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Oh July! Starting the Half-Mary Training…

August 1st, 2011 1 comment

image I ended last month’s post with a list of things to come for July. I ended up accomplishing most of the items, the one I missed was not joining in with the Do Life tour. Too darn hot to run a 5k in the evening! Ben finished his tour and celebrated with a full ironman that he finished in under 15 hours… that’s just crazy!

Aside from the week of vacation in Galveston, my diet and weight loss was consistent.  Sitting in the car for 8 hours twice in one week just isn’t as active as I’m used to, I guess.  But I did get in one 5k run along the seawall in Galveston, which fulfilled the second run of the Jeff Galloway Half-Marathon training class I started on RunKeeper.

What I like about this training class is the run-walk interval focus, that’s what I’m most comfortable with, and the 4-1 normal run intervals are just right for where I’m at fitness wise.  The longer runs are becoming a bit daunting, but increase only 1.5 miles every other week.  The alternating weeks are 800m intervals with an emphasis on meeting a goal 2:20 half-marathon.  That time is unreachable for me, so I have to be careful that I find a goal pace that stretches me a bit, but won’t lead to injury.  I’ll just take it week by week.

Running the longer distances (which brings with it longer times out on the pavement), has made something apparent in my weight-loss measurements. Here… I’ll show you a chart!!

image

The blue lines are my run distances, with the first 5 mile run on July 9th and lasted 71 minutes.  The next two runs of 6 miles (July 16 – 99 minutes) and 8 miles (July 30 – 117 minutes) are associated with a large apparent weight gain.  A note on my weights: With the heat of this summer, I’ve been getting up and running before breakfast, and weighing in after my run, so my weigh-ins on run days are in a dehydrated and depleted state.  That said, the longer runs (>90 minutes) seem to have a lot more of recovery time to get back to a normal weight than my normal 45 minute runs.  I’m going to be watching this as my distances increase to see if my body gets better at recovering, and also be more careful about what I eat as I recover.

What is good about that chart is that in the last two weeks of the month I pretty much weighed in less that 280 (which was at the point where my loss stalled in May).  So I think I’m back on a good sustainable downward slope.  I’ve adjusted my calories to be at the pound and a half loss per week, and I’m eating back my exercise calories and staying above my LoseIt! Computed BMR.

For the month of August, my goals are to be consistent with my weekly runs, and seeing how a hard interval run can do with my pace.  The longer runs are daunting, 9.5 and 11 coming up in August, and then 11, 13 and 15 in September.  It’s a little scary, but at the same time a bit of a confidence booster to face my fears and accomplish the goals, a little bit at a time.

Quote of the Month: Comes from Shawshank Redemption (Thanks AMC for the re-airing and the pop-up video thingies!)

Red narrating:

… That’s all it takes really, pressure, and time. …

That’s in the middle of a really long narration where Red is describing Andy’s escape from Shawshank prison.  The end of that phrase discusses how Andy crawled to freedom through a sewer pipe for 500 yards, or about 5 football fields.  That is also a help at the end of a run, to remember that running, largely, smells better than crawling through a sewer pipe.

Have a great August!

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Well … that is one explanation.

July 1st, 2011 Comments off

If you’ve caught up on my last two blog posts you’ll know that I had a challenging May, and switched things up in June to help push my weight numbers back in the right direction.  May was such an up and down month, that when I went to put the tape to my body for measurements I was discouraged and didn’t record them. It just wasn’t very encouraging to watch the numbers rise and erase what I thought was good progress.

The end of May, I went up in how many calories I was eating to “maintenance” (or what I should eat to stay at my current weight) then in June I started a more modest calorie reduction that was aimed at staying above my BMR while consuming at least some of the exercise calories that I’d burned.

image The result was a steady downward trend in weight, right in line with my target goal of a pound per week.  This was while eating about 300-500 calories more than what I usually was eating prior to switching things up after my dismal May.

My exercise totals were about the same as normal for the month of June, thanks to starting to bike commute to work periodically, and continue to train for longer running distances.  I don’t do a lot of strength training, except to help promote knee strength to support my running, and that is mostly just body weight training.

