Thursday, October 23, 2008

I Have a Major Confession to Make

I have a major confession to make. This confession will chill the bones of every long-time Still Waiting visitor. Dearest visitors, you may be aware, from your frequent perusal of this site, that I have recently made substantial progress on my weight loss goals. I had hit a plateau, hovering around 207 to 208 pounds. It seemed that nothing I could do would push me below that 207 threshold. Then a few weeks ago I started to make stunning progress, now clocking in (as of this morning) at 202.8 pounds.

So what is my confession? Simple: I have not exercised at all. That fantastic home gym that I set up, costing me several hundred dollars, has gotten essentially no use over the past several weeks. I broke through the plateau with nothing more than a sustained caloric deficit. Any exercise I may have done was, shall we say, "nontraditional," and certainly "unintentional" in that it was not meant as exercise: I pranced about a theater singing songs with my friends. There were no weights, no spandex shorts, no technical T-shirts, and no running shoes involved. There were no Swiss balls, BOSU balls, tennis balls, baseballs, basketballs, or really any balls involved. Not once did I set aside time to exercise, put on my gear, and force myself to go to the gym or to run around like an unleashed mongrel up and down the rolling hills of my suburban Washington neighborhood.

All I did was move more and eat less.

This is a fairly monumental discovery. My friend Josh lost about 50 pounds a few years ago and when I asked him what his secret was, he told me, "I am following this great new plan!" I asked him, eagerly, what it was. He responded, with a big smile, "It's just four words!" I was beside myself. Good God, man, what is it! What are the four words!

He responded: "Move more, eat less."

Of course, I never believed it was truly that simple. Surely he had followed some sort of convoluted exercise and nutritional program. Surely a plethora of fancy electronics was involved, requiring straps and cables and sensors and various frequencies penetrating one's body and hooking up to a computer for detailed analysis!

Nope, none of that. He just stopped eating crap, didn't eat when he wasn't hungry, and walked around more. No Turbulence Training workouts, no killing himself at the gym, no supersets or drop sets or inverted half pyramid sets with a mandatory "10" at the end.

All he did was walk around and put the fork down!

So it turns out, that after many years of reading about all the different ways of losing weight, and analyzing all the various bodybuilding programs, I have been -- surprise, surprise -- over analyzing! You don't have to kill yourself. You just have to maintain a caloric deficit. It really is that simple.

Of course, it's not really that simple. You have to eat enough calories so that you don't lose muscle. And you have to eat generally the right type of calories -- 2000 calories worth of Baileys Irish Cream might be a good time but it won't do your body any favors. But as long as you eat a good combination of carbs, protein and fat, and burn more calories than you take in, you will lose weight.

Building muscle is certainly important. I spent several years going to the gym and pumping iron -- and believe me, the muscle is there. I catch glimpses of it regularly, hiding behind the Big Paper Towel. But at this point in my life, my main goal is not gaining muscle; it's losing fat so that I can see the muscle I have. For that, lifting weights doesn't appear to be necessary!

So I will continue doing what I'm doing, and -- barring any unforeseen binges -- continue making progress. At this rate I should hit 190 by the New Year!!!

My Superhero Name is "The Green Triangle"

You may ask, is it hard for me to lose all this weight? The answer is, no. Once you find a rhythm that you can live with, it's no big deal at all.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Yet Another Glowing Review of the BodyBugg, or Better Living Through Technology!

Anyone who knows me will be able to tell you that I am a technophile, wholeheartedly and unreservedly. Any time a gadget is introduced that promises to measure me, count me, cajole me, intimidate and or encourage me through the use of electronics, well, I am powerless to resist the pull.

It is even better if the particular electronic in question is capable of precisely measuring, and keeping track of, the vital signs of yours truly. Yes, if you can strap it on me and turn it on and measure the resulting heart rate/calorie burn/number of steps/whatever, well then my money is as good as gone.

If the gadget can further take those statistics -- the numbers, data points, and sloping trajectories that define who I am and what I'm doing -- and automagically graph those measurements, and give me a plethora of charts that I can feast my eyes upon, I will not just give you my money... I will give you my allegiance!

