet of me, which just blows my mind.

So what does 58" less of me look like? 

Pardon the dampness of my appearance, as we took these photographs right after I finished 75 minutes on the elliptical this morning, and I released all the glows. 

To put this in context, here's some side-by-side photos so you can see how far I have come:

I even see a difference from March to now - - my arms are more toned, and my stomach and butt are starting to shrink up a bit.  Note to self: heather grey workout gear really shows sweat. 

I have updated my goals to reflect this morning's small loss:

Less than 3 pounds to go to break the 200 pound barrier.  I can't wait!  

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Welcome to Overweightville, Population - Me!

Major milestone alert!  I am now overweight for the first time in more than a dozen years, rather than obese!  That's right, boys and girls, I have lost another 1.7 pounds for a total of 130.7 pounds down overall, to reach 203 pounds, for a BMI of 29.98 (I keep the trailing decimals in this instance because it works in my favour!). 

As you can see from the fuzzy screen capture at the top of the page, my weight is now in the yellow category (for overweight) rather than the orange category (for obese).  And as a nice added bonus, this morning's body fat reading was in the normal range.  Ever so slowly I am turning all the indicators in this application green - - my activity levels, blood pressure, resting pulse, steps, cholesterol and fasting blood sugar are all within normal levels (or better), and my weight and BMI are now only one step up from normal.  My waist measurement still needs to come down, but it, too, is headed in the right direction.

To say that I am happy about this understates how I feel to reach this goal.  It is something I have been working on for 17 months now, and it feels wonderful to accomplish this.  I have seen pretty consistent results throughout this process, but this was one of the important milestones, and one I am thrilled to accomplish. 

There are so many medical issues associated with being obese as compared to merely overweight, not to mention the stigma - - in the press, and in attitudes.  Being obese always made me feel like a second class citizen, and I carried myself as one.  As I have lost the weight, however, I have started to carry myself with more and more confidence, recognizing that I am worth the effort I am putting into this lifestyle change.  I am demanding respect for myself, and I receive it. 

Let's look at how far I have come to this point (which is only one point of a journey that will last, hopefully, the rest of my life):

I started using the elliptical as well as tracking my food last July.  Coincidentally, that is also when I got my Withings wifi scale and TactioHealth app (the source of the screen cap at the top of the page).  My personal tracking to that point was, although not primitive, certainly not as detailed as it is now. 

Since last July (just over a year ago), I have lost more than 95 pounds.  You can see from the lower graph that my body fat has also steadily decreased over that time.

But it's not just the weight that has gone down - - all my significant measurements have decreased, as you can see from the above chart. 

So where does this leave me with respect to my goals?  I've checked another one off, and added a couple of new ones to fill in the space between Onederland and Normal BMI:

Just 3.1 pounds to go now until I am less than 200 pounds - - I can't wait!

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Week 73, 129+ pounds down

I think my body is finally adjusting to taking the rest day.  Over the first two weeks that I started taking a rest day, my weight jumped up after my weigh in day and it took me until the following Saturday weigh in to make any additional downward progress.

This week, for the first time, I was actually below my previous week's weigh in by Friday, the day before my Saturday weigh in.  It feels like I am actually starting to physically get used to the new schedule. 

This week I managed to lose another 1.3 pounds for a total of 129.2 pounds down to date, or 76% of my target.  I am now down to 204.7 pounds, which officially puts me at light-heavyweight.  Not yet overweight, but that's only a matter of a couple of pounds now, and I know it is only a matter of time. 

I am still on track to hit my 165 pound weight target sometime between the end of November, 2013 and the end of January, 2014.  If I hit my final goal in January, that would mean that it has will have taken me 2 years to lose 168 pounds, which would work out to an average loss of 1.6 pounds a week.  That feels slow, but it also feels like a nice, sustainable weight loss.  One I hope that I would be able to maintain. 