So at the end of June (last night), I braved the tape and took my measurements again.  I had resolved to take what the numbers told me, and just like June was a re-start month, this would be a new re-start.  So after taking all the measurements, in total I didn’t lose any inches since April.  That, however is not the whole story.  It’s where I lost inches and where I gain inches that give a different story.  Waist and chest measurements went down an inch each.  Calf and thigh gained an inch and collectively, and my hips gained an inch all by themselves.  My total weight was down by a pound since April (3.5 since the end of May).

Those numbers are entering arguments for the Military Body Fat Percentage calculation that I keep after each measurement.  End of April I was at 31.1% body fat (BF%), which when applied to my total weight gave me a Mean Body Mass (LBM) of 193.9 pounds. [NOTE: Lean Body Mass /= muscle, just non-fat body parts, including bones, water, undigested food, etc…] After June, the calculation gave me a BF% or 29.7% which leads to a LBM of 196.7 pounds. Or a gain of almost three pounds of LBM.

This is good news, because at least some of that 3 pounds is in muscle, which is the fat burning machine we all have that needs fuel while we are at rest, and is burning calories all day long.  I think I can contribute the gain in LBM to eating and fueling my body more consistently (though I do admit not every single calorie I eat is the best type of food) so my body can repair and generate what it needs to support my activity level.  So YAY!

Now on to the weird stuff.  I’ve realized that losing an additional 108 pounds after my initial 42 pound loss is just not going to happen.  I really think it’s best to not lose significant LBM during a prolonged diet, and for me to reach a sub-200 pound weight goal (and what the silly BMI calculators say I should weigh for my height) I’d have to scavenge from my LBM to get there, or be at such a ridiculously low body fat percentage that is unattainable.  So I have to modify my goals, and frankly … mentally that sucks.  Intellectually, I get it, I’m on board.  Emotionally, I’m a bit bummed.  I know I shouldn’t because the  108 was just a number that I pulled out of a rather obsessive LOST addiction, but it does. 

At any rate, I’m processing that.  A good goal is still 108 in total, which puts my goal weight at around 234, which would put me in the middle of a healthy BF% range of 11-22%.  BMI will still tell me I’m slightly obese to largely overweight.  But I’ve chosen to not believe in BMI, therefore it doesn’t exist. 😀

Some things coming up in July:

Categories: Life, Losing It Tags: , , ,

Smart Dieting – how to not sabotage your goals.

June 23rd, 2011 Comments off

I’m not saying that I have everything figured out, a good review of my blog posts on the matter should prove that fairly well. 😀

But I had a light-bulb moment this week, and when I shared it on the Lose-It! forums and on my friends feed it got a lot of comments and questions.  So I think it’s probably worth reciting on the ol’ blog too.

Besides the wonderful LoseIt! forums, there is another website I’ve been visiting and listening to that advocates a smart form of dieting.  It’s Fat2Fit Radio which has a weekly podcast that discusses the progress of one of the hosts, entertains letters from their fans, and dissects a ‘weight-loss’ fad just about each and every week.  Their philosophy is a bit upside down from LoseIt!, so it was initially a bit confusing trying to reconcile the two worlds.  My light-blub moment prompted me to make the following YouTube video (live with my voice!)

 

If you can’t sit through a boring 3 minute lecture, let me sum up.  Fat2Fit asks you what you current weight is and what your weight-loss goal is, and then give your a page with your current BMR, and a table of calories of what you should be eating at your goal weight for a variety of activities.  Fat2Fit’s philosophy is to eat today like you are at your current weight, and by doing that you end up eating like your a thin person for your weight-loss duration, and you just keep eating that way “for the rest of your life”.

LoseIt’s philosophy is to find your current BMR, apply a standard activity level and deduct your weight-loss plan from that to get your daily calorie goal.  So as you lose weight your calorie goal decreases and you slowly adapt to eating less and less.  When you reach your goal weight, you move to Maintenance mode and that includes a jump in calories that can be quite large.  The other issue is LoseIt!’s formula is just an arithmetic problem, and doesn’t account for the possibility that you might be eating below what is healthy for your body.

