Sunday, 29 April 2012

Weekly Weigh In 17: Ups And Downs

Weight after fourteen weeks of dieting and one week off the reservation:

21stones 11lbs/305lbs/138kg



As you can see my weight is kind of stalking around at the upper end of 22 stones at the moment. I think the reasons for this are many. For example, people are remarking now that I look significantly thinner, I am still doing exercise and finding myself able to do more. I am pegging this currently as a period of adjustment where my body is catching up to where I currently am weight wise. When it has caught up I imagine I will lose some more weight.  At least I sincerely hope so...

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Weekly Weigh In 16: Swings and Roundabouts

Weight after thirteen weeks of dieting and one week off the reservation:




Probably my metabolism having a small turn about the sudden requirement for extra muscle mass and more activity. I expect to see a reduction, possibly significant, next week.

Until then, keep moving. The chair is death.

Diet Report 11: Easy Rider

This week I managed  to get into work and back twice on my new bicycle. The round trip distance to work and back according to Google is 14.2 miles. Once I had the full electric boost of the battery and that day was pretty good. The other occasion, my maiden voyage in "combat conditions" i.e. when I was actually going to work as opposed to just seeing if I could get there and back without dying, I was still testing out how far I could get on a single charge. The bike boasts a 20 mile approx charge so the answer, it will surprise no one to learn, is there and back and about there again. I learned the pain, that day, of trying to cycle 7 miles on a slightly clunky bike with about three kilos of lithium battery attached to the back of it. Not an experience I am keen to repeat.

The amount of calories you burn cycling 7 miles (even when you have electrical assistance and hence record the cycling as 10-11 mph moderate, when you're clocking an actual speed of more like 14 mph, hard) is quite remarkable. What's also remarkable is how you just naturally end up eating more to make up for it.

It has been a bit of a shock to my poor old metabolism which has lead to an interesting week weight recordings wise. I'm bearing down and getting a sweat on and then expecting my metabolism to replace all the stuff I've just burned and convert some protein to new muscle to help out in future endeavours. For this reason my weight has wobbled significantly. Overall, however, I feel terrific.

I would have got out and about more often this week were it not for buckets of torrential rain forcing me back to the car on three out of five working days. As such I got quite a schooling in the contrast between the two modes of transport. It turns out that the pros of cycling go far beyond the simple increase in exercise.

The main thing I would note is the feeling of liberation the cycle commute delivers. You are open, in the air breathing oxygen (well, most of the time you're not behind some diesel exhaust or other), liberated, clipping along at a fair old rate, completely in control. You never have to stop moving if worst comes to worst dismount and walk the cycle to a less busy location to resume cycling. You are always going forward the only thing you stop for is red lights when you are using the road, and even then in cycle friendly Nottingham they have a little area marked out at the front to be a cyclist in while you're waiting.

In a car there are times when you're just listening to the stereo, waiting for the traffic to move and feeling your life end one second at a time. No wonder most motorists are aggressive idiots (I have had my own moments). I think I must be doing one of the most unpleasant commutes possible on a bicycle, a couple of nasty hills, crossing a canal, railway lines and a river on my way to work. The electric bike gets me through.

I am actually looking forward to the day that petrol is £2.50 a thimbleful and everyone has to get on their bikes. There are a few jobs that I know require an actual motor vehicle but the people who do them should be looking forward to having less people on the roads. In fact electric cars are actually beginning to exist now which are ideal for the more lengthy commute. No doubt the charge and range of their battery packs can only increase in efficiency.

I can actually see a point coming up in which we won't miss the old cars, the big cars, the dirty cars or our old ways of getting about. We won't have just one vehicle we'll have a selection of electric wagons to take us which ever is the most appropriate range.

We'll be healthier too. Welcome to the future.

Anyhow the point is, and this is particularly true at home time, the feeling of being really in control is far accentuated on the bike. You can always get off and walk if you need to and there are a couple of junctions on the way home where I currently need to. Even so you're never just stuck in a long metallic queue watching the motor temperature climb with frustration and seeing people nose their own jalopies out of side roads shoving their way into already crowded lines of traffic.

There are sections of my new route home where there is grass and trees and long stretches of calm water. Much less cooped up.

