losing 35lbs in 90 days
April 2, 2011 § Leave a comment
The What & Why
I’ve always had this weird body (bear with me here). Whenever I hit a certain weight, everything starts to go haywire. If I hit 185lbs, my heart rate starts to go up. This would be followed by acute chest pains that come and go as my weight increases. Then I’ll find I can’t sleep well. Anyway, somewhere in the 2nd half of last year, this whole cycle started, and whenever it starts, I know, I could use some weight loss. I say weight loss because it doesn’t matter if that 185 are due to fat or water weight or from muscle mass- my body just can’t handle it. Only this time, things got worse. I got a kidney infection that wouldn’t go away. This was followed by what I can only describe as hot flashes. They were patches of heat on mostly my upper thighs that would feel so hot that frozen towels I’d use to cool down would feel like they’d been microwaved after 20 minutes. This carried on for a long while, and since I thought I could endure the ‘discomfort,’ I didn’t press myself to seek proper medical attention.
However, after Christmas, I couldn’t take it anymore. I really couldn’t sleep. I could only last 3-4 hours at a time and only to wake up suffering from symptoms to diabetes- typically those nerve-endings pains in hands. If you don’t have diabetes and are at a risk for it, I suggest you do everything you can to avoid it. I always assumed it was a silent disease, and boy was I wrong. I even woke up a couple of times with what I can only describe as a dead arm. I’d have to sit up in bed with a whole arm that felt like dead weight, and wait a minute for the natural feeling to come back to it. You suffer in silence because you can’t really explain what it’s like for your pinky to be numb and burning to anyone.
January 1, 2011 came and I decided I’d had enough. I knew how I felt when I was healthy, and wanted to bring myself back there. I also knew I could, but had only been lazy about motivating myself. You’d think all the things I’ve just mentioned should be good enough motivation, but you’d be surprised how little in our nature compels us when we start getting used to what ails us. But I knew it was time. I also wanted to be very honest with myself about the whole process of getting healthy. So I stepped on the scale that Saturday morning with nothing on (1. don’t picture that. and 2. If you want to know you actual body weight, measure your dry weight in the morning. I’ll talk about this and other terms some other time). I came in at a sobering 214.6lbs, my heaviest weight ever. Eeek!!
So it was settled. I was going to get back in shape. That part was easy. I can easily lose weight (at least that’s what I thought; forgetting that being 16-25 is not the same as being 30). But I didn’t want a quick fix. I needed a lifestyle change- a change in what I ate, how I ate, how I used my body to manage what I ate and how I managed by body itself. The first thing was food, and in food the first thing to go was sugar. That was relatively easy. I’ve been around diabetics all my life to know how to limit my sugar intake, which also includes most carbs. The next thing was food portions. I don’t necessarily mind my old food portions. It’s just that I never really used them for much. We always forget food is essentially fuel for our bodies. If we don’t make use of the right energy, our bodies store it. If we take in the wrong energy, our bodies store those, too. If you have a car that is required to run on premium unleaded, and you regularly fill your tank with regular, at some point, it’s going to affect your engine’s performance. If you subsist on fast food, or foods heavy in sugar and cholesterol, at some point your body (engine) will suffer. So I had a choice: I was either going to use up the energy I took in, or reduce it to what I really needed throughout any given day.
Weight loss is really that simple: make use/burn that which you take in, and you’ll maintain a specific weight band; don’t, and your body keeps it for a rainy day that never comes. Now, if you start burning a bit more than what you take it, your body starts to make use of older fats/water weight you’ve stored, which starts shedding off those extra pounds. Losing, again, is easy. It’s what new habits you live by that help you not only keep the weight off, but also helps you maintain a healthy eating habit for your body that is hard for most of us. We’re all food addicts. I know now that if I touch butter bread, I’ll have a severe craving for it, ice cream, and any gluttonous dish that’s basted in fat. I don’t know why, but that’s me. So why allow myself to fall for every butter bread temptation when I know what will follow suit? You should be mindful of your own addictions and how to keep them in check.
The other part about weight loss is adopting a healthy and comfortable exercise routine. I don’t do gym. It’s not that I can’t, I’ve never really liked being in gyms. The only times I’ve been in gyms were just to max out (maxing out here is finding the heaviest load on a machine and doing a few set of reps on it) some of those machines to see if I still had the strength, and these have been very few times (I’ve been in a weight room 11x in my life). Another reason is boredom- how much fun is there really on that same apparatus for 20 minutes? I always feel like that mouse, Algernon, on a treadmill or a bike. If gym is really not that much fun, it’s very hard to motivate yourself to go. This is why you’d find people joining in pairs or groups, who then find it hard to go when their training partners aren’t available to go. Working out should be fun. Given the chance, I could play football or basketball everyday and never be bored or lack motivation to play, and that’s how working out should be. The more fun, the more you feel good about what you’re doing, which also makes you want to do more.