Well, friends, my allegiance now belongs to the BodyBugg, a miraculous device that used to cost $500, but now due to the miracle of advancing technology and the need to clear out inventory, only costs $200. $200 for a device that graphs and charts and loves me? Surely you cannot be serious. Oh, but I am!

Okay, so the question now is what exactly does this machine do. I'm glad you asked. I first saw the device strapped to a fattie on that hit reality television series, The Biggest Loser. The way it works is simple: you strap it around your arm, and go about your business. When you see fit to press a button on the device and wirelessly connect to your (sadly not yet Mac compatible) computer, the graphs miraculously materialize before your awed and inspired eyes.

As you will see below, the graphs show exactly how many calories you burn minute by minute, how many calories you burned for the entire day -- or whatever period you are looking at -- how many steps you took, when you took them, how much "physical activity" you got (where "activity" is defined as any time that you were burning more than 3 calories per minute), and much much more! The benefits of this piece of technology is that you can know, finally and demonstrably, exactly how many calories your body burns. You can then use this information to know exactly how many calories you need to consume each day in order to lose weight.

Here is a screenshot of my activity for Thursday, October 2:

The first thing you will notice is that I burned approximately 2800 calories -- which was my goal for the day -- and consumed below 1900 calories -- which is far below my upper limit of 2200. You will also see exactly when I burned those calories throughout the day. It is extremely useful for me to know how many calories I burn and when I burn them, because then I can plan my weight loss with an extreme level of specificity.

For instance, from the graph I see that I burn approximately 1.5 calories per minute when I am sleeping or sitting. This is very good to know because it means that, in the absence of any physical activity, I will burn about 90 calories an hour. So if my goal for the day (midnight to midnight) is to burn 2800 calories, and if I don't want to do any sort of exercise after nine in the evening (because it keeps me up), then I know that by 9:00 PM I need to have burned (2800 - (90 x 3)), or 2530 calories. (This time-based target will be much more useful to me when the "digital display" arrives -- this is a watch that is continuously synchronized with the BodyBugg and tells me how many calories I have burned at any given time. Until then, I will have to synchronize the device with the website in order to see the calories that I have burned.)

I also now know that walking will burn approximately 6 calories a minute, depending upon the elevation grade. So if I look at my watch see that it is 8:00 PM and I have not yet burned 2440 calories -- say I am only at 2380 -- then I can simply walk for 10 minutes and get up to 2440, thus putting it on track to reach my 2800 goal for the day!

Now, for many people, this kind of micromanaged caloric expenditure may seem like overkill. Skwigg, for instance, will probably just tell me to drink more caffeine and spend my free time running after the dogs like she does, and not worry about the specific calories. Fair enough. But for people like me, this level of numerical specificity gives me a feeling of control over my weight loss destiny that I otherwise would not have. It encourages and thrills me when I can set a numerical goal, meet or exceed that goal, and then at the end of the week look at graphical evidence like this:

Just look at that. A week ago, I was burning approximately 2400 calories during the day, and walking just a couple of thousand steps. By setting specific goals and making a daily effort to reach those goals, I was able to get to 2800 calories and over 8000 steps yesterday. Most of the steps came during rehearsal, but I have learned that where the steps come from doesn't matter at all; all that matters is that you take steps. Walking around the block or walking back and forth on the stage do the same exact thing! All that matters is that you move!

And, in the end, that may be the best thing about the BodyBugg: It PROVES, once and for all, that all you have to do is move. And it encourages you to move because you really want to see those "calories burned" numbers go up!

Now all I have to do is maintain an average daily caloric deficit of 600, and the pounds will melt off at a rate of approximately 1.25 pounds per week. At that rate, I will be below 200 pounds by Thanksgiving, below 190 pounds by mid-January, and below 180 pounds (!) by the beginning of April, just in time for the Cherry Blossom run. All without unduly killing myself at the gym, or unnecessarily restricting calories to the point that I become famished and cranky.

I haven't been 180 pounds in five years. If my new toy can help me get back down to that fit weight -- if it can encourage me to get back into a healthy and active lifestyle -- then it will be money well spent. And, more importantly, it will be yet more proof that one can achieve Better Living through Technology. And that will make this gadget-lover oh so happy!

* Note: This technophile wrote the entire blog entry you just read with my nifty MacSpeech Dictate voice recognition software. 99% accuracy. Better Living through Technology, indeed!