What I’ve done (and many other people that come to LoseIt!! as well) is start up with the maximum amount of weight to lose, and just keep it there.  Progress is usually good at the beginning then begins to slow down.  After a while weight-loss stalls and people get frustrated.  My theory is that many people (not ALL) have driven the equation below their BMR and are in the middle of starvation mode.  The quick fix is paradoxically, to eat more.  The problem is LoseIt! has no tools to help you determine this on your own, so the forums are filled with the same frustrating question: “Why am I stalled??!?!” and the answer usually is “Eat more!” and the response is usually… WHAT?!?!? you’ve got to be KIDDING ME?! I’m trying to lose weight!

So we need a tool to help us understand what might be happening with this “starvation mode” or more properly eating below your BMR for an extended period of time. This is where Fat2Fit’s information is helpful, but also confusing because they have a different philosophy to how to eat than LoseIt!

The number we want to keep an eye on is our BMR (another issue is that they both use a slightly different formula to compute BMR so the numbers don’t match exactly).  We want to eat above our BMR and below our Activity Level adjustment.  The confusion is that LoseIt! doesn’t display our current BMR, and that Fat2Fit’s calorie recommendations aren’t associated with our current BMR, but with our goal BMR.

So, lets get into the math.

Here’s my current LoseIt! goals:

Weight: 282
Weekly Plan: 1 lb/week
Calorie Goal: 2734 calories

To get my BMR I need to add back my weekly plan goals, and reverse LoseIt!’s Activity Level Adjustment.

2734 + 500 = 3234 / 1.45 = 2230 calories per day.

So my calorie goal is good, I’m above my BMR and below my Activity level of 3234.  So I should lose about 1/lb week if I hit those numbers.

If we look at Fat2Fit, we get a slightly different number (because they use a different mathematical formula to calculate BMR.  We plug in our numbers and they give us the following:

BMR: 2464 (see it’s a bit higher)

But then they give us a table with the following:

Activity Level Daily Calories
Sedentary 2591
Lightly Active 2969
Moderately Active 3346
Very Active 3724
Extremely Active 4102

First time I read that, and I was just as confused as anyone, because I didn’t read the fine print.

Based on how much activity you do on an average day, the calories in the right column will be the number of calories that you will be able to eat at your goal weight. If you start eating those calories right now (eating like the thinner you), you will eventually become that thinner person. As you get closer to your goal weight, your weight loss will start to slow down. It is OK to eat a few hundred calories less per day (200-300) to speed up your weight loss at this point.

So the numbers they’re giving us are a good range of numbers to eat.  But what should we make our LoseIt! calorie goal?

This is what I’ve determined. The Lightly Active Activity Level is what LoseIt! applies to everyone as a standard (and it’s fairly accurate in the tests they’ve done with volunteers).  So what I’ve decided to do is first set my Lose It! goal so that it comes close to the Lightly Active – Daily Calories goal (I’m actually under that by 200 which about the margin of error induced by the different equations).  Then I plan to eat my exercise calories (which would correct for the additional activity I add by my running training and bicycle commuting).

I’ve done this for the month of June, and my numbers end up right on goal.  So I’ll continue to track this and blog more as I continue fiddling with the controls.

May was No Bueno!

June 23rd, 2011 Comments off

Hello, blog… it’s been a while.  I’d like to start this off by saying, if the month of May 2011 decided to go away, I wouldn’t be too upset (so long as Danny gets credit for his birthday, other than that it was just rubbish…).

Lots of things were happening, work was stressful (self-inflicted procrastination wound), which made me feel depressed (perhaps another self-inflicted not-eating-enough wound) and then I didn’t handle either of those issues well which pretty much spiraled everything out of control.  What’s funny is looking back at all the data I’ve been keeping on my weight-loss it’s pretty easy to spot when things started heading south, and part of it was a problem going back a few months that I didn’t understand and didn’t realize what I was doing.

So I’ll need to digress a bit to deconstruct what was happening.  I’m writing this post-mortem so I have something to remember if I ever get back into this situation again.

So, let’s remember that dieting is basically slowly starving yourself.  The trick is to make it so that you aren’t actually starving yourself.  It’s the tricky middle, eating enough to support your normal bodily functions, but not too much that your body takes the excess and adds to your fat stores.  Add in an increase in exercise (and the requirements that come with that, repairing muscles after training, etc…) and it’s a complex multi-variable problem.

