Sunday, 25 March 2012

Weekly Weigh In 12: Pretty Good

Weight after eleven weeks of dieting:

22stones 3lbs/311lbs/142kg



I should point out that the data point yesterday evening at about 8:30pm was a new lowest weight. So I am expecting to be a couple of pounds heavier today.

Steady as she goes I guess. Let's see where I can get to by next week in preparation for the birthday-ocalypse...

Diet Report 9: Food For Thought

He Diets, She Suffers

So Mrs Monkey has joined me in using the CRON-O-Meter for two weeks now. This has lead to the first major argument with its computerised wonder.

As you know I have been more than happy with the CRON-O-Meter's help in my own diet. I have found the daily goal a challenge but never a chore. I am happily able to manage my eating to work around the calculator's limits. My daily calorie limit is currently 2076 kcal, that's the setting for losing 1lb a week for someone of normal weight. The thing is, as we know, I wasn't at anything like what would be considered "normal" weight when I started all this.

In fact if you fed my original starting weight of 348lbs (I scrape 6 feet in height in case you want to deepen the simulation otherwise just use your own favourite height mine is twelve foot seven) into a readily available online calorie calculator. You will find that the projected needs of my diet at that time were much higher than 2076 calories a day. If you're uncertain about the veracity of using a random online calculator to issue such advice why not look at another one for comparison? There are dozens of the things littering the internet. I haven't checked extensively but I'll bet you they all do their maths slightly differently just like those two do.

The point I'm trying to make there is that how many calories an individual needs on a daily basis is way different to how many the average person needs. Why the average person would need to calorie restrict if they were at ideal average weight is never discussed, but ours is not to reason why ours is just to avoid the dessert trolley.

If I look back at my week one food diary I went over my limit about four days out of seven that week, and on two other occasions only came under because I did extra exercise to burn some calories. Fast forward to week two and I didn't even need the exercise (which I did anyhow) because I found it a breeze to restrict to the 2076 recommendation. I was still north of a distictly chubby 320lbs at that time but I could survive and even be jolly on less than the recommended average restriction for 1lb a week weight loss. Curiouser and curiouser...

Obviously your own mileage may vary. I find 2076 to be a small pinch in calories but not super onerous. I can have Mc-frickin'-D's once a week as long as I budget correctly. Don't get me wrong my salt intake is too high, I don't take in the recommended amount of Hydrogen Dioxide, my vitamins are never all filled in (although this is probably contributed to by not having vitamin breakdowns on my custom foods as I chow down on a shed ton of veg, fruit and wholefoods), but I can live with the calorie restriction. To a certain extent I relish it.

According to the online calculators I should be properly starving. Probably I am but in order to keep me going my body is, oh yes, digesting my excess fat. That's called dieting folks.

So far so much a recap up to date. Now we come to the bit that I'm not so enamoured with. This article most accurately condenses the problem area towards the bottom. It states:
"To lose 1lb per week you need to reduce your usual calorie intake by approximately 500 calories per day "
Okay, well, that's what I've done. And it works for me. Actually, I've gone beyond that according to all the calorie calculators and it's worked for me. But the article also recounts the popular wisdom that men need 2500 calories a day and women 2000. I'm not sure where these numbers were first decided but they are seen almost universally as the guideline, although some sources actually set the requirements lower for men and for women. Harvard university parrots advice for women but is more generous to men. Similarly vital health zone seems to be robbing 50 calories from women and bestows it upon the men.

So, everyone's in agreement about one thing. Women need fewer calories, on average, than men to make their way in the world. Where they differ is that whereas men are seemingly allowed to go over and still be okay women's requirements only ever go down from 2000.

Far be it from me to question all of this, no doubt, sound and thoroughly tested dietary advice but...

Oh no, wait, that's exactly what I'm doing.

Apparently we're all reducing our calorie intake by 500 calories. As I said for men this seems doable. By reducing my calorie intake to around that of the average woman I am living comfortably. Of course Mrs Monkey is a woman and so taking the average she must lose 500 to come to around 1500. Now, in my case I have sliced a not insignificant 20% off the intake of an average fella on a day-to-day basis. Mrs Monkey is being asked to cut 25% of the average for a lady to lose the same amount of weight.

