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On startling life changes

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Jul. 5th, 2011 | 11:36 pm

I just realised I haven't posted here in months. Had been idly thinking about it for a while. But then I haven't even logged on to livejournal in quite a while. Sorry about that. But I did today and discovered that lunaminor name-checked me. So let me ramble for a while about why. I'll even get in to nitty-gritty details about numbers and other boring things like that.

To summarise: after quite a few years weighing in the high 90s (which for my less-than-statuesque height is pretty damn porky), I jumped on to the scales after a particularly jovial Christmas and topped out at 105.5. That made me realise how unhappy I was with the way that I looked, the way that I felt, and to some extent the way other people saw me. So I finally started doing something about it.

Today I'm 77.something. That will wibble around a little bit, and to be honest I've got a little further to go to properly lose the moobs. But right now I'm feeling pretty damn pleased with myself for dropping 25kg in six months even. And then there's the fact that I can climb a flight of stairs without losing my breath, buy pants that weren't designed for somebody 8 inches taller than me, and by all accounts look vaguely hot now. Yay.

The one thing that I want to own up to: it wasn't all healthy weight loss. My graph has a big drop the time I got serious indigestion and survived on half a dozen slices of dry toast for a week. It leveled out for a while but didn't climb again after. I have a strange and very-inadvisable habit of forgetting to eat. Will get ravenous during the afternoon, and suddenly realise that not only have I skipped lunch, but my last meal was breakfast the day before. Doesn't really happen any more, now I'm more in control of my diet and exercise, but learning not to binge after doing it was useful. Also, for the love of God don't do that.

The rest, though, boils down to two things:
- The only true, guaranteed weight loss program is this: burn more than you eat.
- small, gradual changes, applied consistently over time, have surprising results.

Combining those two, you just have to eat a bit better, and exercise a bit more. And keep doing it.

So I stopped ordering pizza a couple times a week. I drank a little bit less (if you drink as much beer as me, cutting that out altogether is a huge instant win). I started eating more salads. I didn't switch to skim milk in my coffee. I didn't make meal plans, but did put some thought in to coming up with some easy, simple and moderately healthy meal ideas. I didn't stop eating out or indulging in occasional junk food. I did try a KFC Double. But by then I was already mostly in the "actually, deep-fried grease isn't really all that great" phase, and didn't like it very much. I tried this neat trick I heard somebody talking about on the radio once, and cut my portions in half. Didn't stick to it very long though.

Basically, I kept to small, incremental improvements so that I wouldn't burn out.

On the exercise side, I found something that I liked doing. In my case, I realised that I mostly really enjoy running. But anything works. It just has to be something you won't dread doing every time (but dreading it some days is only natural!).

And then I started doing it, doing it regularly, and pushing myself to do it better. If running's your thing, I can't recommend the C25K program highly enough. It's a nice gradual program that builds up from a complete beginner to finishing your first uninterrupted 5km. And then, in my case, hobbling for a day or two afterwards. And then doing another 5km. And eventually I got to the point where I genuinely consider pounding out 4-5km a nice way to unwind after a stressful day at work. I know. It still sounds crazy, even to me. But I still like it.

I started tracking my weight daily. Again. Sticking to that actually became a goal (see below). Doing it every day was more consistent, and I found it more satisfying. I plotted it all on a graph, too. Partly because I'm a nerd like that. But it's a great way to visualise the changes - for a long time I didn't think I looked any different and the slowly dropping line on the graph was the only motivation to continue what I was doing. Even when it was flat (or on one of the three occasions it increase for a while) it was good to see what was going on and get enthused to change it. I realise there's a lot of daily fluctuations in people's weight. Eventually settled on Libra, which is unexpectedly polished for an android app, and graphs your weight as a trend line. I was also fond of trying to beat its prediction line.

The important part is consistency. I had huge success tracking my exercise with Runkeeper. There's a few similar services around though. The app is excellent, and a good way to keep track of how I'm going on a run. Being able to see previous runs on the website is awesome. Sometimes I like looking back at my pace on runs I finished a few months ago, and compare to the longer, faster runs I'm doing now. And, finally, having it automatically post summaries to my twitter account when I finished a run was amazing both for encouraging replies and the passive peer pressure aspect. I still feel like apologising to people who follow me for spamming them with runkeeper tweets. But I'm not going to stop doing it.

If nothing else, start a Seinfeld calendar (EDIT: liedra reminded me of dontbreakthechain.com, a great web-based implementation). Keeping the chain going was the only reason I put my running shoes on some days.

Finally, set goals. They have to be very, very clear and concise goals. For the record, my original weight loss goal was to lose 25kg by the end of June. There have been other related ones. I set out to beat my boss' time in the City 2 Surf. But that may be unrealistic, and I've realigned it to coming in under 1.5 hours. There have been smaller ones, too; lose this much this week, or run x km in a month. Not all of them worked out, some of them were changed as I went. But I always have a few on the go, and I always make sure there's a clearly achievable one every now and then. Challenge is good, but constant defeat is not.

So where am I at now? In early May I ran my first real race. Utterly surprised myself with the time, and my pace has improved in leaps and bounds since then. Recently (finally!) cracked the 30 minute mark for 5km, which was another goal that had been bugging me for a while. Been working on shorter, faster runs lately, but am trying hard to slow down a little and go further, in preparation for the City 2 Surf this year. Right now I'm worried about whether I'll even be able to run the distance, let alone hit my time goal.

Making small changes to my diet is paying off. As previously mentioned, I don't crave junk food any more, but still allow myself an occasional indulgence. I don't want to eat as much as I used to, and have been known to commit what used to be a cardinal sin, and leave some chips on the plate. I have a long way to go here, and it's where I've been slacking off on due to work pressure. If I get to the point where I'm regularly eating breakfast, though, I'll be happy.

I've moved the goal line on my weight graph down to 75, but fully expect to pass that in a couple of weeks (allowing myself some leeway to celebrate the completion of a major work project ;-) ). I feel a bit uncomfortable shifting it down much further than that, really, but might start heading to 70. By then I'm encroaching on what I weighed in high school. Which would be weird, and also I was really really thin in high school.

I'm thinking about joining a gym again. Getting to the point where I would like to build up my upper body strength, because it will help with my running. Also because I'm kind of liking the idea of discovering that I have abs.

And finally, I'm mid way through replacing my wardrobe. This has led to a few weekends trawling secondhand shops on King St, as well as a spectacular drunken shopping spree on topatoco. Because seriously, why go to all this effort if I can't treat myself to awesome shirts?

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Comments {10}


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from: lotus555
date: Jul. 5th, 2011 11:37 pm (UTC)

congratulations! glad to hear you're doing so well. How's the kitty?

and your post may have even inspired me to try the old couch to 5k thing. So thanks!

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from: stibbons
date: Jul. 6th, 2011 12:07 am (UTC)

Thanks. :-D

Eli seems to have almost realised that he's a really frigging huge cat. He's evicted all of the other neighbourhood cats from my yard, and seems to be doing a good job of taking over neighbouring yards as well. But there's a new arrival giving him trouble. I'm hearing a lot of territorial disputes lately and, for the first time in months, have actually seen a cat in my yard. Madness!

I didn't really get in to the c25k until I had everything I needed to accurately measure the intervals. That ended up being another app on my phone (there's a bunch of c25k apps for both android and iphone). But the c25k website also has a few podcast mixes with different tempos to match the different rates. Something like that is pretty much a must.

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