Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Do Low Carb Diets Work?

As I mentioned previously, my topic of study at med school last week was diet and obesity. I thought I would quickly post up the results of a study carried out on the efficacy of different diets, as its quite interesting to anyone on a low carb diet.

Basically, in the graph below we see the results from two diets, both limited to 800 calories a day, and both lasting for 10 days. One was a 'balanced' diet, with a mix of carbs, proteins and fats, and the other was very low carb. Here are the results after 10 days (click to enlarge):

 To break it down quickly, if you look at the GREEN column, you can see that the low carb diet caused nearly twice the weight loss of the mixed diet. This is why they are so popular - you see good results fast. But if you look at the YELLOW column, you'll see that both diets led to exactly the same loss of fat. So where did the extra weight loss come from on the low carb diet?

A glance at the BLUE column will show you that nearly all the extra weight lost was just water, which can very quickly go back on when you start eating a balanced diet again. This means that people who start low carb diets often see their losses go right back on when they reintroduce carbs. Perhaps more worryingly, the RED column shows that more protein was lost in the low carb diet - and that is pretty much all coming from your muscles.
So there you have it - you DO lose fat on the low carb diet, but not any more than you would on a regular diet. You do, however, see weight drop off quickly, albeit with a lot of water and some muscle loss.

For myself, I've still restricted the amount of carbs I eat, as they are what I would always binge on in the past, and protein does make me feel fuller for longer. But I'm careful to get some fruit and veg in there, or to occasionally make a sandwich or something else with some carbs in, just to try and preserve as much muscle as I can (and prevent skewed results from water loss). I see building muscle as the second stage of the Idle To Idol project, after the loss of body fat, and don't want to burn up too much of what I already have!


Monday, March 28, 2011

Week 5 - RESULTS

The results are in!

STARTING WEIGHT:   276.6 lbs

ENDING WEIGHT:  274.4 lbs

WEIGHT LOSS:  2.2 lbs

At first I half-wished that I had lost more, since I'd done a few work-outs and runs this week. But then I decided to look only at the positives, and this week there are a few of them!

- My BMI is now <35! That means I'm no longer in the 'Severely Obese' bracket, but I'm just your good-old, run of the mill 'Obese'! And if you read the paper, EVERYONE is obese these days, so hurrah! Seriously though, this was a little mini-target I was very pleased to reach. Never thought I'd be so pleased to be obese! Can't wait until I'm 'Overweight'!

- I've lost more than 1.5 stone. Although I weigh in pounds, because they're the smallest unit and therefore easier to see changes in, I always convert it to stone in my head. 1.5 stone was 21 lbs, so I've now lost more than that. Again, hurrah!

- Fifth consecutive week of weight loss. That's got to be worth at least a hooray, right?

- Maintaining my required weight loss. To reach my target weight by my target date, I had to lose 3.1 lbs every week. Although I didn't achieve that this week, I did better than that last week, so they average out at just a little over my target. Very pleased with that, as I would prefer a slow, steady weight loss to a sudden, unsustainable drop. Got to shake the expectation of shifting 6-7-8 lbs every week (like in the first fortnight), and be pleased with my pounds!

So, without further ado, here is my usual total tally, followed by this week's progress snaps.

22.7 lbs 

 274.4 lbs

274.4 lbs

(Incidentally, if anyone wonders about my strange arm position in the above pic, its because my webcam is very low tech, and I still need to press the button to make it take a picture. Because I'm stood too far away from the laptop to reach it, every week I am wielding an umbrella! Diligently cropped out, of course...)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Week 5 So Far...

After what I consider a pretty darn successful first month, I know I am now entering a difficult phase of my weight loss.

Not only has my weekly loss by (more or less) dieting alone started to level out, but I'm also coming to a particularly busy time in my degree, with exams looming very close on the horizon. That means lots of time sat sedentary in my room, and perhaps eating more than I have been.

So, I need to make some ground rules early on.

1) Keep watching what you eat. Don't let the fact that I'm constantly at home and probably quite bored lead to comfort eating!

2) Make a conscious effort to exercise. So far this week I have only worked out once, and haven't been for a run at all. There's still a few days before my Monday weigh, and I plan to do two runs and two more work-outs in that time, but now especially I need to make regular exercise part of my routine.

3) Don't let it interfere with my revision! This blog has become really quite addictive, so I have to make sure I concentrate on the exams coming up, and don't just spend all my time online!

It's not all doom and gloom though. I am down a little already this week, and as I have said, plan to do some more exercising over the weekend, so I should be able to record my fifth consecutive loss on Monday. I think I just need to start coming to terms with the fact that the long slog is beginning - I probably won't be shedding 7-8 lbs a week any more between now and my target date. I need to start appreciating the minus symbol every week, and not the number that follows it! Must keep motivated must keep motivated must keep motivated...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How To Track Your Weight Loss

First of all, a big thank you for all the support after I posted my first month's results. It not only makes me feel good about the changes I've made so far, but keeps me motivated to make another big loss before next month's report, so thanks!

As with all the 'advice' I post, I can only speak from experience, and tell you what has worked for me. Below is the system I use to track my own weight loss, and if you think a similar system could work for you, then by all means, read on!

Here is a picture of the spreadsheet I use to chart my journey. Click on it for a bigger view!

The first column is just the date, and it really helped me to have a definite date by which I wanted to achieve my weight loss. It gives you goals, and a timescale, and helps you visualise yourself at the end of your journey - I can look at the chart and say "by my brother's wedding, I'll have lost 87lbs", rather than just "I will lose 87lbs eventually". If you're having trouble picking a suitable date, simply work out how much you want to lose in pounds, half it, and look that many weeks ahead on a calendar. This gives you a manageable 2lb loss a week until you're target weight is achieved, and if there are any holidays, birthdays, anniversaries etc within say 4 weeks of that date, use that as your target - even if you're off by a couple of pounds, you'll have seen such an improvement by then that you probably won't mind!

The second column is my target weight. I knew I wanted to lose 100lbs, and had 228 days before the date I set. That gave me how much weight I had to drop a day, so simply subtracting that amount every day and entering it into this column told me what the scales needed to show if I was to be on track. It gives you a sense of the progress you'll need to make, and can be used as a target to aim for.

Column C is my actual weight, which I check every day. I know I have to expect some fluctuations up and down, but recording every day, and making that weigh-in part of my normal routine, keeps my intention in the front of my mind. The first thing I do every morning is weigh, so the first thing I think about every day is eating well and exercising. Helps to keep me focussed!

Column D is simply how many pounds above or below my target weight I am. It changes a lot day in day out, as obviously weight fluctuates, but it gives some perspective to how well you're doing vs. how well you need to do, so you know if you have to up your exercise, or if you can afford to rest for a bit. It also helps, after having a couple of days gaining weight, to see that you are nonetheless still on track, and can afford to have a few blips without being thrown completely off the rails!

Column E is my daily loss or gain. I use this to micro-manage - if perhaps I overeat on a Tuesday, I can see how that caused me to gain weight on the Wednesday (or conversely, how going for a run on Thursday helped me drop weight on the Friday etc). It is prone to the occasional fluctuation, but on the whole it helps me see the consequences of my actions, both the good ones and the bad!

Column F I only fill in on Monday, to record my total loss over the previous 7 days. This is the figure I report on this blog every week! Its a handy at-a-glance way of seeing how you've done over the last couple of weeks.

Column G is my notes column, and this one I see as very important. Using my target weights in Column B as a guide, I write in here at every weight I will have dropped a BMI number, every time I will have passed another half-stone hurdle, or any weigh-ins I remember from the past. These are my mini-targets. For example, in the image above, you can see that when I passed the 294lbs mark, I was no longer 20+ stone, but now 19 something, and if I just dropped 2.6 more pounds, I would have a BMI below 37. These frequent mini-targets are much easier to aim for than a dreaded "100 lbs" figure, and you get a regular burst of satisfaction when you pass one.

Finally, I have my total weight loss to date automatically updating after every weigh, and I have it in a large font right at the top, so even if I'm coming in to log a gain, I can see how far I've already come, and it spurs me on. I've also put a little converter on there too, so I can plug in my weight in lbs every morning, and see how that translates into kgs, stone, or BMI.

So there you have it! It has worked wonders for me, and I often check it several times a day, just to look at how much I have already achieved, how far until my next mini-target, or to mess around with graphs or averages or what not. If you think this kind of system would work for you, then I strongly recommend it, as it has so far worked wonders for me.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Week 4 - RESULTS

After being concerned that my family weekend might make a dent in my weight loss, lets see how I did!

STARTING WEIGHT:   280.9 lbs

ENDING WEIGHT:  276.6 lbs

WEIGHT LOSS:  4.3 lbs

Definitely back on track! I don't think I lost anything over the weekend, what with larger family meals and alcohol, but by going for healthy options, avoiding pudding and not finishing everything on my plate just because it was on my plate, I managed to prevent any gain.

But even if there had been a gain I might have been ok with it, because my behaviour this week has been great. I mean - I WENT FOR A RUN! I knew at some point I was going to start exercising again, but had set a target weight at which to begin that is still 15lbs or so away. But I decided to go out Friday morning, sort of in anticipation of the weekend ahead, and I'm so glad I did.

I used to do quite a lot of running, you see. When I first started out I could only cover a mile, and that was with a break half-way around. Afterwards I would be so sore that I couldn't go again for about a week. But I kept it up, and after a few months I was running four miles a session, and would sometimes go out every night of the week. That's probably not advisable I know, as downtime is necessary too, but I think it was the thrill of actually being out exercising. Me, exercising! It was like a drug, and I had to have another fix.

I started out small, and only planned a route of two miles for Friday morning. I got round ok, and felt a little echo of that same thrill, which I'm delighted with. I could probably go further, but I don't want to push it too hard to soon. I'll stick with the two mile route until the habit is established, and then I'll start thinking of upping my mileage.

So pleased!

As usual, here is my overall tally.

20.5 lbs

As this is my fourth week, I'm going to take this as my first month of weight loss. As such, my progress photos below are preceeded by the photos I took at the very start of my program, so you can see the difference that one month has made. I'm especially proud of the second set, as I think you can see a real difference there. Can't wait to see next month's!

297.1 lbs  -  276.6 lbs

297.1 lbs  -  276.6 lbs

Click on the pictures above for bigger versions!

Friend Making Monday!

Before I chime in with my results for week 4, I'm taking a moment to answer some questions that were posed over at All The Weigh as part of Friend Making Monday!

FMM: Giving the Boys A Chance

1. Who is your pick for the Final Four? 
Oh dear, my first hurdle! I'm from the UK, so had to turn to Google to even find out what the Final Four meant! I never really used to watch sport at all (not even UK ones), but that has been changing recently, and I can't even begin to explain why. Perhaps its part of me focussing more on fitness and exercise, who knows! I watched the SuperBowl when that one a few months ago, and that was the first time I'd actually watched any US sports.
But, as the question needs an answer...are there teams from the West Coast of the US? I've only visited once, and only saw California, Oregon and Washington, so anyone from there gets my vote!

2. What is your favorite workout/fitness activity? 
Even though I can't/don't do it at the moment, rowing would have to be my answer. My step-dad used to have a rowing machine when I lived at home, and I would spend 45 minutes on there, singing along to a CD, loving every minute of it. Whenever I can afford a gym membership or move into a larger place, maybe I'll take it up again!

3. Do you have a favorite healthy snack? Something that REALLY hits the
I'm not snacking at the moment, or trying not to at least! I guess the closest I have to healthy snack would be these small sugar-free jellies I found in a local supermarket. They're not healthy per se, but they don't pack any calories and they taste sweet, so I use them to trick my brain into thinking I've had a naughty treat!

4. What is your dream car? 
I've never been a car fanatic, and as I live in London on a student budget I don't need and can't afford one right now anyway! But if money were no'd have to be a Bentley. A lovely old-fashioned one. Or maybe an Aston Martin!

5. Have you set any goals for yourself this month? What are they? 
If I'm to stay on track for my target weight by my target date, I need to try and lose about 12lbs a month, so I guess that's my general target. But I went for my first run on Friday, and I'm kind of itching for another one, so perhaps something running related - lets say to run at least twice a week for the next month (keeping it realistic), and to try and up my distance to three miles a session by the end!
So there we go! Week 4 results coming very soon...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Week 4 So Far...

I can't believe I'm already into my fourth week. I'm really pleased, and I think keeping daily tabs on my progress (not least through this blog) is really helping to keep me motivated and makes sure I stay on track.

After my struggle to maintain a downward curve last week, the weight seems to be shifting again, and that's a good sign. I'm still weighing every day, and I think that has helped me come to terms with the occasional fluctuations up and down that before might have made me give up.

I don't know if I have mentioned it on this blog yet, but I'm a medical student, and the scenario of study this week is diet and obesity. It is proving to be quite interesting and informative, and actually has come at a really useful time for me, after the initial rapid weight loss of the first few weeks, when I'm starting to look carefully at the best balance of exercise and nutrition. I'll post a few tidbits from my lectures in some upcoming posts - give you the medical side of things rather than just what the diet gurus want you to believe!

And speaking of exercise, I have started up in a small way again. I've never done any kind of weight training, and can't really afford a gym membership on a student loan, so I've started doing some basic exercises in my room (with some free weights and a power bow - that's about all I have space for too!). It's effect has been mainly mental so far, and I'm pleased to say that I actually enjoy rather than dread it!

I won't be posting for a few days, as I have a family gathering this weekend. In the past this has been an excuse for me to binge, so I'm going to be very careful this time. There will be plenty of food and alcohol around, but I'm determined to stay on track, even if it does draw some awkward questions (I'm still a bit too embarrassed to admit to them I'm trying to lose weight - I'm hoping someone will spontaneously notice but we'll see!).

And that draws me the main reason for this post. As I head off on Friday evening, I have decided to go for a run on Friday morning. Well, I say 'decided' - the idea came, and I started trying to come up with reasons why it was wasn't practical. So I have posted it here, to make sure that someone else knows I'm doing it - that way I'll feel I have to! Fingers crossed it gives me a good head start over the weekend, and that my weekly report on Monday is a good one. No, scratch that - it WILL be a good one!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Weight-Loss Tips 1

In these posts I'm going to let you know whenever I come up with an idea (or use one from elsewhere) that I have found was beneficial to me. It is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list of all the things you can do to help lose weight, and it is specifically the things that I have found beneficial - you may find these tips don't necessarily work for you! But here we go...

1) Find a photograph of yourself...a slim one!

I've heard tell of people who like to get a photograph of themselves at their absolute heaviest, and put it up inside the refridgerator, or on the back of their door. I guess what they're trying to do is remind themselves of what they don't want to be anymore, but in my own weight-loss attempt I'd much rather focus on what I would like to be. I don't believe thinking in negatives is necessarily the best idea - 'I don't want to be fat anymore' or 'I want to lose weight' both contain the words fat and weight, terms I don't want to apply to myself any longer, not even in my own mind. I much prefer thinking 'I can't wait to be slim!'

Below is a photograph I took of myself when I was first at university, so it must be about seven years old or so.

Compare this image to the one below, which I took on the very first day of my new program, just over three weeks ago.

At first, I was absolutely furious. Not only with myself for letting things get as bad as they are, but also with other people - peers and 'friends' - for making me think I was fat back then. I needed to lose a few more pounds, sure, and could have done with some toning up, but on the whole I don't think I look too bad.

But I felt bad. I felt massive. I would beat myself up every time someone said "morning, big guy!" or "you're so cuddly!". It didn't make me desperate to lose weight, as it does now (and I got the 'big man' comment again just this morning), but it reinforced the twisted idea already in my mind that I was ugly, overweight, and that I should just give up trying to look good.

Well not any more! I have made that photo the background on my computer now, so I see it every morning when I record my weight, and every time I come online to blog. It shows me:

- how much slimmer I once was. I intend to look even BETTER than I do in that photo, so its something of a marker for me - get there, and you're back to where you were, but with the full momentum and confidence of having lost scores of pounds to get there.

- how much of my problem was caused by my mindset. As I've said, I felt fat back then, and I felt fat when I started this program, but I didn't feel any more or less fat inbetween. There were no degrees of weight in my mind - I was simply overweight, and that meant I was bad. The consequence of this was that whenever I put on weight, I didn't notice - I was still just a fatty, regardless of whether I was overweight by 10lbs or 100lbs. Now that I've come to terms with that, it is much easier for me to notice the positive changes that are being made by my weight loss.

- that I can be slim. Some people bandy around terms like 'big-boned' or 'hormone problems' or 'slow metabolism', but by and large they are a myth (not in all cases though, of course). When I used these terms, it was to absolve myself of blame. I was destined to be fat. That was just the way I was made. It was in my genes. NONSENSE. I can be slim - I have photographic proof! And I will be slim again.

From initially not wanted to look at the photo because it reminded me of how far I had let myself go, it is now the catalyst for a brand new determination to reach the same level of fitness, and then surpass it. I can't wait!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Week 3 - RESULTS

So, lets see if after all my ups and downs this week, I managed to lose or gain!

STARTING WEIGHT:   281.0 lbs

ENDING WEIGHT:  280.9 lbs

WEIGHT LOSS:  0.1 lbs

I know this seems like a 'cheat' result, but it's what the scales said (I even moved them and tried it in another spot, just to be sure). After my problems keeping a downward trend in my weight this week, I honestly didn't expect to see any loss at all, and told myself that as long as my weight went down, I would be happy, and wouldn't care how small. Well, evidently someone heard my prayers, but did rather take me at my word!

And I can see the good side of this result. I have recorded my third successive weekly loss, however small. Also, given how quickly the weight dropped off in the first two weeks, I knew that some of it must have just been water weight, and could potentially just go right back on. So I see this tiny drop as in effect 'stabilising' the weight loss of the previous two weeks. A gain would have really dented my morale, but this loss, however small, keeps me going.

I have to start questioning now though if it is time to start exercising. I told myself I would just diet to start with, to try and get my system into the 'losing weight' mode. I also wanted to make sure that my calorie intake was controlled and managable, as I didn't want to start running everyday and then see no change, because I was still eating far too much. I said that once my weight loss by dieting alone slowed or plateaued, I would start exercising again. I'll give it another couple of weeks to see how my weight loss over that fortnight trends out, but I might begin some light cardio, so it's not a complete shock to the system when my exercise begins in earnest.

Before I post up my pictures from last week, I just wanted to quickly make an amendment to a previous post I made, in Barriers To Weight Loss: Excuse 1. In that post I said that an occasional treat to reward good behaviour was a good idea, and I still stand by that. But I talked about using food as that reward, and although I think having something naughty now and then is ok, I no longer think it wise to start using food (the thing we're trying to cut back on) as any kind of 'reward' or 'prize'. I have to thank Emily Lieser over at Blog To Lose for making me realise this, and in return, please check out her own progress here!

Anyway, its now time for my usual tally and pics, so here we go!

16.2 lbs

280.9 lbs

280.9 lbs

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Week 3 So Far...

So I'm only one weigh away from posting my results from week 3. I don't expect it to be anywhere near as amazing as the first two weeks...but now, I know I only have myself to blame.

When I weighed on Monday, I had lost more than a stone (16.1 lbs to be exact) and was nearly 10 lbs ahead of where I wanted to be by this date. Everything was going swimmingly - so I decided to treat myself.

And I stand by that decision. It is important to have a few little treats here and there, otherwise you end up resenting your diet, and that soon leads to quitting, and spiralling right back down. The mistakes I made were two-fold. 1) I over-did it. And 2) I couldn't stop.

When I decided to have my Monday treat, I went to the shops, and I bought a nice big chicken pie. I also bought some ice-cream for dessert. Then, as happened so many times before, I began to ignore the little voice screaming warnings in the back of my mind, and proceeded to fill my basket with chocolate, energy drinks, Pringles, onion rings, candy etc etc. I had a big pig-out (which I only half-enjoyed to be honest), and that should have been it. But on Tuesday I went back and did it again. The same thing.

This was reflected in my morning weighs, and by Thursday morning I had put on over 5 lbs. I felt awful, having done so well over the previous fortnight. Luckily, I was still a few pounds ahead of my schedule, so I didn't feel the total despair that would have come with throwing away all my gains. I've been good the rest of this week (although I did have to share a portion of chips and some alcohol with colleagues after lectures finished on Friday), and by Saturday morning I was back on track, being one whole pound lighter than last week.

But my weigh this morning was back up, and that one I can't explain. I know I only posted that graph yesterday showing how my weight change fluctuated up and down, but the general trend was always downhill. This week, it's been uphill if anything. I don't want to read anything into it - this is only my third week after all! And I'm still ahead of my scheduled weight loss, which is good. I just kind of hoped that every week I would see an overall drop in weight, no matter how small. I honestly don't think it'll happen this time. But I must think positive - and if my weight goes up a little this week, then next week's drop will be even bigger to compensate for it! I'm going to stay motivated.

Still, it has opened my eyes to how susceptible I still am to bingeing (for all my talk of being over the cravings), and how much of an effect even two days can have. I am still ahead of schedule too, and did say to myself that I would need to expect the weight loss to slow. If I was given a magic pill that would make me lose all 100 lbs in a day, I wouldn't take it. Not only would I probably then be left with loose saggy curtains of skin all over, but there would have been no journey. I need to earn this weight loss. Because its not just about dropping the pounds - its about changing my lifestyle so that I drop the pounds, and keep them off forever. Otherwise I'd just go right back to where I was before. After my whirlwind start it was easy to lose sight of this, so in a way, I'm glad. I've been brought back down to earth, and can once again see that there is still such a very long way to go...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Ups and Downs of Weight Loss

A very quick post here, just to show off a graph I (finally) managed to make in Excel.

Whenever I'd tried to lose weight in the past, I'd only ever weighed once a week, usually Monday morning. Some weeks though, no matter how well I'd eaten or how much I'd exercised, the weight would have gone up. There was nothing so demotivating as that, and it scuppered me several times.

Now I knew in the back of my mind that weight is always going to fluctuate, so I decided that this time, I was going to weigh every day. Some might say this shows you even more fluctuations, and can be even more demotivating, but I decided to keep track of the ups and downs, to reassure myself if I had a bad couple of days.

Here is the graph of my first 20 days of dieting. Overall I have lost 17.1 lbs, which I am very happy with, but look how much the line jumps up and down! Had I only been weighing on the days when the weight was high, I might have been really disappointed, but now I can see the bigger picture!

So, if you've done everything right but the scales refuse to show it - DON'T DESPAIR!!

Things I Can't Wait To Do When I'm Slim

In an attempt to harness the power of positive thinking, here is a quick list, in no particular order, of things I am really looking forward to doing when I have reached my goal weight.

1) WEAR A T-SHIRT. For too long I've been paranoid about my belly and my man-boobs, and for ages would only wear shirts with double breast pockets, believing that would hide my shame. But I used to love wearing T-shirts, and one day I will again. And heck, I might even tuck it in!

2) GO SWIMMING. I know I ought to go anyway, as it would help with the weight loss, but I haven't taken my shirt off in public in years. I love swimming, either at the pool or at the beach, and can't wait to go again, without the fear of what people looking at me will think.

3) SUNBATHE. Following on from the above, never taking my shirt off means I can never sunbathe, and I'm fed up of being so pale all the time - coupled with my size, I feel like Moby Dick. Well not for much longer! I can't wait to have a great tan, and to show it off!

4) DANCE WITH A GIRL. For years I refused any dancing whatsoever, until one day I let go (thanks to rather too many Southern Comforts), and found I really enjoy it. But that's dancing by myself, or as part of a big group of friends. When I'm slim I'm darned well going to find a nice-looking girl and dance with her! And do it sober!! And look good doing it!!!

5) RUN A MARATHON. I did quite a lot of running a year ago, and if I'd kept it up, would have been at my goal weight by now. For whatever reason I stopped, but I still remember the almost euphoric feeling I got making my body work hard like that. And this was when I weighed 260-270 lbs. I can scarcely imagine how much fun it must be to run when you weigh as little as 190 lbs, flying along the pavement, the world whipping by. At some point I am going to do a marathon...and I'm going to love it!

6) GO OUT WITHOUT A JACKET. Regardless of the weather, I am seldom seen without an overcoat, or at least a suit jacket. This is my (knowing) attempt to hide my folds, and also to avoid that awkward moment when the wind presses your clothes against your body, giving away all your contours. Of course all it does is add another layer, and make me look even more bulky, so I can't wait to head out into town, regardless of the weather (unless perhaps sleet!) and not have to lug around a mass of jacket!

7) DO A PROPER PUSH-UP. I know what I'm meant to do - it just seems impossible. When I'm face-down on the carpet, everything sagging and gravity grabbing all of it, there is no way I can lift myself up onto my toes and hands without my arms shaking halfway up, and then giving way. One day I'll do some proper push-ups. Then I'll do them again with someone on my back. Then i'll do them one-handed. I might even play the Rocky theme tune while I do it!

8) CLIMB A MOUNTAIN. I've done a lot of hiking and rambling in my time, and I love it, but the fact that I'm gasping, blistered, chaffed and sweaty does take something away from the experience. When I'm slim I'm going to pick a nice mountain (I'm not crazy so it won't be Everest...yet...) and darn well climb it, and love every step of the way!

9) SKY-DIVE. A few years ago I got a visa and went to live and work in New Zealand for 12 months. While there I did most of the things I wanted to - abseiling, caving, bungy jumping - but when the opportunity arose to do a sky-dive, I discovered that I was too heavy to do it in tandem with an instructor. As I wouldn't want to be all by myself for my first one, that pretty much ruled that off my to-do list. But not for much longer!

10) FLIRT WITH SOMEONE I LIKE. For too long, if I've liked someone, I've ended up drifting away from them before I got too close, because I saw it as inevitable that they would only like me as a friend, would fall for someone else, and as their friend I'd have to be there to see it, to hear about it, to bear it. When I feel better about myself, I'm going to stick with the person I like, and find out if they like me too. Even if they don't, at least I won't be beating myself up with 'what ifs' anymore!

11) STOP WEARING VESTS/UNDERSHIRTS. Similar to 1 and 6 above, I've somehow ended up wearing a vest/undershirt every day. I always tuck it in very tightly, and then do my belt up even tighter, in the half-belief that this smooths out my bumps and lumps and makes me look slimmer. Again as above, its just another layer bulking me up further, so I can't wait for the day when I no longer feel this is necessary!

12) TAKE NEW PROFILE PICTURES. Yes I'm guilty of this. For everything, from Facebook to passports and driving licences, I either use an old photo where I'm slimmer, or a newer photo where by some miracle of lighting I look slimmer. I'm really looking forward to the day when I don't have to skim through hundreds of snaps to find an appropriate one - soon every picture will look like me, and every picture will look good!

13) LEARN HOW TO DO A BACK-FLIP. Because why not?

14) BUY NEW CLOTHES. This will be a riot. I've been wearing more or less the same wardrobe for years. Occasionally I'll treat myself, and buy a new black shirt or shapeless jumper to replace an old one. But I can't wait to actually try out different styles, different find out what I would actually like to wear, and what looks good!

Phew! Slightly longer than I had anticipated, and yet I feel there's lots more to do. I might make a similar post when I'm further down the path of my weight loss, with the things I've been able to do already, and any new goals that have cropped up!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Barriers To Losing Weight: Excuse 2

In the 'Barriers To Losing Weight' series, I will outline some of the biggest obstacles (some self-imposed and some not) that previously prevented me from getting in shape. I will also describe how I overcame these obstacles, in the hope I aid someone else in doing the same.

2) I don't want / deserve to lose weight anyway.

Although these could be seen as two quite different barriers, they both boil down to an issue of denial. I have suffered from both these views in the past, so I will tackle them one at a time, and try to work out how I got around them.

In terms of not wanting to lose weight...sometimes I wouldn't. I'd try to convince myself that I was happy with my weight, and that I didn't need to lose any. Most difficult for me, especially when I was younger, was the feeling that I was being vain if I wanted to lose weight. To get quite personal for a moment, I was always fairly popular with girls, but only in the 'cuddly best friend' kind of way. I would regularly fall in love, only to see the girls then head off with guys who seemed the exact opposite of me - slim, muscular, hair waxed, eyebrows plucked etc etc (to say nothing of their personalities). It seemed to me that if these girls were going to like me, I would have to change my appearance, and become more like these other guys. But I didn't want to - I detested those other guys! So I became defensive, saying that 'if a girl doesn't like me for who I am, then she's not worth it'. I was ignoring the fact that I didn't like me for who I was either! And that's a huge barrier in and of itself - if you don't like yourself, its going to be a lot harder for anyone else to.

I think it was recognition of this fact that got me out of that cycle. Rather than focussing on what I wanted from life/the world/other people, and getting depressed if I couldn't have it, I started to look at what I wanted from myself. No, I couldn't change the world to give me what I wanted - but I could certainly change myself! And when you do this, something amazing happens - you regain control. When you take charge of one aspect of your life (in my case, my eating), many other aspects start becoming manageable (my weight, my health, my self-confidence), and that sets the ball rolling for every other aspect of your life.

As for the second barrier above, the idea that I don't deserve to lose weight...this is a difficult one to analyse. I think many people feel like this, but perhaps for different reasons. Maybe someone has another person always putting them down, making them believe this is true. Maybe someone has a general depressive state of mind, and this is just an element of that. Or perhaps (as I believe in my case) it stems from a feeling of guilt about my weight. Sometimes I would look at myself, hate the way I looked, and realise I only had myself to blame. I looked this way because I had chosen to over-eat, and not to exercise, and so I was responsible. I had made my bed, and now I had to lie in it.

I guess you could say this translates as 'I deserve to be fat' rather than 'I don't deserve to be thin', but it was another mental barrier that had to be overcome. I very much looked at my weight as a just punishment for my laziness. But of course, that point of view offers no way out, no chance of redemption. You got fat, it was your fault, and now you deserve to be fat. That was all.

But eventally I managed to turn it around, and it was with the idea that 'I got myself into this mess, so I'm going to get myself out'. Again, as with so many of the barriers, it was overcome with a feeling of empowerment. I read so many accounts, watched so many videos, and saw how people could turn their lives around, and start losing weight that had been around for years. If they could do it, why not me?

And, reader, if they can do it, then I can do it. And if I can do it - SO CAN YOU!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Week 2 - RESULTS

The results are in - how did we do?

STARTING WEIGHT:   289.6 lbs

ENDING WEIGHT:  281.0 lbs

WEIGHT LOSS:  8.6 lbs

My first reaction on getting this result wasn't joy so much as concern. When I worked out my target weight for each week, it represented a gradual weight loss right through to September. I am now running nearly 10 lbs ahead of this schedule, and my biggest fear on setting out on this weight loss program has been to end up with sheets of baggy skin hanging off me at the end.

But then I looked on the bright side. The weight loss is bound to slow down after this initial blitz phase, and ahead of me I foresee the long months of blessing each individual pound dropped. Its great to have dropped so much so quickly - its the best possible of starts. I just have to try and hold on to how good this feels in later months, when my rate of loss is a fraction of what we've seen this past fortnight.

And for that fortnight, the running tally is as follows:

16.1 lbs

And as before, here are the pics. Still no obvious difference, but it will come - it will definitely come!

 281.0 lbs

281.0 lbs

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Week 2 - Quick Round-Up

Tomorrow I will be posting the results from my second week on my new program, but before then, I thought it was worth quickly updating you on how this week has gone, to explain the results we see tomorrow.

Generally I feel it has gone really well. I have had a 'reading week' from med school which means no lectures at all (they call it a reading week to encourage us to revise, but really it's just a half-term break for the faculty!). Sleeping quite late and not doing much more than watching TV has meant that my appetite has been almost non-existent. This is good in a way, as I haven't felt any urge to pig out at all - but it also means, when I DO eat, its not because I'm hungry so much as because I know I should eat something. I've been warned of the perils of starving oneself, and don't want to do that, but it feels like you're cheating when you eat, despite not being hungry! Very unusual.

I've also somehow come down with a bit of a cough and sore throat. I have no idea if this is related to the sudden change in my diet, or the reduced amount of food that I'm eating, but it has also proved useful for my weight loss. It means I don't really want to eat unless I have to (and definitely don't want anything scratchy, like crisps or chips). I've also been drinking an awful lot of water, to help soothe the coughing, and this also has made me feel quite good. I used to knock back several espressos every day, trying to wake myself up out of the cloudy-minded stupor I seemed to sink into all too often. The caffeine rarely worked (I have in fact almost completely given it up now), but it is amazing to me the difference that being properly hydrated makes. Water really is a miracle substance. I can't stress it enough - DRINK ENOUGH WATER! It works wonders.

So that's about it. Besides setting up this blog, and focussing on my weight loss, I haven't really achieved anything else this week. I had mighty plans about revising months worth of material...but watching old episodes of Lost counts for something, right? Right?

Here's hoping the results for this week are even half-way as good as last week's. DROP BY TOMORROW TO FIND OUT!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Barriers To Losing Weight: Excuse 1

In the 'Barriers To Losing Weight' series, I will outline some of the biggest obstacles (some self-imposed and some not) that previously prevented me from getting in shape. I will also describe how I overcame these obstacles, in the hope I aid someone else in doing the same.

1) I'm going to turn my life around...TOMORROW.

For me, this was the biggest hurdle. For about ten years, I seem to have been hovering on the cusp of getting in shape. I've wanted to get fit and lose weight since I was about 16 years old, and all I've really done is put ON weight. I am the ultimate put-offer. In all aspects of my life.

The reason this had such an impact on my weight was, as I was starting my new regime 'tomorrow', it meant that 'tonight' was my last night to 'enjoy myself'. If I was giving up ice-cream, chocolate, crisps, cakes, biscuits, energy drinks etc tomorrow, then tonight was my last chance to have them! So I'd better get to the shops right now, and buy one or two of everything, and have one last binge!


When I was living at home, I would need to keep my own roll of binbags in my room, as I produced such a volume of wrappers, boxes and tubs. I KNEW it was ridiculous, and even became embarrassed going into the small village shop to buy such a bulk of junk food EVERY DAY. Every night I would intend to start afresh with a healthy diet plan, and every day there would be some slip, some reason to have ANOTHER binge. I would 'accidentally' have a chocolate bar during the day. I would find a bag of crisps I'd forgotten to eat the previous night. I would go out with friends to the cinema, and HAVE to buy some chocolates. I would be really tired, and NEED a Red Bull. I'd do really well all day, and DESERVE a treat. I'd do really well all day, but it was a Thursday - surely a new program was best started on a Monday morning?

Any of this sound familiar?

But how did I overcome it? I wish there was a magic, fix-all answer. What worked for ME was the following.

- Call a general strike. Don't worry about the date, or the time, or how your day has gone so far. Just look at your watch and say, from right this minute, you will stop eating and drinking all the crap you do. If you're here, reading this blog, you're already so close to starting the change. All you're waiting for is an 'opportune moment', to quote Jack Sparrow (Captain). But that wait - for a birthday, or New Year, or start of the month - will never end, so just do it. Right now. It may not seem like an especially significant or memorable date or time to start, but believe me, if you make the change now, it soon will be!

- Find what you enjoy, and is allowed.
Yes, I love junk food, but I also love my mother's cooking. She doesn't use additives, or preservatives, but honest, natural ingredients. So why not just eat them? It's easy for me to say perhaps, as my biggest Achilles heel (and the thing I've had to give up in this initial stage) is carbs, but I love meat too. So although I'm not allowed to indulge my love of bread, pasta and roast potatoes at the moment, I am allowed to indulge my love of bacon, chicken breasts, poached eggs and burgers. So I'm holding on to that - and by giving in to the acceptable cravings, it makes the other pangs more bearable.

- Set mini-targets.* This one appears everywhere, but it works. When I started I was 21.2 stone, so I said that when I reached 20 stone, I was allowed one day of eating whatever I wanted. I could have a stack of bacon and egg sandwiches for breakfast, then head into town, work my way through Burger King, McDonald's and KFC, before renting a DVD and sitting on my bed surrounded by ice-creams, chocolates, crisps etc. Sounds pretty decadent? Well it should. Every time you feel like letting go, just add what you fancy to the menu on that special day. It allows you to fantasize about what you want (rather than punishing yourself for having greedy thoughts), and uses your cravings for your own benefit - you want that Ben & Jerry's? Then lose that weight! (It's also worth mentioning that, over time, your cravings for these things become less. I'm only a few pounds away from my 20 stone mini-target today, and you know what? I DON'T WANT to give in to my cravings, I'd rather drop the pounds - I've become addicted to losing weight instead!)

- Release the pressure. I'm wary of including this one here, but as I've done it, I can't tell you not to. Sometimes, if you crave a chocolate bar, its better to just have one, rather than resist and resist until that craving has grown (into one for three chocolate bars and a cream cake), and THEN give in. The PR folks all say that these bad foods are allowed 'in moderation' or 'as part of a healthy balanced diet' or whatever. And you've seen slim people eating chips and drinking Coke before, haven't you? The difference is that we couldn't control how much of these things we consumed before. Now, you've been on your diet for a few days, you haven't had anything bad - treat yourself. And DO treat yourself - don't feel too guilty about it. Enjoy it. We used to eat this terrible stuff because we felt bad about ourselves, then we felt worse when we did, and the vicious cycle just went on and on. Now, you've been healthy for a few days (feel good about it) and are giving yourself a treat now (enjoy it). See? Best of both worlds! (For myself, I am tracking my weight every day in a spreadsheet, and comparing it with my target weight loss for that day - I'll explain more in another post. But basically, I only give in to these little desires if I'm more than 5 lbs ahead of schedule.) 

So there you are! I'm sure there are other methods out there, but this is what works for me. I hope at least some of the above can help you too!

*I have since amended this piece of advice, so please here click to read why!

Week 1 - RESULTS

So, how did I fare?

STARTING WEIGHT:   297.1 lbs

ENDING WEIGHT:  289.6 lbs

WEIGHT LOSS:  7.5 lbs

This I was very happy with. I'd actually lost even more by about midweek according to the scales, but it crept back on again by the end of the week. Still, my best ever weekly loss on my previous attempts was 7lbs, and that was when I was exercising every day (I think on the week in question I ran a full marathon...well, distance-wise; I just spread it over seven days!). So to have bested that just by dieting is great - though of course, its probably just because I'm about 30 lbs heavier now than I was then, so I have more pounds to shed!

I'm also far ahead of my scheduled weight loss so far, so I am definitely on track. I should have weighed 294 lbs by the end of this week, which put me more than 4 lbs ahead of schedule - over a week's worth of weight loss. It's nice to have a little cushion there, so that if I do have a bad week (avoidable or otherwise), I won't necessarily have to play catch-up. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, however - I'd end up either having two or three weeks of demoralising weight gain, or lose the weight too fast and end up with sheets of loose skin hanging off me. Neither is desirable at this point!

It's going to be obvious this week, but I will keep a running tally of my total weight loss to date too.

7.5 lbs 

Before I forget, I'm still planning on taking my photos or comparison at the end of every week, so here are the snaps from Week 1!

 289.6 lbs

289.6 lbs

Friday, March 4, 2011

The First Week

So, how did the first week go?

Pretty darn well, is the answer. Having decided to limit my carb intake for the first phase of this program, I was somewhat limited in what I could eat. A three-egg ham omelette each morning kept the hunger at bay (better than toast or cereal, which had my stomach rumbling again after a few hours), and kept the carbs down. Lunch was more difficult, as in the past I have just gone and bought a sandwich or a wrap from the shops. Problem is - you've guessed it - carbs. So packed lunches were in order.

But I've never been much of one for cooking. Not to say I CAN'T cook, I just get terribly fed up waiting for it. I decided to make my lunches in batches, three or four days worth at a time. A large pack of mince, fried up with some onions and peppers, covered me for the first few days, and then some home-made corned beef hash covered the rest of the week.

Evenings were hardest, as this was my prime snacking time. Thing was though, by cutting out the carbs, I didn't seem to crave them so much. I still gave in occasionally, thinking it better to release the craving-pressure now and then rather than let it build to a head. But on the whole I was good.

Well, until Saturday, when I was both good and bad. I was fairly active, attending a conference (so on my feet all day), and then dancing all evening in a nightclub. The problem was I drank alcohol that evening too. I more or less gave up alcohol before Christmas, and this was only my second evening drinking since then. It was another little promise I'd made myself - not to have a proper drink before I toasted my brother's wedding in September. That one's now out the window, but I'm going to keep up with cutting back the booze anyway. Except on special occasions...

And what did all this dieting and activity amount to on the scales? Read my next post to find out!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Plan

So, without further ado, I will present to you all some vital statistics, and some aims and ambitions. This will let you know where I started from, so you can track my progress over the coming months.


WEIGHT:   297.1 lb
or 134.8 kg
or 21.2 stone

The above weight, with my height, gave me a BMI of 37.7, which is Class 2 Obese. Definitely time to make a change!

TARGET WEIGHT:   196.7 lb

This weight equates to a BMI of 25, which is the upper end of the healthy range for someone of my height. I have to move through my current Class 2 Obese, down through Class 1, then the Overweight category, before finally reaching this normal range. It represents a target weight loss of just over 100 lbs.

TARGET DATE:   03/09/2011 - 06/10/2011 

I have a little bit of a window here. My original target was September 3rd, which is my brother's wedding (at which I will be best man). However, I originally set my target weight at 15 stone, or 210 lbs, until I realised this was still in the 'Overweight' BMI bracket. Nonetheless, I liked the date and rate I had already prepared for, and didn't want to try and lose TOO much a week (although I'm still naughtily planning on slightly more than is recommended). So I extended my calendar, with the same weekly rate of loss, until I reached a BMI of 25 - which, if all goes to plan, will be on October 6th. 

Given the above targets, my desired weight loss comes out at about 0.4 lbs a day, or  3.1 lbs a week rounded up.

In my first week, I exceeded this target. I will describe how in an upcoming post, which will bring us up to date and the blog can begin in earnest. But until then, here are two photos I took of my body on the first day of my program. I will take matching photos every week of the program, until I am happy with my body.

This is what I am - it is no longer what I am willing to be.

297.1 lbs

297.1 lb