So what did I decide? At first, I thought of simply running, but you just don’t get up and run. Running takes a lot of emotional and mental energy if your body hasn’t been doing it regularly. There was a stretch in my life where I’d do 8-mile runs in the morning, and I’d take 10 minutes each time to motivate myself to run. I’m talking about being on the sidewalk, or trail, not at home in bed. I also didn’t want to find legit reasons to not run when I should: heat, rain, cold, etc. I then decided to simply use my own weight in resistance training. I also thought of several exercises I knew were: 1.very simple and easy to do (if it’s easy to do, you can repeat it a lot). 2. Ones I could do in the privacy of my home. The last thing you need is that bevy of svelte size 2s sashaying on their elliptical machines, or that gym rat with an 8-pack reminding you of that 1-pack you have. 3. Exercises that could be done anywhere my body could fit laying down flat. Really, it’s that simple!
Ok, not quite. I had to retrain my body to do everything from stretching to breathing, to just moving my limbs. I also set some very tough goals. I wanted to drop from 214 to 170lbs. I also wanted to do at least 200 reps on everything I did during each work out. I got to between 400 and 800 on almost all of them. It wasn’t easy, but I took my time to get to the maxes I wanted. Yesterday, I weighed in at 178.5lbs and my fasting blood sugar level was 4.2mmol/L, which hasn’t been this low in 2 years. If I could make the change to drop 35lbs in 90 days, I can teach you how to get there, or at least get yourself moving in that direction. It won’t help telling you how I did them. I’d rather take you through a rough step-by-step process for yourself, then when we both think you’re comfy enough to ride out w/o my training wheels, I’ll stop. Then you can come back in 3 months to tell me what you accomplished.
The reps I used: jail-man squats; sitting leg curls; shadow boxing; back “cycling;” sit-ups; push-ups; and “scissors.” Now these where what I imagined I could easy do and I’ll explain them all in my next entry on this topic, but you don’t have to do them. They suited my body, strength levels, and what I felt I liked. What you choose might be totally different, but always make sure they follow those 3 rules. I also want you to get a tape measure and a scale ready next time. Anything you measure will be for your eyes only. It’ll be part of your honesty exercise before you do anything.
Jail-man squats: with legs about 20” apart, you lower yourself slowly, bending your ankles and knees as far as you can go. Then come back up slowly with legs straightened. Your arms can be crossed behind your head, out straight to the sides, or straight in front of you. Any works, as long as your body’s balanced.
Sitting leg curls: you sit on a flat surface like a coffee table with room underneath for your swinging legs as you fully extend them on each rep. You can do this holding the sides or back of the table for support, or do it hands free.
Shadow boxing: this is punching jabs and hooks in the air (without a heavy bag). I prefer facing a mirror when doing this, but you can do without a mirror if you don’t have any to use.
“back cycling” looks like using an elliptical while flat on your back. Use a pillow or cushion to support your head and neck.
“scissors” will have you on the floor on your side with one leg straight on the floor while you slowly raise the other as far as you can take your leg. Try to do this with your legs and back aligned. It’ll look easy until you realize how heavy your legs are.
You already know what sit-ups and push-ups are, but I’ll have you do something slightly different from the tradition stuff just so you can do a lot of them without killing yourself. So that’s that. Try these out for a day to see if you do them.
Dry weight: what your body weight is in the morning when you wake up. Our weight fluctuates anywhere between 1-3lbs throughout the day and the same changes occur when we sleep and wake up. You should always have a sense of how much your dry weight is, and how much your weight is before bed. Then at some point on, you can always tell where your weight fluctuations come from.
Weight band: we don’t have a fixed weight. If I weigh 178.5lbs today, I don’t focus on that number. Instead, I imagine my weight is actually between 177 and 180.5lbs because that’s about how much my weight changes every 2-3 days. My band and your band will trend upwards or downwards. It all depends on how I manage my body. Knowing your weight band will help you not freak out when you see a 2-3lbs increase. Stressing about the number you see on that scale doesn’t help you in what you’re trying to accomplish. Conversely, it reins you in from getting overly excited if you see a rapid 2-3lbs drop. This drop can easily disappear leaving you bummed and this will help you not worry too much about that. It’ll be a steady ride, and knowing some of these things will help you focus more on the most important things.