The mumbled reason for this is that men naturally have more muscles so burn fat faster or better or something. That's fine to a degree but I have to ask if women are already eating less, why is it presumed they also have to restrict a greater proportion of their calories to make a loss? Let's not even start on why diet calculators use these average limits instead of one of the more generous calculation algorithms detailed at the start of this post.

I'm not trying to say that all accepted dietary advice is nonsense. Clearly in my case using one of the more generous algorithms would have been a waste of time as I'm quite happy on the relatively harsh regimen I have adopted. Somewhere in all that advice I am a winner.

Mrs Monkey, on the other hand, is starving hungry after a week on the equivalent recommended restriction for a woman and I'm not at all surprised. Out of curiosity when I started CRON-O-Meter I looked at the male's 2lbs a week settings and quickly forgot them as they put a restriction of just under 1750kcals a day on me which I felt was excessive for me. I was later proven to be right because I'm dropping weight above expectation with the normal restriction.

Even so, I am starting to think that between 1700 and 2200 is a sort of golden area of ideal consumption for an average man. Some days I am happier eating around 1700 calories others I feel the need to stuff a bit more down my gob hole. All the while I am happy and not missing the real gluttonous excesses of my former life.

I find it very suspicious that the dietary advice doled out to the more diet obsessed gender (I am bucking the trend being obsessed with mine, I understand most men just diet they don't think about it as well) seems to be of the more hair shirt and birch twigs variety. The world of dietary advice seems to tell men that if they fancy a bag of nuts or the odd cream bun it won't kill them but if a woman looks the wrong way at 40g of cheddar she'll burn in the fires of diet hell.

There could be all sorts of reasons for this and none of them seem particularly scientific. Even on the Horizon about exercise the other week scientists are more keen on testing rates of glucose exchange in muscle mass than wondering if the accepted daily intake recommendations pass the lab coat and slide rule thumbs up award for strict empirical veracity. Maybe the average recommendations haven't been made up but the way that we repeat them definitely seems to indicate that we like to tell the boys they're okay and the girls they're evil. It's like the financials of playing poker, apparently it doesn't work properly unless it hurts a bit when a woman diets.

I also can't imagine that there are all that many scientists who rock up to work in the morning and say "I'd like to perform a very dull study questioning something that most people seem quite happy to just accept and which seems to at least be in the ball park region of being correct." Especially when the next sentence out of their mouths would have to be: "Further I'd like it to be a study concerning a topic that will not dramatically affect the scientific community even if the results turn out to be a bit different to my expectations."

Basically, there would be no scientific kudos in establishing the theory that either women's average daily intake need should be raised (I don't believe this) or that the restriction on calories should be proportional not fixed i.e. restrict 20% of your calorie intake to lose a lb a week so men go from 2500ish to 2000ish and women go from 2000ish to 1600ish. That extra 100 calories makes all the difference in establishing a "comfort zone". I happen to believe, having weighed up all the conflicting advice, that a lot of it has more to do with undermining women in a moral way than actually helping them to feel comfortable dieting.

I guess that Weight Watchers actually agreed with me. Their whole system is designed togive dieters an alternative to calorie restriction by the book with their simple points based system. It allows a dieter to eat to live without having to turn into an ascetic diet monk. Weight Watchers wanted to sell dieting, and they have succeeded by, you know, selling dieting, as opposed to selling self-imposed suffering in the name of some vague dietary moral authority.

I know it's not the CRON-O-Meter's fault, the default settings are just taken from the various sources available to the makers. However, I am firmly of the opinion at the moment that's what is good for this gander-monkey is not necessarily so good for the goose-monkey.

Tightening Our Belts

My trousers have definitely started to become ill-fitting in the right direction at this time. I have reached the last hole in the two belts I bought five months ago. As my friend pointed out to me, at least things are becoming ill-fitting in the direction where a belt is helpful. I am forced to agree.

Progress has been good, as regular followers of this journal will know. To engage "sense of perspective mode" for a moment though we may have one the battle of the first two and a half stone but the war on ten stones continues. Now is not a time for complacence.