I have had some great fasting blood sugar figures this week, with all normal readings, and 3 readings even below 5.0 mmol/L (where the upper limit for normal blood sugar is 5.5 mmol/L).  May was a watershed month in terms of my blood sugar readings, and now each month is more normal than the last.  I am so happy to see these readings each morning, because avoiding the Type II diabetes that riddles my family is one of the main reasons I was workout out.  That, and being able to sit on chairs without breaking them, of course.

For Father's Day I sent the Patriarch a Withings wifi scale that records weight, body fat and BMI, as well as my favourite fitness apps like TactioHealth, Glucose Companion, and Full Fitness HD.  The Patriarch is tracking his food and exercise using MyNetDiary, which I personally do not find as user friendly or flexible as MyFitnessPal, but to each his own.  The Patriarch was only recently diagnosed with Type II diabetes, and he is working to develop better eating habits and to increase his activity levels.  It's kind of strange how I am the more experienced person when it comes to lifestyle change; I am the one giving him advice based on my longer experience with nutrition and exercise - - after all, I am a year and half ahead of him.  He still weighs less than me - - but only slightly - - but I am far fitter.  And at the rate I have been going, I will be lighter than him pretty soon.  It's a real role reversal between father and daughter, though, and it feels a bit odd.

This week I had a funny thing happen at discoveries.  We were at the court reporter's office, and I had one of our assistant's bring over some printing from the office.  When I went out at the break to pick up the printing, the receptionist handed it to me before I even introduced myself.  I asked her how she knew the printing was for me, and the receptionist told me that she had looked me up on my firm's website to see what I looked like.  I must have winced (it's a photo taken before I began working out), because the receptionist said "You need to get a new photo!".  Love it.

Just so you can see what she was speaking about, here's the (terrible) photo in question, compared to how I look now:

So where do I stand in relation to my goals?  Pretty good, actually:
I reached my "light heavyweight" goal this week, so that's another goal down.  Next up is reaching overweight status, which is only a couple of pounds away.  I should (hopefully) reach that in a couple of weeks or so.  Next up is to break the 200 pound barrier. 

The Nerd and I are going to South Carolina in a couple of weeks for his family reunion, and I am a little worried about (a) food, and in particular, healthy food; and (b) exercise.  The cabins at which we are staying are right on a lake, and there are apparently kayaks and boats available, which is good.  On the bad side, there is no internet access at all, which may cause me to have seizures - - I am such an internet junkie, I don't know how easily I will be able to go cold turkey like that.  It will be like traveling back in time to the 1980s, except without the snazzy fashion sense and danceable music. 

This week will be another challenging week, albeit for nice reasons.  My sister's birthday is this coming Saturday, so Friday night the family is going out to North 44 (a nice Mark McEwan restaurant in midtown Toronto).  That's all well and delicious, but my new weigh in day is Saturday. 
Given the typical sodium levels in restaurant food, even trying to eat manageable portions will make it tough to lose weight this week.  But I keep reminding myself that this is a long term lifestyle change, not a sprint, so one week off the reservation should not be too bad for me in the big picture. 

Friday, 21 June 2013

It's official ... I need a root canal

That big dark shadow on the premolar on the right is my cavity, or as I like to call it, Carlsbad Cavern.  You can see how significant the cavity is by comparing it to normal-sized fillings like those in my first and second molars. 

My dentist a few weeks ago was nonplussed when he saw the x-ray of this tooth, and he gave me a referral to "the nice root canal guy".  I saw the Nice Root Canal Guy this morning, and he had no doubt in his mind whatsoever that I would need a root canal.  The bigger question was whether I had enough intact tooth left to save.  In part, he won't know the answer to that question until he gets in there with the drills and probes and all the other things that one uses to rip the pulp out of living teeth.  Good times.

The Nice Root Canal Guy was, in fact, very nice, and although he did some very painful things to test tooth enervation and the level of my gums relative to Carlsbad Cavern, it is not enough to ruin our relationship. 

