Friday, February 8, 2008

So, wot's th' plan, eh? Part 1 - Diet

My original plan was to return to the Intuitive Eating (Weigh Down) style of eating. Two years ago, I was very successful combining Intuitive Eating (IE) with lower carb and dropped from 198 lbs to 181 lbs in about 3 months before getting derailed by the holidays. I mostly tried to limit refined carbs but still ate veggies, fruit and even had a bowl of ice cream two times a week.

My plan was to return to that way of eating but I haven't been able to get back in that groove for some reason. So this week I decided I would track my food while aiming at certain macronutrient levels.

The calorie level that I chose was 2000-2200 kcal a day. Most of the formulas that I looked at put my Resting Metabolic Rate at about 2500 kcals a day. This doesn't include any calories from the Physical Activity Layer (PAL). My thought is to slightly reduce my calorie intake for a slow weight loss and then have any exercise be "gravy" when it comes to calorie use. Since the challenge is more about getting into useful real-world shape than losing weight, this gives added incentive to keep the exercise up.

I chose this level in the hopes that it will slow the metabolic adaptation. A smaller calorie deficit should slow the leptin drop that results in a slower metabolism. Last October, I tried the same thing but at 1500 calories. I dropped weight pretty fast but had zero energy. There was no way I could exercise. I hope to avoid that with the higher caloric target.

I'll also operate at this deficit for about four weeks and then return to eating at maintenance for two weeks, before repeating the process. A similar strategy is recommended in Lyle McDonald's book A Guide To Flexible Dieting. The idea is that ending the caloric deficit helps to reset the metabolism back to normal, minus any adjustment for the new, (hopefully) lower weight. Also, as I lose weight, I'll have to lower my caloric target to maintain a deficit as less bulk means lower calories required.

As for macronutrients, the most important is adequate protein intake. It is absolutely critical to get enough protein to reduce the loss of lean tissue. From my reading, it appears that roughly .6 gram of protein per pound of lean tissue is necessary to maintain lean tissue. I am aiming closer to 1 gram as I am trying to put on a little muscle in the process. This gives me a target of roughly 150 grams (800 calories).

As for carbs, I am aiming at roughly 20-25% of my calories coming from carbs (100 - 120 grams a day). It appears that some of the "magic" of low carb - lower inflammation, a large drop in triglycerides (which reduces leptin resistance and lowers heart disease risk), reduced hunger, etc - starts at this level. Most low carbers believe that lowering carbs until the body goes into ketosis is necessary but this isn't so, except maybe for the severely insulin resistant individual. I am purposely staying out of ketosis because, one, I feel terrible when in ketosis and, two, it appears that ketosis may be catabolic, which is exactly opposite of what I want since I would like to add/maintain muscle.

I would like to say that the carbs will all come from pure, whole food sources but that just won't be the case. I have to have something I can stick to and a little enjoyment is necessary for that to happen. I like some rice with my stir-fries or a few corn chips crumbled in my taco salad or something sweet after dinner. I am willing to make some sacrifices to reach my goal but I know from experience that too much deprivation will simply derail me down the road.

Ideally, the rest of the 700-800 calories will come from good fat sources and extra protein.

As for meal timing, I am trying to stick with waiting for hunger and then eating small amounts. I rarely get hungry before noon, so I generally eat two meals a day, lunch and dinner. However, when I actually track and reduce my calories, I sometimes get hungry earlier. I am going to just let that fall where it may.

However, hunger or not, one thing I am doing is having a post-workout (PWO) protein shake. There is just too much evidence showing the benefits. A PWO shake should be basically protein and carbs. The carbs raise insulin, which helps the uptake of amino acids into the muscle. If done after a hard workout, there isn't much danger of fat storage - it just replenishes the glycogen in the muscle. In Anthony Colpo's Fat Loss Bible, there is a complicated explanation of making a mixture of protein powder, branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) and carb sources like maltodextrin. This is probably fine for bodybuilders but I am not a bodybuilder and want something simple that will still work.

Based on some articles by Lyle McDonald in his newsletter, I think a good compromise is simply skim milk mixed with protein powder. The lactose from the milk provides the carbs and both the milk and powder provide the protein. I am not normally a big fan of skim milk but in this case, I don't want the fat to slow down the absorption.

All in all, I think it is a sound plan and something I can stick with. The proof will be in the pudding, I guess.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A little history...

I figured a little history would help to show where I am now.

As a kid, I didn't play sports but was pretty active and stayed thin throughout school. I had paper routes from the age of 10 through about 17 which kept me in decent shape (I walked and and carried all of the papers with me). I didn't have a clue about diet but we really didn't have snacks around much.

At age 16, I was 135-140 lb at 5' 9"-ish:

On my 17th birthday, I joined the Army National Guard. They had a program where you do basic training the summer between your Junior and Senior year of high school and then finish the training (AIT) after graduation. I did my basic training that summer and put on close to 30 pounds, dropped one pants size and grew close to 1.5". I came out of that the best shape of my life. Unfortunately, it didn't last.

