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.