If you’ve read my blog back into last year when I moved from Weight-Watchers to LoseIt! I struggled through the summer with whether to eat back my exercise calories or not.  Finally in the fall I determined that eating them back for me wasn’t helping my losing goals, but that struck me as odd, because by the math I should be able to eat back my exercise calories and still lose weight on plan.  I couldn’t reconcile the conundrum, and instead just went with what apparently worked.  And I had good results through the majority of the fall and winter.  I had a couple of pauses, and figured it was just a periodic adjustment my body was making, and usually within a few days to a week, all was okay and normal.

Then came spring, and everything just went wacky in late April through the month of May.  I tried eating more, I tried eating less, I slacked on training, I trained harder.  Finally the end of May I just gave up and set my calories to maintenance and took a week off and ate a lot of cheeseburgers.

Then on June 1st, I went back on plan but at a slower rate.  Got into a good schedule at work, which relieved the stress I was feeling from procrastination.  I also signed up for an ran another 5k and completed my first 10k in the first couple weeks of June.  Slowly the numbers what were going wacky started falling in line, and I started losing what I had gained in May.

So which of the variables was the kicker? Stress? Not eating enough? over-training? More than likely all three.  But one thing I really wanted to get a handle on was the not-eating enough.  How much is enough?  How much is too little?  If this was part of the problem, how can I make adjustments to not make the same mistake again.

It’s a little thing called BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) or RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate).  The terms are used interchangeably in many places.  What that means is how much you can consume and keep your body working (breathing, metabolizing food, waste management, etc…) without breaking down your lean body mass as your body tries to find the raw materials to keep your engine running. If you don’t consume enough calories, the body starts to react strangely and holds onto what it has, and instead of burning just fat, it might scavenge lean muscle to get the fuel it needs to keep the lights on.  The problem is, lean muscle itself needs fuel, and it the primary engine we use to burn calories and lose weight.  So for someone on a diet to lose weight, preserving lean body mass is something we want to maximize, just to keep the calories burning.

My issue was I was playing right along that line of not eating enough to maintain my basic metabolism.  Some of the symptoms of going below that point for an extended period of time are: depression, calorie seeking (binging on sweets or cheap calories, constipation, feeling cold all the time, decreased concentration, apathy, anxiety.  Basically that sums up May of this year.  And the fix was to eat more, and when I did, I felt better and my body went back to normal.

I’ve since looked back at the numbers, and I’ve been playing on that line since I’ve tracked things carefully (November) and could probably say the little mini-plateaus I had regularly could be attributed to an extended dip below my BMR.  So I’m working on how to correct that.  Which I’ll opine about in another post.

Anyways, here is an entirely too complex chart that sums up graphically if you can interpret the hieroglyphics.

Consumed Calories v. BMR

Categories: Learning, Life, Losing It Tags: , ,

Happy National Running Day!

June 1st, 2011 Comments off

I run because I am happy… I run because I am … la la la la la laaaaa.

I don’t think a year ago that I would be celebrating National Running Day by getting up early and getting in 2.64 miles in 34 minutes. But I did. These next couple of week will be fun, as I have a 5k run on Saturday night (June 4th Firefly Run) and then the following weekend a 10k run Sunday Morning (Wounded Warrior). So the training continues, as does the diet (after a 1 week hiatus where I needed to go up to maintenance because things just weren’t working, and I was stressing about it too much.)

What I learned on maintenance, is that really bad food choices while staying at maintenance calories don’t have a horrible effect on the scale. Which is a good lesson to learn. A better lesson to learn is to make better food choices and still eat at maintenance (where the higher calorie budget made me think, “Hey, cheeseburgers are really yummy!”). Still it was good to put a week of “I don’t really care” under my belt, and still not have 20 kazillion pounds to burn back off. The last half of May was just a train wreck, so I’m looking forward to starting a new month with a new happier attitude.

But this post is about running, and to complement my running training, I invested in a road bike ($159 at Walmart – BOOYA!) and have put in a few longish rides and it feels great to be back in a saddle (though I’m a bit sore in the saddle area). I used to bike quite a bit in high school and college, and it’s true what they say about riding a bike, you just don’t forget how to do it. I’ll like it more when my belly is smaller, but for now it’s gonna work well as a recovery day exercise that will give me a good lower-intensity aerobic workout without a lot of stress on my joints.