Also, as the exercise is partly the point but mostly a by-product of needing to get back and forth to my place of employment I can think about it in different terms to a trip to the gym. It's much easier to pace yourself when you know you need to arrive at your destination in a reasonable condition to continue with your day. There will be no shower and lounging session afterwards so you don't tend to push yourself flat out. For this reason you get an unusual (or at least to me) fringe benefit you come off the bike feeling more alert and ready to deal with life.

It becomes plain that human beings were not designed to sit around on their rear end all day every day passively watching stuff or (heh) bashing a keyboard. You are meant to be doing things actively, if you don't you actually feel worse. Not saying that relaxation doesn't have its place but you need to be doing some activity to get the most out of the rest of life.

My stepfather is a builder and I have long marvelled at how he seems quite comfortable with rising at 6am and continuing on until 11pm at night (occasionally later). Previously if I rose at 7.30am I would be ready for bed by 10.45 that evening. The secret is a period of activity during the day. It's something I have done before in life without ever really noting it. When I was doing theatre things they always used to make us do a "warm up" session in the morning which was general keep fit stuff but nothing too taxing. Those days were always quite long as well.

I guess the idea is that you do stuff that makes you move a bit more than usual but not so much that you're sweating buckets and want nothing more afterwards than to curl up in a corner and die. Unfortunately getting the balance right is tricky and exercise gurus since the era of "feel the burn" will tend to label you a weakling if you're not "pushing the limit".

The problem is that pushing the limit associates exercise with the pain of pushing yourself too far and the inconvenience of being pretty useless afterwards. The gentle sustainable activity, on the other hand, introduces you to the benefits of moving about and means you're more likely to notice the lethargy of sitting about for days on end doing nothing. All of this probably indicates why I always have such a cracking time at center parcs, where gentle activity throughout the day is the name of the game.

Anyhow. I have already done the weekly weigh in and it is a little disappointing for fans of constant weight reduction, but it is no disaster. So, you have been warned. Time to get on your bikes now and go to see the Cabin in the Woods, if you have not done so already.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Weekly Weigh In 15: Normal Week

Weight after twelve weeks of dieting and one week off the reservation:

21stones 13lbs/307lbs/139kg



Looks a lot better than it is. One thing that's striking is that if you have an "off" week your body seems quite keen to get you back on track. I think there's a certain amount of metabolic inertia in play. It's easy to start losing weight but once you're on the track your body kicks back a bit. However, the good news is that if you fall off the wagon temporarily it seems your body is quite keen to get you back on the straight and narrow again.

So to see 21 stones at last is a great thing, especially as it means I'm circa 8lbs away from another peanut kitkat milestone. Next week I will finally be looking to e-bike to work at least two days out of five. I have a new seat cover, some cycling gloves (essential in this weather) and reflective armbands (at the behest of Mrs Monkey). We shall see how that goes.

For now, happy slimming!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Weekly Weigh In 14: Not So Bad

Weight after eleven weeks of dieting and one week off the reservation:

22stones 3lbs/311lbs/142kg



I have just spent two hours recording all the food I have eaten in the last week. Notable highs include 8 hours of walking and my birthday calorie count of 4000 (in one day!). If I had any advice for anyone planning a birthday during a diet it is this: Make sure you do a lot of walking or similar activities to balance out the blow out day. Hey, you might even lose a pound. (Disclaimer: The pound I lost is one of the same pounds I have previously lost. Your Mileage May Vary).

Anyway. I am computered out now so I will catch you all another time.

Weekly Weigh In 13?

Er, some how I managed to delete this...

For the record I recorded a weight of 22 stones and 4lbs a gain of 1lb, probably due to tapas consumption earlier that day. Please drive through, nothing to see here.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Diet Report 10: A Couple Of Messages And Some Nervousness

Core (huh), What Is It Good For?

Quite a lot as it goes. I am, of course, referring to the core muscle groups, the infamous abdominals. As you know I have been engaging in a fight against loose skin by working out my core muscles. It's not something I've really done before for many reasons. I've never been one to want to quest for a six pack. I heard somewhere that exercising stomach muscles did nothing in particular for stomach fat. I have engaged in exercise in the past but never had that area in my sights as an essential one to strengthen or pay particular attention to.

