Monday, July 7, 2008

A little less conversation, a little more action

Thanks to everyone for the feedback over the weekend. jojo, sandra, lilsis, anonymous and everyone were able to zero in on my big nasty character flaw in this matter: planning everything to death, yet doing nothing concrete to solve the problem.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step -- but more often than not, I'm too busy fussing with my shoelaces and checking the weather.

I know well enough that worrying about a problem does nothing to solve it. Taking action does. It's good to learn enough so one can be reasonably sure that one is taking the right action, but sometimes doing *anything* useful is better than bogging oneself down with endless refinements of the perfect plan.

In the vernacular of my adopted homeland -- "get 'er done!" .... alternatively, "just giv'er!"

So, this weekend, I ramped up the enthusiasm by reading The Hacker's Diet.

Nothing revolutionary here in the theory -- in fact, it's a step backward from some of the more recent, medical-based diet books I've read in the past year or two. The author works on a very simple calories in-calories out model. Too many calories in -- you gain weight. Too few -- you lose weight. Assume that one pound of fat equals 3500 calories, and with a bit of math, you can figure out how many calories +/- per day you need to get to a given goal.

Where this plan catches my interest is in the self-correcting measurement and feedback system.

Daily weigh-ins plugged into a spreadsheet are calculated into a rolling weighted average -- a trend. The math shows, based on the trend, how many calories you're over or under. If you're gaining a pound a week, you can see instantly that you're eating 500 calories too much per day. So, to stabilize weight, eat less or burn 500 more to bring that to zero. To lose a pound a week, cut and/or burn 500 calories a day from the daily balance. It takes a ton of the guesswork out of the food.

The weighted rolling average smoothes out the inevitable daily ups and downs of water weight to give an accurate trending, taking most of the emotional sting out of the daily weigh-in. It becomes just data -- not a daily triumph or failure. The trend is what counts. Within a fairly short time, the trend will show if the diet and exercise are winning or losing. And by how much!

It's a canary in the fat-guy coal mine, too. If, after reaching the stable goal weight, the trend goes up, it's easy to see that an extra 200 calories a day might be the issue. Cut 400 to get back to the goal weight and resume living.

So! At this point, I'm still all talk, right? You wanna reach through the internet's tubes and pipes, grab me by the collar and shake me 'til I smarten up!? I don't blame you!

Actions being undertaken right frickin' now, immediately, pronto, stat:
  • Log sheets and a pen are now in the bathroom for daily weigh-ins & exercise notes.
  • I'm set up at the Hacker's Diet Online, which does all the math for me and eliminates the need for me to learn MS Excel ... it'd be a nice skill to have, but jeez, do I need another excuse?
  • Calculated my daily lunch calories -- that is, everything I bring to work with me, which is all the food I'll be eating between waking up and going home for dinner. First draft of math puts it at 710, but I'm going to round up to 800 in case I packed more than a single 1/3-cup serving of almonds.
  • Eliminated the muffin. Amanda was graciously baking healthyish muffins as a harm-reduction strategy to wean me from my daily cinnamon bun fixation. I've cut the buns down from daily to about once every two to three weeks, so I might as well cut the muffin now.
  • Muffin is essentially replaced by carrot and celery sticks. I prepared these in advance, so no excuses about not having them done.
  • Water water water water lots of water. I'm a diet-drink apologist, but I can buy into the notion that my body will be producing noxious byproducts as it breaks fat down into energy, and I'd rather have that out of me than in me. Also, it'll fill me up.
  • Eating to the point of satisfaction, not fullness. I tend to eat until I'm "ugh" full, not "mmm" satisfied. I've begun eating 'til I'm no longer hungry as opposed to eating until I'm decidedly stuffed ... this could be a tricky one.
  • Continue with the exercise, and then some: walking home 25-30 minutes each day is a good start. I'm embracing the truth that exercising to lose weight isn't the key. I should be exercising because it's generally good for my body. Even a full-out hour of exercise will only burn a few hundred calories; I should be able to cut more than that by food choices. The exercise will make my body better in ways beyond fat loss. There's more on the short-term horizon, but today's about today.
  • Embrace the discomfort: there's no getting around it. Losing fat is essentially a matter of sustained, controlled, gradual starvation. It's not going to be pleasant. That doesn't mean it has to be torture and endless hunger, but it's not going to a be a quick and easy fix. Accepting that is a key to getting on with it

So we'll call this day one. Day one of many. Get-rich-quick schemes don't work, and neither do get-skinny-quick schemes. I'm having to let go of faulty ideas: that I can get thin without substantially changing what I eat; that I can just wing it without measuring anything; that I can rely on others to make decisions for me; that the problem isn't really that bad.

If I were a diabetic, I'd feel no shame in measuring my blood sugar every day and adjusting my food accordingly.

I'm not ashamed of wearing glasses -- I can't willpower my way to better sight, so I resort to lenses to correct my vision.

Likewise, I can acknowledge that the perfect appetite-control/portion-assessment mechanism that some people are born with is missing or broken in me. There's no shame in turning to technology to measure my calories and inform me of exactly where I'm going off track.

Onward and downward, peeps!

1 comment:

  1. http://www.exrx.net/Beginning.html
    Let me try this comment again !!!
    I like this site listed above.
    I'm afraid I cannot agree with the hackers attitude about the whole exercise is overrated bit. Muscle burns more calories, period. It increases your metabolic rate. Incorporate it slowly (and lest I wag my finger!) DO take it seriously!!!
    =)
    Charlene

    ReplyDelete