Now, is however, nearly time for the Monkey to step from the friendly world of the mid-thirties into the choppier waters of the late thirties. Overall that doesn't concern me. What concerns me is that I am about to have a birthday and everyone knows what goes with birthday. That's right. Cake.

I feel that I would be doing myself a disservice not to have a piece of cake on my birthday, but it is just one of a myriad of ill-disciplined dining decisions that are to accompany the event. Let's not forget that I am having not one but two birthday meals, one with my friends in Notts and then at home in Wales week after next.

I am accompanying my birthday week with my first time "off the reservation" as far as dieting goes. At some point the training wheels will have to come off and the great experiment will be over. What better place to practice than 25% through? In short, although I will continue to diarise my food consumption week after next I will not feed the foods into CRON-O-Meter till I return from Wales. Essentially, for a week, I will be calorie blind.

We'll see how I get on.

Following shortly, this week's weight milestone. In fact, if you've read all of this it's probably up by now.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Weekly Weigh In 11: Calm Down

Hectic day yesterday but I'm sure you are all dying to know how I've been doing so:

Weight after ten weeks of dieting:

22stones 6lbs/314lbs/143kg



I should point out that the data point yesterday evening at about 8:30pm was a new lowest weight. So I am expecting to be a couple of pounds heavier today.

The exercise regimen is going well and I have taken part in some kind of exercise every day for the last seven days. I went up a rung on my exercise ladder last thursday so am now doing more in my daily exercises.

Hopefully be able to write a bit more next week, particularly as we will be starting to have to think about a week where it may be difficult for me to keep track on a daily basis and also will be my birthday (of doom... cheesecake shaped doom...)

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Just To Clarify

Mrs Monkey is no longer doing Weight Watchers. Weight Watchers does not work for Coeliacs as the points are hard to manage in addition to the gluten-free requirement. She has joined me on a calorie restriction CRON-O-Meter plan.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Weekly Weigh In 10: Just A Little

Weight after nine weeks of dieting:

22stones 11lbs/319lbs/145kg



No surprises there then. Not really much to add. Hopefully I can shed a little bit more soon. I'm still 18lbs away from my next Peanut Kit Kat and nearly 3 stones away from the teens where I will feel I have cleared a kind of "weight backlog" and started in on a serious slimming zone within reality...

Until next time diet fans.

Diet Report 8: Exercise And No Gluten

Not for me, of course, I love gluten, gluten and I are the best of friends still. Mrs Monkey and gluten, however, have had a bit of a falling out.

It's a reason for healthy eating I had never considered but had it not been for this process the diagnosis may have taken a while still. Here's the central point. Mrs Monkey and I have been dieting for the same time. I have lost twice as much weight as her, which is possibly more of a difference, I now reflect, than our genders alone might furnish.

Whichever way you look at it I am bouncing with health and filled with the joys of spring, I feel better, I sleep better, I am better. She feels like rubbish. So we went to the doctor's and said "Look here, we're eating almost identically. Mr feels terrific, Mrs feels shady, what gives?"

So after a battery of blood tests it turns out that Mrs Monkey is almost certainly coeliac. Now, for those of you who may know a thing, or indeed two, about coeliac condition you might not expect the Mrs to be overweight. And yet she is. Because the same battery of blood tests also revealed that Mrs Monkey had an underactive thyroid.

The revealing of the results was a small comedy of errors. Part one of the meeting was a lecture about cutting down on her alochol intake. Mrs Monkey does not drink. "Oh," the doctor said, "but your liver...". So after this was sorted out part two of the meeting was a lecture about not eating enough greens. "My husband and I eat large salads three times a week at least," quoth Mrs Monkey. "Come now, really?" said the doctor, disbelieving. "Seriously," Mrs Monkey said. "Seriously?" the doctor asked weakly. Mrs Monkey nodded grimly. "But... but... you have no nutrients in your blood at all. It is as if you are starving to death!" the doctor said. Thus was the truth uncovered.

Mrs Monkey is now recovering nicely and we are discovering the joys of wheat-free produce. She had more blood tests this week to ascertain the exact level of the coeliac condition in her case.

