Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Measure of My Success in 2014: I Dropped Three Pant Sizes

When it comes to fitness and getting into shape, there are many measures of success.  For example, it could be the number on the scale, a change in the percentage of body fat, or the waist to hip ratio.

For me, this year, the best indicator of my success is that I now wear the same make and style of jeans that I wore at the beginning of 2014, but three sizes smaller.

I guess you can say that I walked my butt off.  Having hit the pavement for 3800 kilometers and having biked for another 1400 kilometers, plus severely restricting my simple carb consumption along with alcohol, I think I may have finally figured out what works for me.

Move more.  Eat better.

Not all that difficult to do, but I had to get out of denial.  I had to drop my belief that since I went to the gym regularly, I could eat whatever I wanted, when I wanted.  As well, I had to admit that my moderate alcohol consumption was sabotaging my efforts to get into good shape.

Sometimes the most difficult part of making transformative change is coming clean with our dysfunctional behavior, especially when the behavior in question brings considerable pleasure as eating bread, pasta, and pastries and drinking alcohol most certainly do.

It's not that I can no longer eat my favorite foods and drink my favorite wine; it's just that I can only partake once in a while, one cheat meal and one glass of wine per week.

I can live with that.  In fact, I will live longer with a better quality of life if I just keep on keeping on with what I am doing.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Well Folks, I Made It! 5000 Km in 2014

Last year, I received a Fitbit for Christmas.  Since then I have been faithfully logging my distance covered each day on foot.  When summer rolled around, I decided to do the same for my bike, using the GPS in my cellphone.

When I began the year, I had no idea about how much ground I could cover over the next twelve months.  In this instance, what can be measured definitely counts.  Once I started tracking my daily movement, given my personality, I started to push myself.

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The first goal was to get up to 10,000 steps a day, which is for me about 7.8 km.  After a while, reaching that goal was relatively easy.  Just moving about around the house and at work brings me to 4000 steps, so to get to 10,000, it only takes about an hour of walking.  Add in two, 15-minute coffee breaks and a half an hour at lunch and voila, the Fitbit reads 10,000 or more steps by the end of the day.

I then decided to increase my goal by 30%, in other words to move up to 13,000 steps per day, which works out to be 10k.  That I can do, but it requires more discipline, in particular, at least 30 additional minutes of walking in the evening.

Sometime in the late fall, I realized that I had already walked the equivalent of the distance from Ottawa to Calgary.  I then added the number of kilometers I had cycled and knew that I had covered approximately 4600 km, the distance from Ottawa to Vancouver.  Then I thought, "if I pick up the pace, I'll make it to 5000 km before the end of the calender year."

As a result, over the last six weeks, I have been walking on average 12km per day.  That means parking the car as far as possible in the parking lot at work and when I go shopping, taking the stairs, and a minimum of 30 minutes on the treadmill in the evening.

Well, I made it to 5000 Km with two weeks to spare, and I must say I feeling pretty good about myself.  In short, I have walked on average 10km a day for the entire year.

Pretty good for someone who was 56 years old until today, my birthday.

Without question, the best gift I have given myself has been the heath gains I have experienced over the last year.

I am definitely looking forward to 2015, the year in which I can hopefully say with confidence that "I am lean and fit!"

Monday, November 17, 2014

Welcome to Calgary and While We're at It, Vancouver

Lately, I have been adding up the numbers to get an idea on how far I have travelled over the course of 2014.  By the end of October, I had walked 3100 km, which is about the distance from Ottawa to Calgary.  If I add in the distance I covered on my bike this summer, about 1400km, I have travelled the equivalent of the distance from Ottawa to Vancouver. 

Not too shabby.

Add in approximately 100 workouts with the weights, you might think that I would be ripped by now.

No, not me, for I am cursed what my doctor refers to as a thrifty metabolism.  I am incredibly efficient and turning glucose into fat and storing it.  Restricting my intake of simple carbs has helped a bit, but no where near what I thought I could bring about by combining a lot of exercise with a low fast-carb diet.

So, what's left to do?