How are YOU going to celebrate National Running Day?

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Thinking like a fit person…

May 11th, 2011 1 comment

image The past couple of weeks I haven’t been thinking like a fit person.  I had met a goal I had been training for since January of running another 5k, I’d trained three-four times a week, and greatly improved my endurance and speed drastically.  I beat my previous 5k time by four minutes.  I should have been very happy.

Truth is, it was in the middle of a stressful time at work, more stresses from home.  During the last few weeks, I didn’t find a good outlet for letting out my frustrations.  I grew increasingly isolated and withdrew into myself. I made some really bad decisions with my time, which only increased the stress I felt, along with guilt and shame.  I should have recognized the signs,  found one of my support friends and worked things out.  Instead I let pride get the better of me (again) and the end result was I regressed.  All of that has nothing to do with dieting, but part of the reason I’m on this journey is to be more fit, and fit isn’t just a physical property, but also a emotional and spiritual component as well.  So this post is the beginning (again) of me trying to think like a fit person, and recommitting myself to the practices I’ve fostered the past couple of years to become the person I want to be.

So… with that as prelude, I’m going to go back to some number crunching. 

Read more…

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Six months of daily weigh-ins

April 18th, 2011 Comments off

Six months (well 180 days) ago I started every morning stepping on the scale, and logging my weight on LoseIt! and The Hacker’s Diet Online.  Here is the result in chart form (click to enbiggen).

HackDiet-6mos

Some meaningful stats that I’ve gleaned for perspective:

  • Days where I recorded a loss: 97
  • Days where there was no gain or no loss: 15
  • Days where I recorded a gain: 68
  • Days above trend: 26
  • Total Trend Loss: 27.6 pounds
  • Total Actual Loss: 29.4

I’m going to continue to log my weight in daily, because I like the motivation I get from the daily accountability to the scale.  I’ve gained understanding that the number is just a snapshot, and going up or down in a day is meaningless without an understanding of the trends in the numbers.  I hope this post encourages other people to not be so dependant on the number on the scale.

If you’re weighing yourself weekly, I’ve done some of the math for that too, including calculating a trend for a ‘weekly weigh in’.  I somewhat cherry-picked the day, since Tuesday seems to be the most consistent down day, but I don’t think it really matters what day is chosen.  Here is the same sort of statistics using the weekly numbers:

  • Weeks where I recorded a loss: 25
  • Weeks where there was no gain or no loss: 0
  • Weeks where I recorded a gain: 16
  • Weeks above trend: 1

So even if your weighing in weekly, determining a trend can help you stay positive even on an “up” week.  The important thing in staying on track and losing weight is being consistent as possible.  Make sure you’re eating close to your calorie goal (I even upped my daily calories in the last two months).  Move more, as you’re able.  Be accountable to yourself and to other people with your goals in becoming more healthy.

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How do you measure a year in the life?

March 23rd, 2011 7 comments

 

I’ll take a stab, how about twenty six thousand and seven hundred and sixty-two grams. (fifty-nine pounds or four point two stones)

According to my logs, today marks the one year anniversary of the first weigh in of my journey to become healthier, primarily by losing weight.  My strategy has been to eat less and move more. Using mobile applications and online tools like Weight Watchers Online and LoseIt! I’ve tracked how much I’ve eaten and adjusted my intake to eat sensibly.  I’ve used iPhone applications and websites like DailyMile and RunKeeper to track my exercises, and making steady progress without major injury.  Finally using social networks like Facebook and Twitter (as well as my LoseIt! friends Holla!)I’ve used the support of many friends (both online and offline) to encourage me on this journey.  I’m not done yet, I still have around 2/3rds, but I’m proud of the steady progress and the 59 pounds I’ve lost so far.

Thank YOU! For all your encouragement and support!

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Diet Hacking and overcoming unrealistic goals

March 15th, 2011 Comments off

Since September I’ve been slowly trying to hack my diet by paying attention to the data, and making decisions going forward based on what the numbers tell me, while also understanding how I’m feeling emotionally, and towards food.

November was a month where I figured out a few things, December I made good progress until the later part of the month when I went on vacation, and the holidays, but it was still a good month.  January I got serious. 

