Year in Review (Pt II)
Friday, August 21, 2009
Finding out I weighed 164 lbs (~74 kilos for you metric folks...or 11 stone 10 pounds for you old Commonwealth types) was my "spark." I probably would have freaked back in September had I seen that I weighed close to or over 170. 164 was a stunner, but it was psychologically manageable. I had some work to do, and I decided then that my first goal was to shoot for my "fat" weight of 155, which was only 9 pounds away and didn't seem too daunting.
The WiiFit became my tracking tool, and yes I got into the games and exercises too, but they weren't my primary exercise outlet. I intensified my workouts and the frequency of my gym visits and started to track my progress. I added the elliptical trainer and walking on the treadmill. I also explored some of the fixed weight machines, baselining my weights. I still took a haphazard, "starvation" approach to my diet, but the main thing was that I basically doubled my exercise routine and kept track of my minutes, trying to create variety in what I was doing.
I also learned how my weight would fluctuate from day to day and even during the day. It became a game for me to try to record the lowest weight of the day on the WiiFit and try to make that trend line go down. It took awhile, but I got used to the feel that fat loss is slow and often masked by other daily influences on weight, and I learned patience. Yes, I wanted the numbers to come down and it was a primary fixation, but I also wanted to see myself improving in the gym each time out, going longer, or farther, or with greater resistance than the last time.
January was a fun month because I did see results. I finally was feeling alive and active again, and each session brought new gains and successes. It became a self-competition as I tried to best my performances. By the end of January, despite not really eating correctly (though I wasn't thinking in those terms at the time), I had dropped to 160 on the scale.
I kept at it in February, but added a food journal. I just started keeping track of what I ate in a composition notebook, and started a daily ritual of looking up the calories, fat, protein and fiber, adding them up and calculating the percentages (extrapolating carbs). Doing that led me to quickly set benchmarks about how many calories I should be eating for fat loss, and how I should be distributing them for balanced nutrition. I also started tracking water intake and food/vegetable servings. It became a bit of an obsession, and I didn't mind the manual evening ritual of calculating my day's diet. Not too long afterwards, I started to track estimated calories burned through exercise and began predicting, with each 3500 calorie deficit, what my weight ought to be. And, like magic, the weight trend very nearly followed the prediction.
The corporate gym membership included a complimentary "Body Age Assessment" with a trainer that I'd avoided doing for those first four months. By February, though, I was not feeling so self-conscious anymore since I'd already improved on things that I knew had been bad: flexibility, strength, body fat composition and heart health. My results were mixed: my VO2 max was good but my strength and flexibility were kind of lame. I weighed in at 158 with a caliper body fat analysis of about 23% if I remember right. Again, my ego took a hit just as I was feeling excited about the weight loss and improved fitness, but it just spurred me to remember I had a ways to go and not let up. I was on a roll now.
I hit my goal of 155 right at the end of February. I'd lost 9 pounds in about 9 weeks: a very good weight loss pace. And the WiiFit program was finally telling me that I wasn't overweight anymore. I was also fitting comfortably into 32" trousers and all my 34" clothes were getting baggy and ill-fitting. I wasn't done yet, though, and I reset my goal for 145 lbs. and continued strength and cardio improvements.
I discovered the spin class at the gym and also added swimming to the weekly routine. I was now working out basically 5 days a week during the work week, and resting on the weekends. It had become a daily habit, and I looked forward to the gym now. Contrast that to 6 months earlier when working out was an afterthought and often forgotten. Now I was anticipating my gym visit, and I'd settled into a bit of a routine:
Monday - row + weights
Tuesday - spin
Wednesday - elliptical + weights
Thursday - swim
Friday - treadmill jog + weights
Combined with a very disciplined but now balanced diet, my weight continued to drop and my waistline grew slimmer. I distinctly remember the first time I looked in a mirror and saw a difference. It was in March while on a business trip, I went to the bathroom mirror to shave, and standing there in my boxers, with the light from above casting complimentary shadows, I saw a body I hadn't seen in 15 years. I wasn't a stud suddenly, but I was starting to see some definition. When I got home, I had my wife snap a picture so that I could compare against future improvements. I had specifically avoided taking that kind of "before" picture previously, and so have no visual evidence of what I looked like at 164+. I wanted to see the improvements now, now that I was seeing a me that I liked.
The funny thing is, when she took the picture, I didn't like the result. The lighting or something just wasn't the same as it had been in that hotel mirror, and it wasn't inspiring. But instead of hiding it, I saved it, knowing that I was on the road to improvement.