Well, since I have come this far, I might as well go all the way -- cutting back on alcohol.  I read lately that besides the extra calories and the stimulation of the appetite, one of the negative effects of alcohol consumption, especially for people who are trying to shed fat, is that our bodies will burn off the alcohol first before returning to burning glucose and fatty acids.  In other words, a couple of glasses of wine with a good meal is a great way to undo the positive effects of all the exercise during the week.

Consequently, I have decided that in addition to limiting myself to one cheat meal per week, I also will limit myself to just one unit of alcohol.  So far, so good.  I haven't had any alcohol for the last three weeks.  We'll see where this brings me.

According to my son, who also works out and watches what he eats, if this one last piece of the puzzle doesn't bring about the fat loss that I'm looking for, I should accept the fact that I will die fat.

"Fit-Fat", I replied.  Even if 25% of my body mass is fat, you have to be in pretty good shape to cover 5000 km during a single year.  At the moment, I am right on track to do so.

It would be a great way to end the year! 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Exercising More Did Not Bring About the Desired Results

This year I thought I would do a little experiment.  A couple years ago, I remember cycling 25 or more kilometres every day for 30 days in a row.  I thought that I would drop a few pounds.  It didn't work.

When I went to see my doctor, I brought up my frustration.  She told me that my body was extremely efficient stocking fat.  In other words, I have a thrifty metabolism.  She went on to say that I would have to give up most carbs.

Thanks a lot doc.  I think that I would rather stay heavy.

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Well this year, I thought I would try something different.  I had already cut back on a lot of carbs.  I was avoiding bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, and pastries.  Moreover, I was cycling again, around 100 kilometers per week.  This was over and above, the 10 kilometers a day I was walking.  Taking into consideration, the calories in, calories out prescription, the pounds should have melted off me.

No such luck.

I must say that I did let a few carbs slip back into my diet, a third of a cup of oats in the morning and some flavoured yoghurt (I know that the yoghurt has sugar added).  But hey, with the amount of exercise I was doing, that shouldn't have impeded my progress.

But it did.

Before hopping back on my bike, I had already reached a plateau concerning my weight loss -- I had lost 30 pounds in the previous 6 months.  I could rationalize and say that the additional exercise produced more muscle mass that negated the weight I lost from losing fat.

Maybe, just maybe there was something else at work.  Indeed, perhaps the whole calorie in, calorie out approach is a sham.  In fact this is the claim made by Jonathan Bailor in his wonderful book, The Calorie Myth: How to Eat More, Exercise Less, Lose Weight, and Live Better.  I highly recommend that you give it a read.

Bailor asserts that our bodies are not calculators, adding and subtracting calories incessantly.  Instead, our bodies are genetically programmed to seek homeostasis and to maintain our body set weight.

Try as we may, our bodies will fight off any attempt to lose body fat that simply focuses on eating less and exercising more.  Losing weight? Well let's just lower the basal metabolic rate to compensate for the reduced caloric intake.  And if that's not enough, let's increase the production of the hunger hormone ghrelin and lower the effect of the hormone leptin, which tells you that you are full and to stop eating.

For Bailor, it's not about calories in and calories out.  It's all about the hormones, and in particular, it's 90% about what we eat and how it affects our endocrine system.  In summary, if you want to lose weight and keep it off, you are going to have to undo the damage, otherwise known as metabolic syndrome, that your bad eating habits have brought about.

Essentially, you need to change what you eat and how you exercise, focusing on quality instead of quantity.

What do you have to lose? Give it a try!

I have and in the first five days of adopting Bailor's suggested regime, I lost two pounds and broke through the 255 pound barrier for the first time.

At the moment, I am concentrating my efforts on eating very well, more protein and non-starchy vegetables.  I am refocusing my energy so that I am even more disciplined regarding what I eat, knowing that pressing on this lever brings about better results than increasing the distance that I cover on foot and on my bike.

So far, so good.  You know that I will keep you posted.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Welcome to Winnipeg Homeboy

Well, I made it.  Two thousand, one hundred and twenty-four kilometres later, I can say that since the beginning of the year I have walked the equivalent of the distance from Ottawa to my home town of Winnipeg.

Over and above having achieved my first SMART goal of the year, I have also cycled just over 1000 kilometres, mostly to and from work.  As you can imagine, I'm getting pretty fit and am experiencing some of the benefits that getting into decent shape can bring.