Here's the thing. If we hadn't dieted, if we hadn't explored the tabulation of nutritional data and the compilation of these statistics the diagnosis might have been deferred some further time still. Occam's razor states that if an overweight person presents to a doctor complaining of pain, aching, lethargy, insomnia and freely admits to eating a diet of salty, sugary, greasy carbs and no vegetables to speak of there is a simple explanation for their condition even if that simple explanation happens to be dead wrong. But if you spend two months playing the game, counting, measuring, identifying the shortfall the easy explanation is no longer good enough.

In this way Mrs Monkey dodged a bullet. It is worth doing this for a couple of months even if you don't care how much weight you lose. Who knows what other useful advice you could pick up.

Here endeth the lesson.

For myself the flappy skin problem has started to manifest. I had believed that such a thing would come as little pinchy bits at the bottom of the belly. I believed they would deepen and flap and that would be the clue. I believed that I would just be able to eat more to compensate and slow the rate of change.

Actually what happens is that your belly fat just hangs more pendulously because of the slack weight of unused skin around it. When you are properly fat the skin is tight and taut like a drum skin. It holds up by itself because it has no real choice. When there's less fat it slouches and attempts to skulk around your waistline at the cut off of your fat store. Not only that but I fond myself eating quite adequately enough and do not wish to stuff my face arbitrarily.

The only solutions are targeted exercise and some moisturisation to make the skin supple. So in addition to walking this week and skipping when I could (the daylight fades too quickly and in the morning it is too loud and I have no desire to be obnoxious) I have instituted a regimen of stomach crunches, leg raises and step ups. I intend to increase sets and reps over the coming weeks and hope that targeting those areas will allow the skin to shrink back. I shall keep you updated.

My weight readings this week have been fairly stable, I wouldn't be at all surprised if this wasn't a second week of duck egg. Still, we shall see. Later.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Weekly Weigh In 9: Duck Egg 2 - The Revenge of Howard

Weight after eight weeks of dieting:

22stones 12lbs/320lbs/145kg



Honestly, it could be a lot worse. Last week's 22 stone 12 was not the lowest of the week but it was a little lower than I was expecting at that time. It was also one of the two lowest for that week. So I guess in reality it was just a blip that happened to fall on a weigh in day. I was somewhat concerned that I might be in the unfortunate position of recording a slight gain as yesterday's weigh in pegged me at 23 1. So over the course of today my weight has sunk by a full three pounds. I'm hoping to see the first quarter of 22 disappear this week and I'm hoping that next week I might be able to log in something like 22 10 or lower. I guess we shall have to wait and see.

Diet Report 7: Heavy Week

Anatomy Of A Day's Food Intake

Maybe I should have called this "Calorific Week" but heavy is a vaguer word that has more connotation. To start in the obvious sense: this week I clocked possibly the most days high up to the calorie limit as I had since week one. Also I didn't get as much walking in because of crappy weather and wanting to get work done in my lunch hour.

I'm still on restricted calories even coming close to the ceiling but I noted that eating enough to come much closer to that ceiling did leave me with a feeling that perhaps I wasn't savouring the food I was eating to a greater degree. In other words I felt a little unappreciative. Probably the most notable example of this was Monday when I ate:

  • Porridge (206 kcal)
  • Banana and apple (forgot my daily yoghurt) (167 kcal)
  • Sainsbury's Frozen Red Thai Curry w/Coconut Rice (459 kcal)
  • Breaded pollock fillets on a hearty salad (804 kcal)
  • Nakd Cocoa Delight Bar (135 kcal)
  • Cheddar Cheese (40g) (161 kcal)

That looks like quite a lot of food. Along with drinks (coffee and a glass of milk) I recorded 2070 calories on Monday, 6 away from my daily limit. I didn't feel bloated, I didn't feel unhealthy, the Cheddar Cheese and glass of milk were, in particular, required to make up my fat quota which had not been otherwise satisfied. (NOTE: Most of the heaviness in the calories this week came from CARBS particularly sugar, not fat... no surprises there.)

The heart of the matter was that I felt if I was eating all of those things in a single day how much could I really be appreciating any of them? As worries go, it's a minor one; I mention it to illustrate the evolution of my attitude to and feelings about food as a  part of my life. When I was fat I would easily have eaten more than that and not worried at all about whether I was really enjoying any of it. I would assume I had been, which, in retrospect means, I guess, that I wasn't. Not to the extent that I am now.