This turns out to have been something of an error on my part. First of all I have discovered something rather strange about the abdominal and oblique groups. It's probably something that athletes and other sporting professionals are well aware of but I had never realised it. So I share it here in case you should need to know it.

I have always been a fellow broad of shoulder, I'm near enough two feet wide at the top. I've always had natural upper body power, never even needed to exercise. (I have never played rugby, much to many rugby enthusiast's chagrin.) What I never understood was that if you're naturally ox-like of aspect your core muscles often get the shoddy end of the deal.

Since engaging in a programme of belly tightening (the shrinking being aided by aerobic conditioning and diet of course) I have become aware of a number of fringe benefits. I am suddenly much more flexible. The idea that having stronger abdominals would make you more able to touch your toes, or bend deeper, or aid in sitting cross-legged is possibly obvious to others, but it never seemed so to me. I just thought I was too big to sit cross legged. In fact my stomach muscles were just too weak to keep me bent at the appropriate angle.

I'm also noting that I can lift my legs higher and I just feel more... er... bendy. It is definitely news to me that being of the stature to be compared to a brick outhouse could have put me at a natural disadvantage when it came to the core muscles but it's the only explanation. Those with slimmer shoulders obviously have to use their abdominals more to just do stuff, I've been brute-forcing my way through strength tasks and putting my back and shoulders to more use. I have had a history of some back pain possibly because my back had been put to work when my abdominals couldn't help out. Nobody ever suggested this.

So I am a sudden convert to core strength. The benefits of healthy, well-maintained abdominal muscles (even if they are prevented from six-pack-hood by the intervention of seven or eight stone of remaining flab) are not to be sniffed at. You have a strong arm what do you have? Well, a gun show to offer tickets to. But if you have a strong core you become bendier, more graceful and your back hurts less.

The message: Don't neglect your core, you don't need to aim for a rippling stomach to benefit from having some strength in what is surely one of the key areas of the body.

The 500 Calorie Question

So, last week I asked the question why do both men and women have to eliminate 500 calories a day to lose a pound a week? Well, the answer is actually really simple and comes to us courtesy of this article from The Independent. The article is all about how the science of dieting evolved.

In a nutshell all of this stuff about calories was the result of work for the US Army. The research was intended to establish what was the most economic foodstuff to give to troops to keep them energised and working well. The economy aspect was to make the foods cheap and also compact to make the logistics simple.

Obviously carbs came out the winner in this battle of the foods-as-fuel. The research made its way into the public domain and was used as the basis for slimming plans the world over. The problem being that when you flip research designed to find out how to keep a man going on its head and use it to determine how to lose weight via controlled starvation the results come out... a little hinky.

Let's return to the calorie question. A pound of soft tissue holds 3500 calories within its mass. So you cut 500 calories a day, that's 3500 cals a week, that's a pound a week, right?

Well. Not quite. The article above is quite vague but the thrust is that part of the calorie research determined how calorific a food was based upon how easy it was to metabolise those calories. So, for example, sugar metabolises like greased lightning, a little too fast for most people to actually make use of the energy released in the normal course of things. On the other hand oats are similarly calorie rich but the calories are much harder to metabolise. This is why people bang on about oats having "slow release energy" and that.

Protein and, indeed, fat are also actually harder to metabolise in the body than carbs (obviously some carbs are harder to metabolise than some fats, proteins seem to be a chore to metabolise one and all). The article concludes that it's "not as simple" as juggling raw calories, it points out that eating protein makes you feel fuller for longer because the body is spending so much time breaking it down. There are other factors, as you know from the weekly tidbits here.

Anyway. Given the logic of the 500 cals a day thing it means that you can aim for losing 3500 cals a week and have monk like days and blow out days and stuff, it should have the same effect.

The message is: Calories aren't the be all and end all of weight loss. But we knew that right?

Back In The Saddle

A short one. I took my new bike out today, 80 minutes of cycling records a massive burn on my calorie chart. As I went out for a bit of a birthday blow out at a well known tapas chain last night we shall see if that has been enough to make a  positive weight change by the weigh in about sixish.

Off The Reservation

Next week I will not be doing my daily recording to its usual degree as I am on holiday. We shall see how I master portion control without the benefit of online calculators as I shall retroactively add all of my foods into the diary when I get back. It is fair to say that I am nervous about this.