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For instance, during my trip to New York City, I was able to explore the city first hand, walking more than 15 kilometres a day in the heat of summer.  As well, upon my return I dug out a 12x12 foot space for my future stone garden by myself with just a shovel and a wheel barrow.  It was tough slogging because I had to excavate about 5 cubic yards of compacted earth.  Not bad for someone who will be celebrating his 57th birthday later this year.

Perhaps, the biggest payoff from having made significant changes to my lifestyle -- which I could sum up with the simple phrase: move more and eat better -- is that I will be wearing my favorite tailored suit that I haven't been able to wear for ten years as I attend my step-daughter officially being called to the Bar, the culmination of her many years of hard work to get through law school.

I think that we both can be proud of what we have accomplished.  I also know that to reach my destination of being fit and slim I too will need to sustain my efforts and show perseverance in order to achieve a most worthy goal.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

To Reap the Benefits From Your Workouts You Need To Be Moving Throughout the Day

Now that summer is upon us and I have been on my bike for a few weeks, I am reminded how important it is to be physically active on a daily basis.  Specifically, we need to be moving throughout the day not just when we make it to the gym or play our favorite sports.

As we grow older, the North American lifestyle takes it toll, especially for those of us who are raising kids and holding down a full-job.  On the one hand, we spend a great deal of time driving to and from work, the daycare or school, and ferrying our kids to their organized activities.  On the other, we our glued to our computer screens during the day and then add on extra hours using our portable devices or crashing out on the couch watching HD TV.  To say the least, this is a sedentary lifestyle.

If you where a tracking device, it doesn't take long to realize that a so-called normal day means taking about only 3000-4000 steps.  For me that means burning somewhere around 2300 calories for the day.  Adding in two or three workouts is not enough to counterbalance the lack of physical activity as I carry on during the week.

Say that I work out twice and burn an extra 700 calories per session, add some extra calories burned after the workouts due to an increase in my metabolic rate, but minus the extra calories I consume due to my increase in appetite.  All in all, I would estimate that the workouts bring about a very modest calorie deficit of only 1000 calories.

In other words, with such a low baseline of daily activity, the two workouts will have a negligible effect if any on my body weight and composition.

However, if I increase my activity level to taking 12,000 steps a day, I now burn about 3400 calories a day.  In this scenario, my workouts now create a significant calorie deficit.

For example, going to and from my work is about 28 kms.  This works out to be an extra 850 calories burned each day that I commute by bike.  In the best case scenario, weather permitting, I commute five times during the week while maintaining the same number of steps taken daily.  On these days, I burn well over 4000 calories each day.

Of course, it is imperative not to significantly increase calorie consumption, and I am able to do this but sticking to a slow carb regime that severely limits my intake of high glycemic carbs contained in bread, rice, potatoes, sugar, and refined flour products.  Instead, I fill up with about 7 to 8 portions of fruit and vegetables per day in addition to the two portions of protein that I consume.

So far so good and I am looking forward to getting back to you by the end of the summer with a portrait of my results.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Falling Into the Fat Trap

This week we saw some startling figures concerning obesity rates around the world.

Researchers found more than 2 billion people worldwide are now overweight or obese. The highest rates were in the Middle East and North Africa, where nearly 60 per cent of men and 65 per cent of women are heavy. The U.S. has about 13 per cent of the world's fat population, a greater percentage than any other country. China and India combined have about 15 per cent.

So, in other words, if you are feeling like a fatso, you are not alone; you are a member of the 2billion person club.

Given the incredible advances in science, how come we aren't able to help people maintain a healthy weight?

In a nutshell, for most of the last century, our understanding of the cause of obesity has been based on immutable physical law. Specifically, it’s the first law of thermodynamics, which dictates that energy can neither be created nor destroyed.

