In my last post, since I had taken a bit of a hiatus, I talked about the struggles I’ve had during this challenge.  To balance out my blog, today I’m going to talk about what has worked, and why I think it has.  You have to balance your negative with some positive, ya know?

First, a quick update.

Diet & Exercise:

As I mentioned in my post on Wednesday, this week I recollected and refocused myself.  I was only able to get to the gym one night due to previously made plans, but that night was great.  After reading an article about fitness, I’ve decided to change my warm up and cardio exercises.  I now warm up on the treadmill, and by warm up I mean I walk for about a half hour at variable inclines.  Then I get a good long stretch in, and hit the elliptical.  Rather than trying to sweat it out for a long period of time, I’ve changed my elliptical exericse to more of a HIIT program.  The computer breaks your workout into 12 sections.  I usually go with the profile that has extreme spikes and troughs, thinking that it mimicked an HIIT program.  Most HIIT programs advocate short times in each section, 1-2 minutes.  When I was doing long elliptical sessions, the sections could be 3 minutes long or more.  So now I do a 12 minute session, making each section just 1 minute long.  I’ve move the level up to 9 now, and will probably move towards 10 or 11 soon, since my workouts on the elliptical are shorter.  I may also do 2X12 minute sessions, for the same amount of variation but a longer workout.  Even the 12 minute session can be a good workout at a high enough level though.

Following the elliptical, I’m doing more strength training.  I’m still moving my weight up slowly as per the doctor’s recommendation, but I’m at or past the weight I was lifting when I injured my shoulder, depending on machine.  I also read that using machines may not be the best course of action for me.  The argument was that machines like the Technogym ones Qi uses are designed to do two things: Keep you from getting hurt, and look cool and fancy with each passing year so they can sell more of them.  The approach recommended was a back-to-basics plan – squats, press, power cleans, etc. – that would give a better whole-body workout.  I think that the Kinesis system Qi has does a pretty good job of giving a more complete workout, so I may switch to that soon.  To be honest, I’m still a little intimidated by it, and want to make sure I’m using it correctly before I launch into a consistent program with it.  I may find that after this challenge I would prefer to join a more traditional gym, but for now I’m going to stick with Qi.  I am seeing results, so it’s not that Qi is bad, but that article made me doubt its continued worth for me.  For now, I’m happy with where I am.

My diet this week was erratic.  I ate very little on Wednesday and Thursday, but then went crazy on my cheat day on Friday.  I had lunch out with friends, and then dinner out with my brother, followed by a Nuggets game and then a late night concert.  All of that added up over the whole day into a mess of calories.  Saturday I ate very little, feeling bad about Friday.  That, of course, was the wrong thing to do.  It would have been much better to eat some healthy greens to help clear the toxins from my body, but I looked at my calorie log from Friday and felt like I should be an anorexic.  After inputing all of my food and alcohol, Friday, um, stood out:

Calories 2/6/11

Look at that!  Hilarious!  Almost 6000 calories on Friday, not a single other day above 2000.  That’s not the healthiest week.  Granted, I’m writing this Sunday morning, so I’m going to consume more calories today (Super Bowl Sunday).  But I know that consistency is more important.  I will work on that this week.

What Went Right

Last weeks post was a bit of a bummer – all about my failure and stumbles, with only a little credit given to myself.  This week I’d rather be more positive, and talk about the success I’ve had.  When I thought about it, I see most of my success in this challenge coming from three areas: calorie tracking, consistency in diet and exercise, and accountability.

Calorie Tracking:

This has been the most eye-opening aspect of this challenge.  Using Myfitnesspal, I’ve been able to get an accurate look at just how many calories I’m putting in my body every day.  While I know there is more to it than just making calories out > calories in, the maxim itself is easy enough to follow.  What makes tracking your calories worth it is actually seeing the numbers.  Myfitnesspal will help you calculate your BMR, and then you can input your goal (whether gaining or losing weight) – I put mine at 1lb/week loss.  It will determine your calorie ceiling per day to lose your desired amount of weight.  As you input your food and exercise for the day, it keeps a running total of how many more calories you may consume to meet your goal:

Calories Remaining

As you can see, I haven’t done any exercise yet today, and I have consumed 667 calories, leaving me with 1173 calories remaining for the day.  If I exercise, it will add that amount of calories to my running total.  If I go over my alloted calories for the day, it changes to a mean red color. >:(

When I’m consistent with it, counting calories keeps what I’m eating at the forefront of my thoughts.  It also helps us drinkers realize just how many calories you can consume on a night out, and try to keep that in check a bit.  Granted, I still make mistakes and run over my calorie allotment from time to time.  It’s not about being perfect.  It’s about recognizing and understanding the amount of calories you are consuming, and being mindful of that number.  If you’re thinking about weight loss yourself (or weigh gain, for that matter), give Myfitnesspal a try.  It’s completely free.

