Saturday, October 22, 2011


Ok. No more farting around. Well, actually, there is quite a lot of farting. I think it's the fruit. That's another story.

After eight months, almost to the day, I've hit my goal weight and now begin Weight Watchers maintenance. After 37 weeks of trying to lose weight (and the last nine, where I didn't net/net at all), I had a serendipitously successful seven days: Nine pounds lost, three under my target.

Under maintenance, which last six weeks, I get to eat more, to stop losing. At the end of six weeks, if I am within two pounds above or below 155, I get to be a life member: I never have to pay a cent again to go to meetings as long as I stay in the four-pound range, weighing in officially once a month now instead of once a week.

I cannot say that I have fully grasped this yet. So far, this is a typical Saturday, which means that in a few hours there will be gin and more than the usual amount of eating — that's the way it is in the hours after the weekly weigh, the safest time to eat into your weekly and activity allowances.

In a way, reaching goal is somewhat anti-climactic. Each week or five pounds' loss brought new feelings and lessons, rendering a goal-line something important to shoot for, but not actually an end unto itself. And now new skills must be learned, because while losing weight is harder than putting it on, it's easier than trying to walk the balance beam that is neither gaining nor losing ... forever.

Fortunately my eight months has exposed me to big losses, big gains, and periods of inertia — a microcosm of the rest of my life. I know what it feels like to put on even a little weight, what it takes to recover from that, how to lose by eating (even more!) instead of starving.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Week 33: The 2% Solution

It's possible to lose all the weight you want just by eating less, of course. The math is simple: Burn more calories than you consume. Exercise is a force multiplier, and if you do it right it won't lead to a bigger appetite (offsetting the benefit of burning more calories in the course of any given 24 hours) and will self-reinforce staying consistent.

Good news: The "bigger appetite" part almost takes care of itself: turns out that exercise is something of an appetite suppressant. Also, when you are actually doing it, it isn't possible to eat much of anything, so it is an opportunity suppressant as well. The best thing to eat to take the edge off, right after a workout, is protein, which goes directly to the muscles instead of the hips. The best kind of protein is up to you; before I was a vegan I had a ton of turkey bacon and eggs right after a run or bike ride. Now I have prepared tofu or a protein bar.

It's even more important to stay with it. For me, that is staying home to go to the gym (Rule #1) and committing to a particular time of day for one's main workout, which for me is before the workday begins.

Staying consistent also means not trying to do too much, or settling for too little (Rule #3). But how?

I call it the 2% solution. It's easy when you are hovering at that pain/discomfort point to simply stop, back off completely. But you don't have to, and dialing back just a little works wonders. I first learned of this technique during a boot camp class I used to take when we lived in Virginia and I actually was a member of a gym. The instructor would have us do something ridiculously strenuous for an insane amount of time, and then in between we'd jog or do jumping jacks — and she called this our rest/recovery period in what was essentially interval training.

So, rest/recovery isn't doing nothing. It's doing less. But how much less?

Why, 2% less, of course. I made up that number — make up any number you like. Ease back instead of stopping during an intense moment in your workout. Drop your cadence by 10 or 5 or 20 and listen carefully to your body as it recovers while you are still working out. You will feel the energy coming back, and the discomfort receding, when you make only minor adjustments.

I take the stairs at work and when I started had to rest, completely stop, at some point along the way. No more. Now I climb with some intensity and take four slow steps in between landings — that is my rest, my 2% solution, and it allows me to power through 15 flights.

Scaling back, in real time, helps prevent giving up.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Week 32: Standing and Snacking

Metro North Station, White Plains
ABOARD THE 7:01 HARLEM LINE TRAIN -- Every rail commuter knows a thing or two about seat etiquette (Example: Real men don't vie for the middle one) and where to position oneself on the platform, factoring in the station and time of day, to maximize the possibility if scoring one.

It's exhausting. And, just like flying, the window seat is good for exactly the opposite of what the aisle seat is good for, and neither are good for everything.
I've always played the game, pleased that when I commute I can almost always score a seat. But it's a flimsy victory.

It occurred to me, as part of my standing campaign, to stand during the 50 minutes or so each way. Like my uncle taught me when I was a lad, I don't lean or support myself in any way (unless there is turbulence), the better to improve balance and burn calories and work on the core.

What a revelation! In addition to the health benefit (small, but cumulative) I realized I can now always ride in the first car, or in one which has a bathroom (um, I drink plenty of fluids).

Yes, this is ... obsessive. But big lifestyle changes can be enhanced and re-enforced with small ones; it's tougher to sabotage and cave if that means retreating on several fronts instead of just one. Now, before I think of not spinning or running every morning, I have to decide to stop standing at my home desk, taking the stairs whenever possible, and now riding the rails in the full upright and locked position.

Related, but random: I also got a bit of re-enforcement of the "de-accentuating the meal" thing from a recent episode of Dr. Oz, who has partnered with Weight Watchers in a million-dollar contest challenge. Turns out that snacking is a medically indicated approach to dieting because eating releases a hormone called gherlin, which suppresses appetite and makes you feel satisfied.

As with any technique the devil is in the details: Snacking on Devil Dogs won't help.

Finally, I was famished today. I consumed maybe 10 servings of fruit and plenty of protein and vegetables. Lots of coffee, too. And, I'm looking forward to dinner.

One of those days ... but all still well within my basic daily Points Plus allowance.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Week 32: Tracking, And Back On Track

My Week 31 post pretty much laid out the unusual week I had, but in a nutshell (strange how many metaphors are food related): I weighed 171 yesterday morning, and 158.8 this morning. That puts me further away from my goal of 155 pounds — from which I had been a tantalizingly-close 0.02 pounds for the previous two weeks.

But it was a fine week, and I enjoyed myself, so much so that I expected the damage to be much worse.

I spent that last 24 hours not starving myself or putting on some other kind of straight jacket, but just sticking with the program, returning to my original course and speed, recovering. This morning I've had my usual bounty of fruit, and started the day with my usual workout routine.

I think I was properly rewarded for that behavior, and appropriately dunned for not tracking much last week, and having a no-holds-barred anniversary dinner for which I have no regrets.

I have a new commitment now for not treating the weekend as a lost cause -- I exaggerate, but honestly I would dip into weekly allowance or activity points just because, and this isn't my practice or desire during the work week. So, no biggie.

I figure I am two weigh-ins away from goal, at worst. You heard it here first :)