When it comes to body weight, this means that calorie intake minus calorie expenditure equals calories stored. Surrounded by tempting foods, we overeat, consuming more calories than we can burn off, and the excess is deposited as fat. The simple solution is to exert willpower and eat less.
The problem is that this advice doesn’t work, at least not for most people over the long term.
According to Dr. Mark Hyman, the average person gains five pounds for every diet that they go on.  Even worse, when the lose weight, they lose muscle and fat.  When they regain the weight, they gain back all fat.  And since muscle burns seven times as many calories as fat, their metabolism is slower than when they started the diet.  The cruel fact is that they need even less calories to maintain their weight.
But what, as was pointed out in a recent NY Times article, we’ve confused cause and effect? What if it’s not overeating that causes us to get fat, but the process of getting fatter that causes us to overeat?
This is what I call the fat trap, a percentage of body fat that alters significantly a person's metabolism, rendering the person metabolically inefficient, a downward spiral in which the person gets fatter and fatter.
According to this alternative view, factors in the environment have triggered fat cells in our bodies to take in and store excessive amounts of glucose and other calorie-rich compounds.
Since fewer calories are available to fuel metabolism, the brain tells the body to increase calorie intake (we feel hungry) and save energy (our metabolism slows down).
Eating more solves this problem temporarily but also accelerates weight gain. Cutting calories reverses the weight gain for a short while, making us think we have control over our body weight, but predictably increases hunger and slows metabolism even more.
In other words, once you have fallen into the fat trap, it is extremely difficult to get out.  Quick fix solutions like diets only make things worse.  It's as if once your fat cells reach a critical mass, they take over, forcing you to feed them so they can multiply over and over again until you can no longer see your nether regions.
Alas, all hope is not lost, but if you are going to climb out of the fat trap, it is going to take a major transformation of your lifestyle.  Counting calories is not going to work.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Walking to Winnipeg: Welcome to Wawa

Half Way There!

For anyone who has driven across Ontario, the town of Wawa with its massive Canada Goose statue is often a welcome site because it is more or less half way.  As a result, there are probably more motel rooms per capita there than any other town in Canada.

Having received my 1000 kilometer badger from Fitbit today tells me that I've made it to Wawa.  Not bad for three months of walking.  Since the beginning of the year, I have averaged just a little over 10 kilometers a day. 

Now that I'm about half way to Winnipeg, I am pretty confident that I'll make it there in a few more months.  One thing that will slow my progress is that with Spring arriving, I'll be commuting to work on my bicycle, which will means less distance covered on foot.

At the moment, I'm looking at my options for tracking my distance by bike.  It would be nice to know at the end of the year how many kilometres I covered on two wheels and on two feet.

Just in case your wondering, I've dropped 8 pounds since I began my trek.  Hopefully, I can continue to shed more by the time I reach my goal of arriving in the Paris of the Prairies.

Is Walking Just as Good as Running?

I thought I would share this article that I came across in the US News, Health and Wellness section.

A May 2013 study by researchers in the Life Science Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory looked at data from 33,000 runners and nearly 16,000 walkers to compare the relative health benefits of each activity. From the outside it might seem like running – which is considered a vigorous intensity exercise – must be better for you than walking, a moderate form of exercise. But the results bore out differently, with walking taking a slight edge in the end. But there's a big if, so keep reading.

To be sure, both walking and running had positive effects. When the researchers checked in with participants six years after the start of the study, they found that running significantly reduced the risk of high blood pressure (by 4.2 percent), high cholesterol (4.3 percent), diabetes (12.1 percent) and cardiovascular heart disease (4.5 percent), for every MET h/d, which is a standard measure of metabolic energy expenditure. Great news, right? Well, it gets even better.

Participants who walked regularly saw even better results. Walking decreased risk by 7.2 percent for high blood pressure, 7 percent for high cholesterol, 12.3 percent for diabetes and 9.3 percent for cardiovascular heart disease. The more someone walked or ran, the greater the benefit.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Breaking Through A Weight Loss Plateau

Eventually, it happens.  After a great start, where the pounds are shed easily, our bodies react and the weight loss tails off or stalls altogether.

In my case, after losing about 25 pound in about 12 weeks, I hit a plateau,  I've been stuck there for about 4 weeks.  In short, my weight, taken once a week, would fluctuate between 258 and 262 pounds, in what seemed to be a random fashion.  It wasn't as if I was periodically binging out and that some bad food choices were causing me to gain weight during one week or another.  My exercise regime was the same and I stuck to my new way of eating.

Was this my dreaded body set weight that would doom me to remain at an unsatisfactory weight?  If so, it would have been a major defeat.

