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: , ,

Semper Fi

June 11th, 2011 Comments off

Tomorrow I’m running in my first 10k.  In the past year I’ve slowly gotten back into running, and this race is one I’m looking forward to running.  I injured my knee last week, and so I’m hobbled a bit, but I’m still planning to go run, and do the best I can.  The race I’m running is called the Wounded Warrior 10k.  From the facebook page for the event:

The event will honor our men and women of the military and help raise money for the Semper Fi Fund, which provides assistance to Marines and Sailors injured in post 9-11 combat, and ReserveAid, which gives financial support to Reserve Service Members from all branches of the military.

So why am I up and unable to sleep at 5am the morning before the race?  Who knows… but here’s what’s going through my mind.  Memories of the Marines and sailors that have impacted my life for the positive.

My grandfather, Stan Stueve, served in the Marines during World War II.  I don’t recall him telling many stories of his time in the Marines, but I do remember how he proudly he displayed his Marine Corps memorabilia.  When I was in high school, my grandfather was State Commander for the American Legion in Oregon the year I went to Boys State.  After I graduated from college, and was commissioned as an Ensign in the United States Navy he bought me my Naval sword.  When he passed in 1990, I was honored to take possession of is M1 Garand rifle.  My grandfather taught me to respect the flag, and honor the service of the people in our armed forces.  So I’ll be thinking of him while I run.

When I went to college, I joined the Oregon State University Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps.  As a freshman, I signed up for the Naval Drill Team, and was adopted by that band of brothers.  From men ahead of me, like John Carlstrom, Matt Biondi, Bill Becker, and Charlie Burk I learned about discipline and integrity.  From my peers that went on to serve in the Marines and Navy, like Rick McCormick, Rick Chambers, Rick Thompson, Dave Heino, Dave Magedman, and Tom Himstreet I learned the meaning of brotherhood and teamwork.  I’ll run with the many pleasant memories of all the Drill Team shenanigans.

After I was commissioned in the Navy in 1990, my best friend from high school was commissioned in the Marines.  Leonard Troxel is my brother from another mother, and I’m proud to call this fine man my friend.  While in college, I also formed life-long friendships with others like Steve Beals and Chris Evans.  I’ll be remembering their friendship as I run.

On my first ship, the USS Rushmore (LSD-47) I took part in Operation Restore Hope alongside the Marines of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.  These black-booted Marines secured the port of Mogadishu to provide a secure environment for peace keeping operations in Somalia.  I’ll be thinking of their service and bravery as I jog along.

I left the service in 1999, a few years before the towers fell and the world changed.  I don’t know personally many Marines and Sailors that have fought in the battles and expeditions in our current struggles.  I honor their service and sacrifices they made in protecting our country.  The Marines I have had the privilege to know live up to the saying, “No better friend, no worse enemy.”

So as I run, I’ll run thankful for the service of the men I call brothers, and for the countless others that serve with pride and dignity, and for all of their sacrifices.

If you’d like to ‘tune in’ and watch my run, you can see it live on RunKeeper Sunday morning starting about 0715 hours CDT.

Categories: Life 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?

Categories: Life, Losing It Tags:

Hitting the Wall (from the “This popped up in my Inbox” series)

May 13th, 2011 Comments off

Got this in my inbox from a friend.  Been thinking about it all day, so I thought I’d share.image

Hitting the Wall

Serious runners, especially long distance ones, talk about "hitting the wall." It’s apparently something that defies easy description and is different for different people. It’s variously described as that point when "an elephant jumps on your shoulders for a ride" or "your legs feel made of lead – if you can feel them at all." It happens usually around mile 20 or so according to most running websites.

Our son-in-law Chris, who recently ran his first full marathon, said around mile 23 he encountered his nemesis:  "an angry, anthropomorphic Wall with fists." Hitting the Wall is an experience of total energy depletion, of mental fuzziness and self-doubt, perhaps even defeat.

Chris said he had to slow to a walk and then eventually stop. A fellow marathoner paused to check on him and offer help. After a bit he started walking again and soon came up on his merry band of supporters, including his wife (our daughter) EA.