The deal with hacking your numbers has to do with a few fairly accepted equations.  The math starts out with some variables.  I had to figure out my Basal Metabolic Rate, which is determined by understanding Physical Activity Level and multiplying that by a Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), in other words how many calories it takes to keep me at my current weight, doing the things I normally do.

There are calorie calculators on the web that do a fair job of estimating a RMR, and while they are statistical models they are accurate enough to get you in the ballpark.  This is exactly what LoseIt! does so if you want to take a shortcut, just use LoseIt

The next part of the equation is to figure out how fast I want to lose weight.  This begins with a constant: 3500 calories = 1 pound.  So to determine a plan we have to figure out how many pounds I want to lose in a week, the most ambitious plan on LoseIt! is 2 pounds per week, that equates to 7000 calories, or subtracting 1000 calories from my RMR.

That’s the theory, and that’s what I hung my hat on.  Only issue was I never consistently lost 2 pounds per week.  There is part of me that just wants to finish faster, and so it’s easy to get a little greedy, and start subtracting a little more calories a day, trying to lose a little more faster.  In January I did that, subtracting 200 more calories a day from my budget.  First week I had great success, the following weeks, I had increased hunger, increased irritability, and some cravings that just wouldn’t go away. The problem, I figured was I didn’t realize that I was only starving myself faster.  Add to that adding more exercise, longer runs, more stress, it’s not surprising that I wanted more of the easy junk that would satisfy my cravings.

So I switched back to a normal routine, and the spikey weigh-ins stopped, steady progress returned, and my hunger, grumpy, cravings went away.  Then I tried the alternative, instead of trying, in vain, to lose 2 pounds per week, why not make a more attainable goal.  I changed my goal to 1 and a half pounds per week, which gives me about 250 more calories a day.  I also started looking at where my calories came from, but that’s a different post.  The results since returning my goals to sanity.  Steady losses, no spikes in weight or cravings, and better performance in my running.  Hindsight being 20/20 says, it’s because I’m giving my body the fuel it needs rather than depriving it.

There is a chart from my Hacker’s Diet data of the last three months of my weigh-ins.  The spikey time of extreme calorie restriction is shown in the middle (and it also contained Super Bowl and Valentines Day… which while I ate junk, I didn’t exceed my reduced calorie goals.)  All in all I’m very pleased with 2011.  I’m learning more about how my body responds, and regaining the energy that slowly crept away the past 10 years.

 2011Q1 DietHack

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Zero’s don’t mean too much.

March 2nd, 2011 Comments off

Why am I’m posting a song about Zero? Because if you look at my daily weigh-in numbers, and records the starting weight on February 1st, and then the weigh-in from February 28th, that is how much weight I lost the whole entire month.

Yet, I’m counting it on one of my most successful months since I started. Why? Because I’m tracking so much more than just the scale, and all those numbers (even the apparently non-budging scale) is going in the right direction.

Some examples from February:

My energy is up, I’m doing things with my kids, my wife, and the people I love. I’m engaged and productive at work.

So why, if I’m doing everything right, does the scale say I stayed even? Because the scale LIES! It is a lying liar that lies about lying too!

Here are my daily weigh-ins for the last 4 weeks:
Dialy Weigh-Ins for February
The purple circles are the beginning and end of the month, and they both are 290. What happened? Superbowl party, Stressful week at work, Valentine’s Day. That week was rough, and I tried doing it with less calories than my allotted budget. In other words, I got greedy.

I changed my calorie goal the last week of January to subtract another 250 calories a day from my budget. I was thinking that’s what I’m usually under, so why not make that match. First week, great success, the next few were a struggle very spikey ups and downs, and my hunger was much more evident. I readjusted to what LoseIt! calculated on February 15th and I think the results speak for themselves.

On February 25th, I met my intermediate goal of losing 8 pounds, and set a new goal of losing 15 more pounds. But I’ve adjusted my plan, instead of trying to lose 2 pounds a week, I’ve adjusted that up to 1.5 pounds per week. I’m gonna let that ride until I’ve met the 15 pound goal, and then see what to change for the next goal after that (16, then 23, then 42 then i’ll be at goal weight).

Don’t let that Zero mean so much to you, count all the other things you are doing right in your journey, and pay it forward.

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