Fortunately, I took a close look at what has worked previously and what had changed since then.  Most probably, I had let enough calories sneak back into my diet thereby negating my daily calorie deficit.  The culprits?  Too many mixed nuts and my power oatmeal breakfast supplemented with coconut oil and whey protein powder.

To remedy the situation, I decided to change my snack from mixed nuts to natural, unsalted almonds and to go back to eating Greek yogurt with berries and a few walnuts for breakfast.  At the same time, I continued to walk about 70-80 kilometres a week and to do one strength training session and one metabolic training session per week.  This way, I would know whether it was the change to my diet that affected any change in weight.

Sure enough, I started to drop more weight, falling from 258 to 255.  Although this might not seem like a lot, after four weeks of being stuck on a plateau, it brought welcome relief and definitely picked up my spirits.

Now that spring has finally arrived, I plan on sticking with my recent changes to my diet and adding a cycling regime to my exercise habits.  In the past, I have been able to control my weight by commuting to work on my bike.  Yet, I have never combined being very physically active with a slow carb approach to eating.  Previously, I always used exercise to give me a carte blanche with regard to my food choices.

As you could probably imagine, I'm looking forward to getting back on the saddle to see where this new combination can take me.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Walking to Winnipeg

Depending on who you talk to, people will tell you that it is important to set goals, especially when it comes to fitness: how much weight, how much time, how often, how far, etc.  I tend not to do this because, for the most part, it isn't that big of a deal for me to get to the gym, hop on my bike, or go for a walk.  For me, the challenge is much more about what type of food and how much I eat.

Nevertheless, now that I am monitoring the distance that I walk each day with my Fitbit and look at the bar graphs detailing my data concerning steps taken, distance covered, calories burned, and active minutes, I have a very good idea on what would be a challenging but achievable goal.

At the end of March, it will have been three months that I have tracked how far I walk each day.  Last week, I passed the 500 mile mark, which means that by the end of the month, I will have walked about 1000 kilometres -- not too shabby at all.

Doing the math, if I maintain this rate, by the end of the year I will have walked approximately 4000 kilometres, which is the equivalent of walking from where I live, on the Quebec/Ontario border, crossing the entire province of Ontario, to arrive in my hometown of Winnipeg and back again.

Last summer, we drove from Gatineau to Winnipeg to attend my niece's wedding -- two very long days of driving just to get there.  As a result, no one in the family ever wants to do that it again.  Next time we'll fly.

So, when I tell my family that I'm walking to Winnipeg, they think I've flipped.  That's a hell of a long way.  Then, I tell them that I am going to walk, over the course of the year, the equivalent of walking the round trip one step at a time, day in day out, wherever I find myself.

They get it.  They can make the connection between the total distance covered on foot over 12 months and the hellish experience of driving across Ontario, the land of what seems to be endless rocks and trees and bogs and lakes.

I also tell them that along the way, I am not going to be stopping at Tim Hortons, MacDonalds, or anywhere for pizza.  No way.  Yogurt and berries for breakfast, salad for lunch, and either lean meat or fish with vegetables for supper.  No bread, rice, potatoes, or pasta.  Nothing with added sugar or refined flour.  Plenty of fruit, nuts, coffee, some dairy, and the occasional bar of dark chocolate and a glass of red wine.

Along the way, I am going to stop at a gym to work out twice a week, one workout lifting heavy weights, another doing high intensity intervals.

Finally, now that I am middle-aged, I'll be taking vitamin D, fish oil, and alpha lipoic acid to combat inflammation.

I like to imagine my efforts to reach my destination of being physically fit sets me out on a return voyage back to my home town -- back to a place and time where in fact I was slim and fit before leaving to seek my fortune.

I hope I can recapture that part of my past.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Keeping Track Makes A Big Difference

In an earlier post, I encouraged people to get themselves a Fitbit.  Having just received my weekly progress report via email, I can see that wearing a pedometer can bring about very positive results.

For example, in 2007, Stanford researchers took the bird's-eye view, gathered up 26 different studies and summarized the results in a paper published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. Their synopsis showed that, at least in studies, pedometer users walk more than 2,000 additional steps each day than nonusers, and their overall physical activity levels
increase by 27%.