Mrs Monkey said that Weight Watchers had advised her similarly that after a while on the scheme food would actually begin to taste better and she had dismissed it as hyperbole. But we both have noticed this trend and it's not a bad one.

Time For Action

We also enjoyed the excellent Horizon on the BBC this week (UK readers can watch the programme on iPlayer until Tuesday and I would heartily recommend that). In this programme we learned about NEAT (Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis), the tricks our brain plays on us when we begin exercising and that three minutes of HIT (High Impact Training) a week can deliver remarkable results.

We've both been dieting now for nearly two months and this is about the time that exercising should enter the arena. Not least because it will give our metabolisms (metaboli?) a kick at a time when our bodies are at risk of becoming used to the calorie restriction. Besides exercise delivers many benefits that are not to do with weight loss but compliment them nicely. In fact, the Horizon also reinforces a very important point. Exercise is a minor aid in weight loss but calorie restriction is the key component, without the diet the exercise alone is useless for weight loss.

One of the main problems therefore is how to maintain enthusiasm for something that is only of tertiary benefit to the situation in which we find ourselves? One of the most important features of any exercise programme is that it includes a daily component. The problem is that we have busy lives (I mean all of us in the world but myself and Mrs Monkey are included by default) and doing too little is just as bad as doing nothing, right?

Well, the Horizon programme states in no uncertain terms that this isn't necessarily true. For non UKers and lazy people I will summarise: NEAT is the concept of how much moving about you do on a daily basis, just walking around, doing menial tasks, that kind of thing. It is surprising what a high impact this has on our metabolism. Essentially the killer is staying still in one place for too long. Periods of inactivity should be interspersed with bursts of action or else we suffer all sorts of sleepy metabolism problems.

HIT is a phenomenon where we can improve the glucose exchange sugar-scrubbing function of our body by doing some incredibly active whole body exercise in three twenty second bursts three times a week. It's not a replacement for more dedicated exercise sessions but, amazingly it does help. As the Horizon disclaimer said: Consult your doctor before trying it. Although given the state of information flow through doctor's surgeries that we've experienced lately the doctor will probably just say: "Yeah, sure, give it a try, can't hurt".

My dear old grandmother always used to tell me that ten minutes a day would help and, if anything, she was overshooting some in that assessment. However, she wasn't at all wrong. I guess we should all listen to what our grandmothers say more often.

I myself am looking to participate in some HIT (I'm skipping the doctor's visit so if I drop dead I guess it's my own fault) the guy in Horizon was on an exercise cycle. I have gone for a less expensive solution. Skipping. An exercise skipping rope is about 3GBP, the exercise tones almost the whole of the body, is aerobic and improves coordination.

When I first got the rope I gave it a go and Mrs Monkey felt moved to step in. Unbelievable as it may sound it turns out that I was unaware how to skip. In case you are also living in a fool's paradise, believing you know how to skip when really you don't, here's Denny the Trainer to show you how (BTW what I thought was skipping is here termed the "Girly Jump"):

The problem is that learning to skip will take some time so the High Impact part of my Training will have to  wait until I can work up the rhythm that this guy has.

Anyway, the short of it is that doing a bit of skipping in the front garden seems like a do-able daily routine. I will keep you updated as to my progress. Myself and Mrs Monkey have also taken the plunge and joined my company's gym plan in association with the daily training we should be able to make exercise a part of our lives on a more permanent basis. We have managed about three months of sporadic training before but like the dieting now we need to make it stick.

The Park In Winter

It seems that spring is just around the corner, which is fine because it's better than a windy, cold and rainy March time and is really much appreciated. However, I have always had a small place in my heart for winter. The only weather I really can't stand is humid, sticky heat. In the spirit of remembering that winter can be quite beautiful despite the cold and the short days - and to remind you where the exercise concept began - here are some pictures from a walk in the park a couple of Saturdays ago, a day so cold that the park cafĂ©'s front entrance had frozen shut and they had to serve us hot drinks out of the side window:

Catch you all later for the weigh in.