I had to laugh, though.  When I was scheduling this appointment I had to wait 3 weeks to get an opening, and then two days before my appointment they wanted to postpone my appointment still further.  Today, once the Nice Root Canal Guy got a look at the giant hole in my head, he was suddenly possessed with a sense of urgency, and I have to come back for the root canal as soon as possible.  Apparently it has been an amazing fluke that I have not experienced any real pain or discomfort up to now (that is, until the Nice Root Canal Guy started in on my teeth), but I really am a ticking time bomb. 

So not only do I need a root canal, I need one Right Away.  And I get to pay $1,100 for the privilege.  I was not mentally or financially prepared to drop a grand on my mouth next week, and I have to confess the whole appointment left me a little shaken.  On the good side, it was a beautiful sunny day, so I walked back to my office at Bay and King Streets from Bloor and Cumberland Streets (about 6 subway stops' distance), so I got extra steps in. 

I am going to look on the bright side of this.  The Nice Root Canal Guy seems very nice, and I consider my tooth to be half-full, rather than half-empty.  Plus, I will lose at least 1/10th of an ounce from the root canal itself, so there's weight loss built into the procedure.  Put that way, it's a win-win. 

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Back to blogging - 127.9 pounds down [with pics]

I haven't been blogging for a couple of weeks because, frankly, I have been really frustrated with my workouts and weight loss.

Let me be clear here - - losing weight is work every step of the way, especially when you do it the right way, through gradual lifestyle improvement.  But up until relatively recently, it has been pretty easy for me to lose 1 - 1.5 pounds each week.  I would log my Friday morning weight, bump up a bit Saturday morning, and then Sunday through the following Friday I would pretty well see incremental losses every day.  I would not stress out too much about my progress, because by Sunday (or Monday at the latest) I was usually below my previous Friday's weight, and anything I achieved from that point on was gravy.  (mmmmmm....gravy)

Two weeks ago I changed up my routine to formally add back in a rest day.  Not a pretend rest day with "only" a 30 minute workout like I had been doing, but a full, proper rest day.  No intentional workouts at all.  I would not be bedridden for the day, but I wasn't going out of my way to exercise, unlike the other 6 days of the week.

The rest day has led to a couple of changes in my routine.  First, it has shifted my weigh in day from Friday to Saturday, the official end of my workout week.

Second, it has led to a huge rebound weight gain on Sunday morning, because I have the usual weekend rebound plus whatever I am not losing through sweat from the normal workout.  For the past couple of weeks, instead of getting back to my Friday weight by Monday, I have been only getting near my Saturday weight on the following Friday - - in other words, it is taking me the entire week to get back only as far as I had been the week before.

I am sincerely hoping that this is merely a temporary aberration, prompted by the recent change in routine.  I am finding it very difficult to spend so much of my time making up ground I have already lost, so to speak, and I really dislike the feeling of being behind the eight ball for most of the week when I am exercising every day and eating well.

Now that I have vented my frustrations, let's focus on some of the positives, shall we?

Although it is not pretty, I am still losing weight, which is good because otherwise I would be completely demoralized with the difficulties of the past couple of weeks.  I am down another pound this week, which, in addition to the 1.2 pounds I lost last week, brings me down to 206 pounds, down a total of 127.9 pounds.

Looking back at my progress, I have lost more than 90 pounds since last July, the first readings on the chart, above (top line).  The other major win in the past few weeks has been that I have decreased my body fat % into the normal range (bottom line), albeit not consistently.  Keep in mind that the above chart only starts 6 months after I had first begun working out. 

Taking a look at my steps over the past 11 months, you can see that my average daily steps have increased over time.  In recent weeks I have averaged more than 15,000 steps per day on days I work out.

Certainly as my fitness has improved, my world has expanded.  The city is more accessible to me.  Just last week I walked up to the Bay to do some shopping (a trip I previously would have taken the subway to accomplish), and yesterday the Nerd and I walked a mile up to the Loblaws at the old Maple Leaf Gardens to pick up our favourite bread (4 subway stops away).  Where I once could barely walk half a block to the corner, now I don't think twice about walking for an hour on an errand.  I like that.  