Related Post

In my case, I just had my best week ever: 108,000 steps, 51 miles (80 km), and 25,000 calories burned over just one week.  In addition, I went to the gym for workout with weights three times.

I really feel that I am on track to lose the fat that I have accumulated over the years.  The challenge is to keep up this level of effort.  Certainly, receiving a weekly progress report lets me know how I am doing.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Push, Pull, Squat

I spend quite a bit of time reading articles on health and fitness.  From time to time, I run across something that strikes me to be such a great idea or suggestion that it makes its way into my exercise regime.

With all the contradictory information out there, I particularly care for something that simplifies what can otherwise be complicated into the basic fundamentals.

When it comes to resistance training, the notion of building your workout around three types of exercises: a push, a pull, and a squat is an extremely simple idea that is extremely effective.

Regardless if you are doing a body weight routine, using a suspension training device like a TRX, or working out with bar, dumb, and/or kettle bells, making sure that you include one exercise of each type cannot lead you wrong.

Just look at the hugely successful programs, Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe and the 5-3-1 program by Jim Wendler.  Both programs break things down to the basics, a bench press (push), a dead lift (pull), and a back squat (squat).

Over the last two years, I have followed both programs and I definitely got stronger and gained muscle mass.  Unfortunately, I also became fatter, which was largely a result of my diet, so I decided that it was time to go on a fat loss program.

I decided to purchase, Eric Cressey's, High Performance Handbook, and followed the fat loss program.  In about 12 weeks, I lost 28 pounds.

One of the things that I really enjoyed about the High Performance workouts is that there is a lot of variation of these three basic exercises.  As I discovered, there are many pushes, pulls, and squats to choose from.  Over the four stages of the program, Cressey varies the exercises, thereby increasing a lifter's weight training repertoire.  Moreover, he includes and extensive video library of the various exercises that instructs the viewer upon how to use the proper technique when performing each exercise.  It's almost like having a personal trainer there to coach you.

As a result, I have now started a new workout regime in which I vary the three main exercises over the course of three workouts per week.  For example, on Monday, I did 3x5 reps of a close grip bench press, a Sumo dead lift, and a back squat.  Today, I will do 3x5 reps of wide grip pull up and an overhead squat, and 3x8 reps of a landmine press.  Before the workout, I do about 10-15 minutes of dynamic stretching and afterwards, I finish with about 10-15 minutes on the rowing machine, interspersed with 4x 30 second sprints.

Not very complicated.  Warm up, do some pushes, pulls and, squats and end with a finisher that gets the heart rate up.

Now, I am on the lookout for new exercises that I can integrate into my routine while hanging onto the tried and true exercises that I know that I can count on.  As well, I know can add even more variety by simply varying whether the exercises are unilateral or bilateral, for example, choosing to a bench press with two dumbbells instead of a single barbell.

Not only am I excited by creating my own personal program as I go, I also think that I am in the process of reducing my risk of injury that arises when you do the same exercise and continue to increase the load.  Eventually, something has to give.  In my case, it was my rotator cuff from doing too many push presses.

But now, having picked up some pre-hab shoulder and thoracic movements from Cressey's program, I am pain free and looking forward to do a much wider range of exercises that are waiting for me to discover. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Get Yourself a Fitbit and Don't Leave Home Without It

When I think back to the periods of my life when I was slimmer, I remember that those were the periods when I didn't have a car.  Without the luxury of being simply able to hop in my car and drive where ever I wanted to go, I of course walked a lot more, which means that my daily activity level, the number of calories I burn while going about my daily business, was much higher.

Once you make the decision to live in suburbs and raise a family, however, you are pretty much forced into buying a car since public transportation is just too time consuming in order to do all the things you have to do in a day: get to work, pick up the kids, grocery shopping, etc.

Even though you may have a membership to a gym, the loss of the walking habit may mean that despite your best intentions, watching what you eat and burning calories during a workout, the calories burnt at the gym might not be enough to put you into a calorie deficit.  Worse yet, the workouts might actually stimulate your appetite so that you eat more, over and above the what you worked off.  So, much to your dismay, you continue to pack on the pounds despite your best efforts.  I know this was certainly my situation.

