Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Two Years Later

Sept 2012
This March 2015 marks 2 years since I made the decision to get healthier. There are several blogs herein that gives the whole long, long story so if you need the long version please go back and read. I'll wait...The Reader's Digest version is at 46 years old my blood sugar was out of control despite medication and my cholesterol and blood pressure were also skyrocketing. I was at least 40 lbs overweight at 235 lbs at 5' 9" tall (and having been as heavy as 297 in my life). After serious soul searching I made the decision to lose weight and take better care of myself. I wanted to lose 20 lbs and ended up losing more then 50 lbs getting down as low as 179 lbs in about a year. After the year I switched it up and became less about losing weight and more about maintaining weight and getting back to the level of muscularity I was used to sans the excess weight. All the while the
March 2015
health being the most important factor (blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol). My primary tools to accomplish this were getting at least 10,000 steps a day tracking with my Fitbit and netting below 2000 calories a day logging food on MyFitnessPal. After one year I had cut my glucose A1C (the measuring stick for blood sugar over an extended period as opposed to daily readings) and my blood pressure and cholesterol were normal although the doctor thought it wise to keep me on meds for the time being as I had no adverse effects from them. At this point I declared Rich O 2.0 (the lame nickname I had given the "new" me) dead as that phase had gone as far as it could and I entered phase Rich O 2.1 (also lame) (AS of this writing my glucose A1C is "normal" (below 5.6) for the first time in 13 years!!)

So what changed? Well I was certainly happy with my vitals and my new streamlined look but I've been used to a certain level of muscularity my entire adult life much of which I'd lost as during the bulk of my weight crashing I had developed elbow tendinitis (tennis elbow, go figure) so I hadn't been strength training much. As soon as I was healthy I went back to weights 3 times a week at the gym. Sadly the weight loss and having beat my joints for so long meant that a lot of the power was gone. But I didn't care. Lean, functional muscle was what I was looking for. I also continued my daily calisthenics and body weight exercises switching off from  pull ups, push ups and squats to TRX
 exercises to dips and back again. Always changing it up. And I noticed a big difference. I also worked my core. Hard! At
least 6 days a week a put in exercise for my core and abs. Knee raises, yoga ball crunches, ab wheel, etc etc. And it's made a huge difference. My whole middle of my body feels so much stronger and looks much different. If you strain your eyes you can see visible abs below the lingering layer of flab, something I didn't have even in my 20's. When I look in the mirror I see the thick bulk of my power lifting days replaced by definition, my upper body more of a "V" shape and my legs from think tree trunks to ripped up looking. Now problem areas still exist like my lower belly and lower pecs. I'm not sure that without cutting more fat out of my diet if these will ever go away and I  am not sure I care. I kind of feel like this is how I always wanted to look in my minds eye (probably a little more mass then this but whatever) and am generally happy. While I'll never be "beach body" ready I feel now more like an athlete going soft as opposed to an out of shape guy trying to get into shape. I can live with that

As far as cardio goes I just kept on my path striving for 10,000 steps a day minimum and averaging about 16,000-17,000. Walking is still my primary means but this past winter forced me to change things up as the snow made walking all but impossible and at the least very unpleasant all to often. I used my exercise bike a lot but as I was still focused on steps first and all around cardio second I
 came up with new things. Like walking/marching/jogging in place. And going up and down the stairs in my building. And old school step aerobic inspired exercises. I also added heavy bag training as more a cardio burn then for steps. I don't really know what I'm doing but it certainly gets the heart pounding. Believe it or not I even started using the Kinect games on my Xbox like Boxing and Your Fitness Evolved on days I was trapped inside. Of course there's always the elliptical and treadmill at the gym. I tried running for a bit but it was just too much on my knees and calves so I went back to walking. I credit the constant, low impact cardio as the most important part of my fitness regime and am most proud to have hit my goal of at least 10,000 steps a day every single day for more then 2 years now! My pocket carried Fitbit One is showing signs of wear and tear and may need replacing but it's all money wells spent

Food wise I've made changes both on the plus and the minus side. On the plus side I continued with the big, protein filled breakfasts, medium protein filled lunch and small protein filled dinner. My meals are better balanced with every meals featuring carbs, proteins, dairy and fruits/veggies. I've consumed more broccoli, asparagus, egg whites/egg substitute and romaine lettuce then I thought possible. I've worked a lot of whole grains and "super foods into my diet like chia, cacao nib, and quinoa. While breads and potatoes are still a part of my life rice and pasta are a rare treat. I've also worked juicing more into my morning routine alternating with smoothies. I like the smoothies but as I use them as supplemental and not meal replacement the calorie count can get pretty high. Overall I think my "normal" eating habits are very sensible and I probably kept under my calorie goal (2 years straight of logging in to MyFitnessPal) 340-350 days last year. On the minus end I let the foot off the gas a bit as I decided to "live life". No more skipping pizza and beer night with friends or whatever. On days where I know I'm going to be "bad" I try my best to adjust my other meals and put more work in. It doesn't always work out but I always try to make it work. And if it doesn't, oh well. I simply won't let myself fall back into old bad habits and I'm secure enough in how things are that one or two bad days will not undo all the good I've done the past 2 years

So, 2 years later, has my life changed? Well, yes. And No. I feel better for sure. And I feel better about myself. I haven't really been sick since I started this new regime (keep in mind colds are not sick in my world). I haven't really changed much in how I act or how I dress (tho I will admit an affinity for compression fit Under Armour shirts at the gym which I would have never worn before). Sadly unlike in the movies and TV our protagonist losing weight does not suddenly make him/her irresistible to the opposite sex (dammit) but other then that I definitely feel less self-conscious about my appearance then at any point since my 20's. I feel accomplished as I feel like (for now) I dodged a huge bullet and did something about it. The downside? Well there's a lot of sacrifice. Exercising when you don't feel like it. Or you're tired. Or sick. Or hungover. Or on vacation. Skipping dessert and making smarter choices. Giving up some of your favorite foods. And there's the cost involved. Eating better in my experience costs more (cutting out processed food for fresh is a big part). And the time to prep your meals. I don't sit down after work until almost 9:30 by the time I'm done working out, making dinner and prepping  the next days breakfast and lunch. And clothes.Dear lord I've gone through clothes. In my jeans drawer alone I have 36", 34", 33" and 32" as I'm struggling to find the balance tween fit and comfort (ok, the 36" were from last year I just can't get rid of them yet as a veteran of the weight loss wars. And the compliments. I'm not one comfortable with compliments and usually deflect them with self-deprecating humor. And the disbelief. I've gone through everything from people thinking I'm sick or worse to people not believing I've weighed almost 300 lbs and most recently 240 lbs. But those are all minor quibbles in the overall scheme of things

I'm not "proud" of what I've done as if I had pride to start with I wouldn't have let myself fall so far. I do feel accomplished and somewhat satisfied. And I'm always willing to give what advice I can give. I'll end this with what of said all along- find what works for you but make a choice you can stick with, not a quick fix. End of the day it's all about diet and exercise and that will never change