I got back into shape during AIT (a lot of running and calisthenics) but I ate terribly while there. I would skip breakfast so I could sleep in before getting up to help clean the barracks. I would eat a decent lunch while in class and then buy junk from the PX for "dinner". For as badly as I ate, it was amazing how good of shape I got into (would have been even better had I eaten correctly). This junk food diet set a bad precedent as it was the first time that I really had access to that much junk.

After AIT, I started college (community college then) and worked a variety of jobs that were fairly physically demanding. I stayed in okay shape and only put on a little fat during this time.

When I was 20, I finally moved out on my own. I had gotten a job as a computer operator for a local bank and worked the graveyard shift. I rarely cooked for myself and the fast food diet, combined with the fairly sedentary new job, led to a fairly rapid weight gain. I didn't have a scale at that time but I know I developed a gut for the first time in my life.

I decided that I needed to learn about nutrition and went out and bought a bunch of books about it. Some of it was a little on the fringe, like Adelle Davis, but it helped. I came away with the main idea to increase my vegetables and to avoid refined sugar and grains. I decided that I would avoid the refined carbs and go from there.

It wasn't really a low carb diet, though. My dinners would be meat, vegetables and potato/rice. Very simple meals and almost no processed food, since it was impossible to find it without sugar or flour added. I did find a whole grain, no sugar added bread, so I had sandwiches for lunch. Knowing what I know now about carbs, it was kind of silly, but it worked - I dropped down to a 29/30 inch waist size and stayed there pretty effortlessly.

When I started dating the girl who I would eventually marry, it became very difficult to go out and stay on the no sugar/flour diet. I put weight back on fairly quickly, eventually ballooning up to around 185 lbs by the time we got married when I was 25 years old.

After getting married, I went back to school to earn my Electrical Engineering degree at Oregon State University. Walking all over campus carrying a heavy book bag helped keep my weight semi-under control. I fluctuated between 190 and 200 lbs during this time. I also tried to eat a lower fat diet to try to help control my weight but wasn't always successful. I also started really developing a bad habit of just plain eating too much. I would easily put away half of a giant pizza or four Taco Bell bean burritos at a sitting.

After school, the weight just poured on. Over the next few years, I eventually ballooned up to 225 lb.

I really never saw myself as fat I really was, though I felt terrible at the time. My wife tells me I was developing sleep apnea (I snore bad enough as it is) and I was tired all of the time. I was tired and irritable with my boys, who were very young at the time. I tried dieting on and off but nothing really worked.

During the summer of '98, I got a visit from my sister and was amazed at how she looked. She had been struggling with her weight also and here she shows up tiny! I found she was doing a program called Weigh Down through her church. The basic idea was to eat whatever you wanted but only in small amounts and only when physically (stomach growling) hungry. It sounded simple and I started right away.

By the next April, I had lost 48 pounds, to a low of 177 lbs. I eventually adjusted to about 180 lbs and stayed there for the next four years. I was truly eating whatever I wanted and it was extremely easy to stay on plan.

Around 2002, I inexplicably started to regain the weight. I believe now that there were a few factors. One was that the Weigh Down program was becoming increasingly legalistic. Basically, the idea was that it was a mortal sin to overeat or eat when not hungry. Being too strict can be a death knell for a diet. Another problem was I was eating too much at a time so I was getting into a "binge and fast" cycle. Finally, eating "whatever I want" didn't include enough protein and I had lost a fair amount of muscle. I believe that this slowed my metabolism and made it harder to actually get hungry, so that I ate when I thought I was going to be hungry rather than waiting until I actually was.

I struggled to get back on track but failed. I tried a different, but similar, program called Thin Within that wasn't as legalistic but I had lost my groove by this time. Because I frequently found myself craving sweets after dinner, I started thinking back to my no sugar/refined grains days. I started studying this aspect again and came across low carb nutrition.

The idea of whole/unprocessed food appealed to me (I never bought those low carb frankenfoods) and I started incorporating low carb into my eating style. I have been there pretty much since that time and my weight during this time has fluctuated between a high of 198 to a low of 181, with an average in the 190 range. The difference now is that I am able to put back on the muscle and my 195 lbs is a lot different build than it was when I was eating junk food in college.

Two years ago, I also found that I was gluten intolerant. Since that time I have eaten nothing with wheat, barley or rye (at least,on purpose). This hasn't helped with my weight or getting in shape, except it is a lot easier to avoid junk food if it is going to instantly make you sick. I feel a lot better, though.

Maybe I should have titled this "A LOT of history...".

Friday, February 1, 2008

Beginning Today

I am posting my beginning stats and my pictures, so I can refer back to them as time goes along.


Neck (in) 16.73
Chest (in) 41.63
Waist (in) 37.01
Stomach (In) (in) 37.8
Stomach (out) (in) 39.76
Hips (in) 41.44
Right Bicep (in) 13.39
Right Thigh (in) 19.59

Weight: 197 lb
Calculated bodyfat percentage: 19.5%

I actually measure in cm and then use the spreadsheet that I track the numbers with to convert to inches, which explains the oddball numbers.

My beginning pics are here:

"Flexed", to show the lack of proper muscle tone:

This is actually a bit of a cheat as I took these about three weeks ago. I decided at that time that I didn't want to wait until my birthday to start the exercise program. I haven't lost any weight yet but my muscles do feel a little "fuller". I think the exercise is working but need to work a lot on my eating.