To really reap the benefits of working out, you need to make sure that your workouts are indeed going to cause a calorie deficit, but in order to make this happen, you need to know how many calories you are burning throughout the day and then, for most people, increase your daily activity to ensure that your workouts are not simply burning off the excess brought about by eating within the norms, which turns out to be a calorie surplus due to your lack of movement on the job and at home.

The easiest way to do this is to simply count the steps you take over the course of each day, and the best way to do this and track your results is to get yourself a Fitbit.  This simple device straps to your wrist and syncs to a smart phone or tablet by way of an application so that you can visualize the number of steps, distance covered, and calories burned during a day, week, month, and year.  Moreover, the people at Fitbit will send you a weekly summary of your results.

If you so desire, it will also monitor your sleep patterns.  Even better, it is water resistant.  You won't need to take it off before taking a shower.

As it turns out, last week was my best week with regard to the total steps (100,901), distance covered (47.59 miles), and calories burned (24,455 cal.).  This breaks down to a daily average of 14,414 steps, 6.8 miles, and 3,494 cal.

What I found extremely interesting is that when I decided to take a day off, my results dropped off considerably, only 3985 steps, 1.88 miles, and 2,645 calories.

From the perspective of fat loss, deciding not to go for a walk meant that I burned approximately 850 calories less than my daily average.  That's a lot.  For most people that would be more than they would burn off at the gym during a workout.  Extend that sedentary lifestyle for a week and it adds up to about the equivalent of 1.5 lbs of fat.

As well, it appears that I could maintain a weight loss program simply by continuing my walking regime: 15 min in the morning and afternoon, 40 min at lunch, and the easy extras I get by parking my car the furthest I can at work and by taking the stairs to get my workspace on the third floor.

Doing so, however, without resistance training would probably mean that I would lose muscle mass along with the fat loss.  As a result, I still go to the gym to lift weights two or three times a week,  In the next post, I 'll share with you the program that I have adopted.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Official Weigh In: So Far So Good

Saturday morning is my official weigh in.  I prefer to weigh myself just once per week because I know that my weight varies over the course of a week, and that if I weighed myself every day, I would become obsessive.  Scale weight is simply one indicator of fitness and in subsequent posts, I will explore the use of other indicators that can give us a better portrait of our level of fitness.

This morning, I weighed in at 257.8 lbs.  Down 28.2 lbs. from the 286 lbs. I weighed 12 weeks ago, but only 0.2 lbs from last Saturday.  After experiencing rapid weight lost when I first started my new program, my weight loss has slowed significantly.  That was to be expected.

I should point out that I put together my program for fat loss in consultation with my family physician and a professional kinesiologist.  For anyone setting out on a fitness quest I highly recommend doing so.  First, it is very helpful to get professional advice along the way concerning nutrition and exercise. Second, your test results give you an empirical measure of your progress.  Presently, I am being monitored through blood tests and standard fitness measures.  Since I have already established my baseline measures, I am looking forward to my first verification of my progress, and I also look forward to sharing them with you.

In a nutshell, my program is focused on three variables: increasing my daily activity level, following an exercise program, and sticking to a diet that severely restricts my consumption of fast carbs.  More precisely, I try to walk at least 10,000 steps a day, I follow a workout regime from The High Performance Handbook by Eric Cressey, and I make a point of not eating anything high in starch (bread, pastries, potatoes, and rice) or that contains added sugar.  I'll have more to say about each component.

So far, so good.  I have gotten off to a very good start.  Pyschologically, a fast start increases my motivation to stick with the program, knowing full well that I'm in this for the long haul.

The other thing that I find very important is to recognize that when we have accomplished something important, we need to give ourselves credit for the accomplishment.  Too often, it is our inner critic that rains on our parade.  The effects of positive thinking are cumulative, and I think that regardless of whether the impact of the act is large or small, making the habit of giving ourselves credit when credit is due creates a positive attitude from which we can draw strength later on when anticipated results don't appear as quickly as we would want them too.

In closing, I just want to say that I rocked my world over the last twelve weeks and I know I can do it again.

Yah Baby!!!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sooner or Later We Discover that We Can't Train Our Way Out of a Poor Diet

Ah, the joys of being a young athlete.  Your whole life is set up to pursue your sport. Everything revolves around practice, competition, and training.  As a result, a young athlete maintains an incredibly high level of activity, and in order to maintain the required energy level, the athlete can eat food rich in carbohydrates, both simple and complex, without showing many ill effects unless, of course, he or she is gluten intolerant.