Consistency in Diet and Exercise:

While tracking calories is the most eye-opening part of this challenge, consistency makes the biggest difference.  Weight loss is full of fits and starts, and the joy of seemingly losing 3 pounds overnight can quickly be erased by magically regaining those 3 pounds over lunch.  Our daily weight can be influenced by a multitude of factors – it’s very hard to determine your “true” weight at any given time.  That is why most weight loss experts  advocate a regular schedule of weigh-ins – whether it be daily, weekly, or monthly.  It’s not that you need to lose weight every single day to make a difference; rather, you are looking for a trend.  I originally started this challenge by weighing myself weekly, on Sunday mornings.  Previous posts have discussed inherent flaws in this plan (being in the same “state” on all weigh-ins), so I have recently switched to weighing-in every morning.  The important part is to record it, and then graph it.  When you make that graph, you want to look for a trend.  Here’s my current graph:

Weight Trend

Rarely did I lose weight for many days in a row.  I kept with it though, and was consistent in both diet and exercise over this period.  Sometimes it is hard to tell if you’re losing any weight at all, but the numbers don’t lie.  I’ll keep weighing in daily until the end of this challenge, and I can’t wait to see the downward trend of that graph.

Jerry Seinfeld is known in the productivity world because of his method of tracking his consistency.  He called it “Don’t break the chain”.  The idea is to get a big calendar, and every day that you complete an action related to your goal (in his case writing comedy, in my case staying under my calorie ceiling), you draw a big fat X through that day.  If you miss a day, you are not allowed to draw an X on that day.  The idea, of course, is to keep the chain going as long as possible, filling your calendar with Xs.  I don’t do anything quite so literal, but by recording my weight daily and using Myfitnesspal, it achieves much of the same affect: consistency.  The consistency is what keeps you on track when you slip up.  The consistency is what provides results over a long period of time.  The consistency is how you learn to trust yourself, because you know that if you fall off your horse, you’ll saddle up again.

Accountability:

More than a couple times, I have hated writing these blog posts.  I don’t hate writing, I don’t hate my readers, but I hate sharing my screw-ups.  It’s embarrassing, humbling, and sometimes infuriating when I have to write about how I ate 6000 calories in a day, or didn’t go to the gym for a week.  That’s the point. The whole reason I decided to blog about this weight loss challenge was to keep myself accountable.  I could have certainly lost weight without telling the world about it.  I didn’t have to challenge myself with a monetary incentive.  I’m sure I could eat the right amount of food each day without counting calories.  None of what I do is necessary – but it all helps.  I like being able to share my success with people around the globe, but I also know that I have to share my failures as well.  I’m not out here to make me seem like a weight loss robot – far from it.  My goal was to document the process as transparently as possible.  Sure, I’ve had some updates that were pretty great, and I’ve had some that were pretty poor.  I’ve received congratulations from people, and I’ve seen their faces when I tell them I’ve slid a bit.  It’s all part of being accountable.  Some people prefer to pursue their goals in private.  I prefer to let the world know, and ask for their help.

Having to be accountable to a theoretic 1 billion readers (and a realistic handful) keeps me honest.  Yes, I have hated writing some of my updates, when my progress has been slow and sabotaged by my lifestyle.  It is those posts that keep me going – I wouldn’t want to quit this on a bad note, so I better try harder this week.  And I certainly don’t want to give $800 to the Republican party, so that accountability helps as well.

Looking Forward:

You may be wondering what plans have changed – it’s the title of this update, so what gives?  Well, my ever-generous family is taking me on a surprise trip to Costa Rica for my 30th birthday next week!  I couldn’t ask for a better present, but how does this fit into my weight loss challenge?  Well, it doesn’t.  I’m not taking a scale, or a computer, and I probably will have my phone turned off for the majority of the time.  I don’t know if I’ll gain weight or lose weight.  My family is active; we like to scuba dive, go on jungle hikes, surf, etc., so I won’t be sedentary the entire time, but I’ll also be over-indulging as much as I feel like.  I’m going to weigh myself Friday morning before we leave, write an update Friday after work, and then not weigh myself again until the next Monday, when we return.  To be honest, I don’t see my weight fluctuating outside of the normal range during this time, but I also don’t care.  When I get back, I’ll be ready to refocus for the home stretch.  I’ve been hovering around 189-190 lately, and I’m certain I can lose the last 10 pounds or so over 2 months.  Of course, there is the possibility of losing weight on the vacation, which would be great.  If I come back somewhere around 186-187, I will be very confident in achieving my goals.

For this next week, I hope to get in 3 workouts before we leave.  I will be tracking calories all week, and I’ll post my graph in Friday’s update.  Have a good week everybody!

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