Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Journey of 1000 miles.

So far this year I've walked 116 miles. I've set myself a goal to continue to track my walking (or running, if I try that out) until I reach 1000. And it all started with a single step out the front door to "go for a walk".

I'm not tracking all my walking - just the "for exercise" walking. At my current rate, it will take me about a year and 3 months, barring days missed for various reasons (I missed a week earlier this year due to being too sick to get out of bed, then I had to work back up to my 2 miles a day, for example) - I'll keep you posted!

So why this goal, this commitment? Other than the fact that I enjoy my walks? My experience is that consistency is the single most important factor in losing weight or gaining muscle. The weights and reps may change, but the number of times a week and amount of time you spend needs to stay the same or possibly grow slightly.

One of my "hot button" issues (sorry, all the political nonsense is rubbing off - I felt a need to "spin" some "buzz words" ;) has always been weight, weight loss, and more to the point, the way denial sets in because we think it's "kinds" and "polite".

I wish, when I was 300 pounds, and I said all the usual excuses about being big boned and not being able to lose weight, etc. etc. that SOMEONE had had the courage to tell me, in no uncertain terms, that I was what was called "fat". I really couldn't see it. 2 events conspired to help me see it - the first was seeing myself in a picture I didn't expect me to be in. I was flipping through the pictures, and thought to myself "Hey, who's that big fat guy coming in the door?". Since it was a digital pic, I zoomed it in, and it was ME. Ouch. I decided right then and there something needed to be done, but I lacked any urgency about it. I was getting ready to leave for vacation and go see my mom, so there wasn't a hurry. I get to mom's, and she had a scale! Thought I'd hop on and see how bad things were. The scale told me I was pushing 300 pounds! Obviously broken. So I asked mom if she knew how accurate her scale was. As it turned out, she'd been to the doctor earlier that week, and when she got home, she checked her scale against the weight she'd been at the doctor's - it was within half a pound. Double ouch.

Obviously I've yo-yo'd a bit since then (this was 2003), but (finally back the the point) my hot button issue has always been "consistency". You don't have to cut back to eating nothing (in fact, cut too far back and you'll slow your progress), but cut back to a reasonable amount. Measure it however you want - calories, fat grams, carbs, whatever. Eat WHOLE foods. Stay away from processed crap that was created in a lab. Low fat and low carb diets work because they end up limiting the number of calories you are able to consume. They do this 2 ways - first, you have to stop putting food into you when you reach the daily limit (20g of either carbs or fat, whichever you're watching). Second, both diets limit your options, and the food you eat gets *boring*. This is a very enlightening experience. You'll find yourself standing in front of the fridge, looking for something to eat, and seeing nothing that "looks good". You're bored with ALL your food. Then you think to yourself "but, if I were hungry - actually NEEDED food - I'd eat SOMETHING. So obviously I'm not hungry. So why am I here?" Suddenly you start to realize that you've been eating for a LOT of dumb reasons. Bored. Nervous. Angry. Tired. Wired. None of these are good reasons to eat, and they will make you fat. Decide what you want to count, then stick to it. Don't beat yourself up if you "cheat" - but feel free to beat the crap out of yourself if you use "not beating yourself up if you cheat" to rationalize cheating every day. Give it your honest, best effort. If you fail, try again. "Fall down seven times; stand up eight times". Simple. Powerful.

Get at least a multi-vitamin. You're want to take "how much whatever do I need?" out of the equation, but you don't want to end up with scurvy, either! I take a "men's" multi-vitamin, a "super B complex" and a vitamin "D" supplement. Your needs may be different.

Once you've decided what you're going to count, sit down and plan. Don't try and wing it. Plan out 4 weeks of what you're going to eat. For me, I knew I had to keep it as simple as I could. I ate the same thing, day in and day out for 28 days. Low carb shake for breakfast. 2 oz of cheese mid-morning snack. Lunch was a hamburger (probably between 1/3 and 1/2lb pre-cooked weight). Afternoon snack was 2 oz cheese. Dinner was a grilled (well, George Foreman grilled...) chicken breast. Lunch and dinner included whichever low carb veggie I wanted. Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts. Those were the 3 on the list I liked, so those were the ones I choose between. YMMV. Evening "snack" was usually some peanuts or cashews - these were a big treat for me :) Drink lots of water. I try to get around 2 liters a day. That's 4 16.9oz bottles (I refill my bottles, but that's another post), so it isn't really as much as it sounds like.

OK, now you have an eating guide. Step 2 - get off your ass. Seriously, get up and MOVE. Doesn't matter what you do - run, do jumping jacks, push ups, skip, whatever. I'm a walker. Now that I've quit smoking and I've been walking daily for months, I may try jogging, but walking has worked well for me. When I started, I was 300 pounds and smoked a pack a day. I couldn't run for anything. I started walking about a mile a day. Mind you, if you're walking or exercise, then *walk*. Shoot for about 3 miles an hour (think of how fast someone walks when you think "Wow, they're in a hurry!" and that's about the speed you want...). I see some people in my neighborhood that "walk" for "exercise" (they've told me this...) and they have their dog with them, and wander a bit, stop, wander a bit more, stop again...and they say they can't figure out why they aren't seeing the results of all this "exercise". I explained it, and that seems to have solved their problem. Also, look for opportunities to walk "extra" - I parked as far away from the door as I could at work, and I left my lunch in the car. When I went to the store, I parked all the way out at the edge of the lot. If I went to the mall, I parked at the edge of the lot - on the far end of the mall from the store I was going to. Don't give me the "I don't have time!" excuse. Every year you're fat, you loose 3 months off the end of your life. You think you don't have time now? Just do it - don't worry about the time.

Once I started to get into a groove, I stepped it up. Started walking a mile and a half, then 2 miles a day. Takes me about 40 minutes. Once I was at 2 miles, I started carrying weights - and dropped back to a mile a day. I started with 2.5 or 3 pound weights, I don't remember which. It's a LOT more intense to carry weights (I'm talking the dumbell style weights) when you walk - it passively works your chest, arms, abs and obliques. No, I can't find anywhere that say this is true, but I know what *hurts* the next morning! The pattern stayed the same - 1 mile, then 1.5 then 2, then switch to 5lb weights and go 1 mile, then 1.5 etc. I'm trying to decide right now, actually, if I want to go to 8lb weights, or if I'm just gonna leave well enough alone. We'll see.

Measure your progress, but do it for knowledge, not for "inspiration". I chart my weight every day. I've learned a LOT about the way my body works, what it's cycles are, and what my normal fluctuations in weight are. I use my morning weight on the chart, but I weigh myself as soon as I get up, and right before bed. You will be heavier at night, if you didn't know that :)

So, that's my experience. I used it to go from 300 pounds to 170. I let myself get back up to 238.5 (10/21/08), and now I'm down under 189. My goal is 165. Look for a post from me soon on body fat and BMI soon, with an explanation why my goal weight is above my BMI :)

One last thing: I highly recommend you focus on the process rather than the results. Take the time to notice that you begin to feel better, physically. Find something you like about your walks (or whatever). If you're in it for the "here and now" benefits of the process, the results will follow without you having to worry about it. This will also help you stay on track because you're enjoying the process, and merely observing the results. That emotional detachment lets you stay on track and on target!

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