As for me, one of the joys of my younger years is that I could pretty eat as much as I wanted to without thinking about what I was eating.  I simply worked off what for others would have been too many calories.

I remember saying to people that escaping food restrictions was the primary reason to explain why I continued to work out after I no longer competed.

As a strategy, it worked pretty well -- for a while.

Eventually, the aging process caught up to me.  First, it was a calf injury that made it too painful to run.  Then work and family commitments meant that I had less time to workout in the gym.

Moreover, I experienced the triple whammy of becoming more sedentary at work and at home, having my base metabolism slow down, and having a drop in my fat burning hormones.

What happened is that I started to put on more and more weight, even though I was still working out regularly.

In short, I developed metabolic syndrome.  My insulin resistance increased the amount of insulin my poor old pancreas had to pump out, and I think that for every pound of muscle I put on, I took on another two pounds of fat.

I deluded myself into thinking that I wasn't spiking my insulin levels because I was eating whole grain cereal products.

To avoid facing the reality that my addiction to carbs was endangering my life, I thought I could get around it by fasting intermittently three days a week.  After my evening meal, I would wait sixteen to eighteen hours before having another meal.

But that didn't work.  Neither did cycling more than 30 kilometers every single day for a month  -- I didn't lose even a single pound.

Finally, after finding a general practitioner who would take me on as a patient, I was told that my problem was metabolic and that I would have to severely restrict how many and what type of carbs I ate.

I was pissed off.  I tried to rationalize that it was genetic, that I had a thrifty metabolism because of my Scottish heritage.  To my friends, I would repeat my doctor's observation that if there was a famine, I would be the last to die.

Thanks doc, but I don't live in eastern Africa, and whole hell of a lot of good having this metabolic condition does me here in the land of plenty.

I more or less continued with the same lifestyle, gaining another 10 pounds between annual check ups, as a result of keeping to the same diet and training like a power lifter.

I had to say that it came as a great shock to me when I weighed in at 290 lbs during my last visit.  At that point, I could no longer deny that I had become a fat ass.

That day, I decided to look my demon straight in the eye.  If there had been such an organization, I would have gone to their evening meeting and say, "my name is Brian Gibb, and I am a carboholic."

But there is a life after carb addiction.  I can and will attest to that.

Now, I tell people that it took me only 55 years to learn how to eat a healthy diet. 

Better late than never.

Tomorrow, I'll share with you the progress that I've made.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Welcome to My New Blog

I used to be super fit.  In high school, I ran track and was a starter on the varsity boys basketball team.  While in university, I rowed competitively, competing and placing in the finals of Canada's national rowing championships.  After leaving university, I completed a marathon, half-marathon, and ran road races.  Over the years, I have cycled thousands of miles and worked out regularly in the weight room, but late last year I finally had to face the facts that I was strong as hell but way over what would be considered a healthy weight.

My wake up call came when I went to see my doctor for an annual check up.  I tipped the scales at 290 lbs.  WTF, for someone a little over six feet tall, that's morbidly obese.  Sure, I had spent the last year doing power lifting workouts, but that was no excuse for putting on that much weight.

Sure enough, when the results of my blood tests came back, my doctor told me that I was at risk for a heart attack and that I had to make some major changes if I wanted to spend time with my future grand children.

So, I took the bull by the horns and went to go see a kinesiologist to get my base rate measurements taken: weight, VO2 max, grip strength, waist circumference, flexibility, etc.

I then decided to change my workout regime and make changes to my diet.  In other words, I have set out to regain the fitness that has escaped me.

Being a bit of information omnivore, I have scoured the Internet to get the best information that would help me in my quest.  There is a lot of contradictory information out there.  As a result, I have chosen to be guided by Bruce Lee's maxim: "adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own."

I am now in the process of testing what works for me and would like to share with you my experience, and of course I would like to hear from you concerning your own quests for fitness.

In my opinion, fitness is a lot like happiness, meaning that it is never a static state but requires constant work and adaptation over time.

So, I bid you welcome to my blog and look forward to sharing with you many postings over the course of the new year.