 The biggest improvement over time has been in my fasting blood sugar levels.  In May I saw a step change improvement in my sugars, as shown in the above chart.  Whereas each previous month I have seen gradual improvement, even sometimes stringing together 3 or 4 normal results, in May suddenly all but 2 of my readings were normal.  This month to date I have only had 1 elevated reading, and I have also had several readings in the 4 - 4.9 mmol/L range - - another step change improvement.

It's funny how quickly I went from hoping to see a normal fasting blood sugar reading to expecting my readings to be normal.  I am not exactly sure what led to this sudden improvement, other than losing enough weight to almost be overweight, rather than obese.  Perhaps that's all that it takes.  

So how am I progressing against my goals?  Pretty well, in small baby steps:
Only a pound to go to reach light heavy.  In fact, I could qualify for a non-championship fight right now, if, say, I were at all fit.  Which I am not.  At least to that level.  Better yet, I am only 3 pounds away from being overweight.  

I have to confess that it feels like I am reaching 50% of this goal every week.  Which of course means that I will never get there.  I know that I will eventually reach this goal, given time, but it honestly feels like forever.  Patience, grasshopper.  

Here's how I am looking as of June 1, 2013.  To me, I just look normal, like nothing has changed.  Still with the unmanageable hair, still with the wonky eye.  But if I look over time, I can see big changes:

In March 2012 I was wearing size 2X-3X, or a 24-26, and weighed 313.7 pounds.  In October I was down to a plus size 20 and 268.4 pounds, and now I am a size 14-16, and 206 pounds.  Definite progress, if slow and steady.  I have had an expensive month because I have had to buy a lot of new clothes to replace my old baggy suits, but I am feeling more confident and healthier than I have been in years. 

So, net net, it has been a frustrating month so far because the change to my routine has made progress a little tougher to see.  But the progress is still happening, which is great.  I just need to be more patient and accept that this is still a long term thing that I am doing here.  Every month I am still losing pounds and inches, and every month I am measurably healthier.  So I just need to stop trying to have it all, right now, and get zen about this lifestyle change.  

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Finally taking a proper rest day

For a while now several people have been telling me about the importance of taking a real rest day at least once a week.  I have been reluctant to do so up to now for purely selfish reasons - - I get to eat more food when I work out.  With my base allowed calories down to 1,480 calories per day, it's difficult to keep my numbers within allowable limits without doing at least some workout.

But comments from the Matriarch and several esteemed friends notwithstanding, there is ample research supporting the idea that taking a rest day every week is important.  The body repairs and strengthens itself in the time between workouts, and continuous training can actually make you weaker. 

Without rest days, there is also the risk of overtraining.  Signs of overtraining include a feeling of general malaise, staleness, depression, decreased sports performance and increased risk of injury, among others.  Since I already have a predisposition to depression it's important not to exacerbate this by pushing myself without a break. 

Not only that, overtraining can lead to a weight loss plateau, which ironically, is exactly the thing that all this working out is designed to avoid. 

To accommodate my newly incorporated rest day into my routine, I have changed up my workouts.  For now, I will do free weights (8 lbs x 4 sets of 15 reps) + 70 minutes of elliptical (crossramp 8, tension 6-7) on Monday and Wednesday.  Tuesday and Thursday I will do 75 minutes of elliptical.  Saturday will be the long workout day, when I do 90 minutes on the elliptical.  Sunday will be my new rest day, when I do sleeping in, snuggling and napping. 

The reason I have moved the rest day to Sunday is that the Nerd and I are usually entertaining or visiting with friends on Saturdays, and it's simply too difficult to dine out and keep under 1,480 calories. 

This morning was the first official rest day, and the Nerd and I slept in to 9 am this morning - - no getting up at 4 am to fit in 3 hours of workouts between us before rushing out the door.  We had a nice lazy lie-in before a relaxed breakfast of eggs and avocado on toast. I suspect it will take a while for me to see a difference from this new program, but for now, I am feeling very relaxed, which I suppose is the whole point.