As they walked together up a steep hill, Chris confessed he was discouraged and disappointed he wouldn’t finish the race in his target time. EA answered, "No, but you can finish 15 minutes later than that." Her belief in him got Chris running again, and indeed, he did finish within 15 minutes of his initial goal.

Marathon runners aren’t the only ones who hit the Wall. At one time or another it flattens most of us who run the road of recovery. Maybe it’s a relapse, a consequence, a disappointment or just plain old exhaustion, The Wall crushes you. Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually you’re spent.

So what do you do? How do you get past the Wall? You do what this new marathoner did: You surrender, stop and get your breath, assess your need for help, find support, and start running again. You set a new goal and keep on going.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:9

Marnie Ferree

Somedays (okay … some weeks/months/years) are just like hitting the wall.  But we get to start again, fresh with each new day.  One day at a time, one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace.

(the picture wasn’t in the email, but I wanted someplace of me looking like I was really having a good time… running)

Categories: Life Tags:

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…

Categories: Life, Losing It Tags:

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).


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.

Categories: Life, Losing It Tags:

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!

Categories: Life, Losing It Tags:

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

Categories: Life, Losing It Tags:

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.

Categories: Life, Losing It Tags:

Fine tuning…

February 1st, 2011 Comments off

imageCelebrated the one-third mark of my journey this past weekend.  I’ve lost 50 pounds, or roughly a small 2nd grader.  This past week was one of my best weeks on LoseIt! as far as consistency, with the month of January matching my best loss in a month, ten pounds.  The last time I lost 10 pounds in a month was my last month on Weight Watchers. 

In July I started using LoseIt! as my food journal, and continued to log my meals and stay under calories.  The biggest difference between WW and LoseIt! tactically is what Weight Watchers calls Weekly Points.  These are points above your daily point target that can be used as you see fit, use them on a splurge day, add a bit each day, or don’t use them at all and speed up your weight loss.  I tried to keep a weekly points balance most of the time which really helped me lose 25 pounds in the first 3 months on this journey.

With LoseIt! you have a daily budget of calories, not points, and there isn’t really a concept of a weekly buffer as far as extra calories you can consume, unless you exercise, then eat your activity calories.  This was a question that played on my mind through the summer and fall, how to handle the lack of the weekly points, and what to do with my activity calories.  Frankly I was busy with work and travel, and I was happy to just keep logging and get in my exercise goals.

When October came, I really wanted to figure out how to fine tune LoseIt! to allow me to meet my stated goals of losing 2 pounds per week.  You can see in my graph the imageslowing down that was frustrating me, I was thinking it was just a plateau, and tried just giving it time, I decided to really analyze what was working, and what wasn’t.  I started weighing in daily to get more data about how my weight fluctuates.  I started noticing a correlation between some up days and my caloric intake when I ate my activity calories my weight loss stalled.  In December I tried to not eat my exercise calories and had a really great first half of the month.  Mid-month I met my first goal of losing 42 pounds, and my first weigh-in under 300.  That was a relief, because I thought that goal was in reach but it always seemed to move, first by Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then by Christmas. 

I started planning the next phase of my journey, knowing that reachable goals would be easier than seeing a big 100 pounds on the graph, so I made a series of small goals that I’d set after I achieved the next goal.  The first was 4, then 8, then 15, 16, 23, 42.  Also known as the LOST numbers which added a bit of fun to the goal setting chore.  So far, I’ve met the 4 pounds and almost to the eight pound goal. 

The next adjustment I made was to reduce my daily calories in LoseIt! by 200 calories per day.  The reason I chose that number is because that is about what a light workout on the Wii or a circuit training at the gym would burn.  This limits my calories a little bit, but allows me to eat back some exercise calories for days that I have a long run, and still hit my goal of losing 2lb/day.  I’m only about 10 days into that experiment and had a really good week, so I’ll keep tracking and see how that works out long term.

With LoseIt! I enjoy there is enough data in the system that I can make an informed decision about what I want to do.  I’d recommend that people talk with their doctor if they have questions about how much they should eat. 

What tweaks have you made to your system to help you reach your goals?

Categories: /dev/null Tags: