Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Weighing In On a Way to Weigh Less, or Why Wait on Weight? What?

For the past 8 weeks or so I've been working on losing some weight and getting healthier.

I'm not dieting.  "Diet" is a four-letter word for me, in the worst possible way. When I hear "diet" I immediately think of a bland menu of low fat and tasteless, fiber-filled foods.  Nuts and twigs and tofu, things like that. Not that there's anything wrong with tofu.

Oh, who am I kidding, there's a lot wrong with tofu, but anyway.....

I was listening to the radio a while back, in January I think.  The Dr. Laura show was on, and a lady called to ask advice about controlling her eating.  The lady said she was in her 40's (like me), and she'd been dealing with being over-weight her whole life.  She wanted to know if Dr. Laura had any advice for her when it came to controlling her eating or losing weight.  

Dr. Laura was quiet for a moment, and said something like, "I don't know what you want me to tell you.  You're in your 40's, and have been over-weight your whole life.  You probably know more about diets and weight loss than I do. "

She went on to say that the lady knew everything she needed to know to lose weight, she just wanted a way to do it with NO sacrifice.  She wanted a painless, easy way to lose weight that involved no discomfort.  The only way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories than you burn each day.  You can do that by eating less, or moving more.  That's it.  No magic bullet, no magic potions.  Just determination that you want to do it.  

That really hit home with me.  

I've been "thinking" about losing weight for years.  Last summer I injured my right ankle just by walking on it for too long one night.  I had my foot in a cast for a few days and one of those Frankenstein boots for a week after that.  I actually used a walker to walk around the house for a few days.  Liz told me I walked like a 90-year old. 

Just walking and standing too long, with the weight my body was applying on the ankle, put me down for a week. 

Granted, I weighed over 400 pounds.  Human feet are just not designed for that kind of weight. Never mind what it's probably been doing to my knees.  I've been lucky not to have problems with them so far. 

So far. 

I was talking to Alene in January, about my very serious need to get healthier.  My ankle was bothering me more and more.  My back had been bothering me for years. My left arm was suffering from intermittent bouts of numbness, and I suspect carpal tunnel syndrome is creeping up on me.  I could hardly walk around the block with Alene in the evening without my back spasming. I wasn't sleeping well.  I was taking (no lie) 1200-1600mgs of ibuprofen (Motrin) 2-3 times a day, and had been taking that dosage for well over 8 years.  

I was not feeling healthy by any definition you wanted to give it, and I wanted to do something about it. 

I talked to my doctor about gastric bypass surgery, and he encouraged me to do it.  He told me several times, the weight is just not good for me (as if I didn't know that, but he's a good guy).  Alene counselled against it, because of the risk of surgery, which is very real, but it sounded like such a good idea.  I thought of it as an "easy" way out.

But I know myself, and came to the conclusion that I would probably lose weight, but then gain it back.  Its a matter of discipline, and I had none.  I wouldn't stick to the regimen, and then I'd be a fat guy again, in bad health, who's had major surgery too!

Not acceptable. 

I needed to do something.  I decided that the best course for me, since I love to eat and have no will power, was to somehow increase my caloric output so that it would catch up with my intake, and maybe I could lose a little weight. I decided, even if I never get skinny, I wanted to be a healthier fat guy, who could at least walk a mile with his girlfriend and take a short hike without having a cardiac event. Maybe I could walk my girls down the aisle some day, without pulling an oxygen cannister after me. You get the idea. 

My brother David in Utah and his son Chris began a workout routine about this same time, and I began seeing their updates on Facebook regarding their progress.  I began to feel inspired, and finally walked into 24 Hour Fitness in Citrus Heights one morning and signed up.  

That was back in February.  I decided I was going to work out hard, and eat what I wanted, but maybe just curb the amounts a bit.  Like one Famous Star instead of two, or a medium fries instead of the large.  

I also logged into a website called "" at my brother's suggestion, and began a food diary.  Not to control what I eat, just to see what I was eating.  It's amazing how much I was eating, and how quickly the calories added up, without even realizing it.  I was able to pick some better foods to eat, and keep track of the, hmmm, worse foods I was eating. I still ate what I wanted, and still do, just a bit less.  

Now I go to the gym about 4 days a week, walk on the treadmill for 30-40 minutes (1st day was 15 minutes and I thought I was going to die!), do a bunch of sit-ups on the sit-up table thingies, and workout on the Nautilus type machines for a bout 20-30 minutes.  I sweat a lot.  I mean a lot. But it's become fun and, it turns out, I really enjoy the workouts.  

So, after 8 weeks of working out and eating a little bit better (NOT dieting because I still eat whatever I want), what have I accomplished?

1. I've lost 18 pounds.  Yeah, it's not "Biggest Loser" territory where they lose 18 pounds in 2 weeks, but that's not been my goal.  I want to enjoy life, and eat good food!! At the same time, though, I've lost 18 pounds!!

2. I don't take ibuprofen now.  That's right - kicked a multi-year habit in 2 weeks.  I take a couple of Aleve at night if I do a hard workout, or if my butt is sore from sitting in the chairs at work all day, but that's it.. No more ibuprofen. 

3. I've lost about 2-3 inches around my waist.  My pants and shirts fit a bit better.  I can sit more comfortably in the chairs at work.

4.  My hips don't hurt.  I was suffering from bursitis in my left hip joint, and it's gone. 

5.  My ankle is stronger.  I used to feel strains and pops in my foot and ankle when I'd walk.  Now it feels normal.

6. The numbness in my left arm is virtually gone.  That just blows my mind. 

7. I can walk without pain.  I mean, there's still a few tweaks and aches once in a while, but nothing like I was suffering last summer.  Last Saturday, Alene, Liz and I walked about 4 or 5 miles around the UCD campus.  Yeah, I was tired but I did it, and I wasn't even sore the next day.

8. I'm stronger.  I'm lifting heavier weights and doing more situps than I was on day one, and the recovery time from my workouts has dwindled down to almost nothing.

In short, I just plain feel so much better.  I've been told the circles under my eyes aren't as dark as they once were.  I can bend over and tie my shoes easier (which is a huge thing for me).

This has been an amazing awakening for me, one I plan to continue for a long time.  The benefits I've discovered from simple exercise just astound me, mainly because I've heard about them all my life, but never put them into practice! It's been humbling to realize I could have been doing this 10 years ago and been healthier back then, enjoying life more and feeling better.

If you're where I was two months ago, here's the bottom line: "Just Do It" is sound advice, whether you like to hear it or not. No one can make changes in your life except you. I encourage you, if my story speaks to you, to Just Do It too.

Take one step, then another.  If that's it for day one, great.  Tomorrow, take three steps. The next day, take four.  It really is that simple.  Before you know it, you'll be enjoying the steps and the road you go down.  And that's a good thing.