My Decade of Decadence Comes to an End

I have not been kind to myself during the past 10 years.

What you are looking at is a result of 10 years of exercising too little, consuming too much, and being sedentary too long. The result has been the net gain of 85 lbs from my leanest days from rowing in crew in high school.

85 lbs — that’s nearly 300,000 in caloric energy in excess fat. That’s enough energy to briskly walk 3,000 miles from Boston to Los Angeles. If someone were to make walking a full time job — 40 hours/week — it would take them nearly 5 months to walk that distance.

How The Great Gain Started

The Great Gain didn’t occur over night. Rather, it occurred very, very slowly — at about the rate of 100 excess calories/day.

The Great Gain didn’t go unchallenged. There were three heroic attempts:

  1. In 1998, I lost 20 lbs over 3 seasons of rowing in crew. I then gained 30 lbs across 3 years.
  2. In 2002, I lost 17 lbs over 6 months through mostly running. I then gained 60 lbs across 6 years.
  3. In 2008, I lost 12 lbs over 3 months through Operation Bootcamp. I then gained 20 lbs across 2 years.

That brings us to today. I’m now in my fourth attempt fighting the Great Gain. Since this attempt started 6 weeks ago, I’ve lost 16 lbs. How will this time be different? Over the next few days, I will be blogging — fat-blogging? — how.

Have you ever experienced 20 lbs of weight loss? How did you do it? How did you maintain it?

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14 thoughts on “My Decade of Decadence Comes to an End

  1. What about what you are / were eating? About 60% of body composition is food, the rest is exercise. What food / diet alternatives have you tried? We are obviously primal / paleo / ketogenic diet fans.

    • Jeff: Good point — I’ll have a post about this specifically.

      In the meantime … my eating habits have changed drastically for any period of weight loss. The key difference this time is the acceptance that I am viewing this as a habit change, not crash diet.

  2. Debbie and I both have lost over 20 lbs since March (Deb over 30, me 28). We completely changed our diets which I attribute a large portion of the weight loss to. We rarely eat red meat anymore (had steak for the 1st time in months last night), substitute lean ground turkey for anything that calls for ground beef, use low sodium in everything, lots of chicken, fish, veggies etc. Here’s a typical day for me: 2 eggs, 2 turkey sausages and a whole wheat muffin for breakfast. Carrots and/or cucumber slices for snack. Lunch is a salad with grilled chicken with a Ken’s Lite Option salad dressing. Strawberries and grapes or cottage cheese for afternoon snack. Fish, chicken or turkey with broccoli (or another veg), brown rice for dinner. Protein shake for evening snack (after gym workout to keep metabolism working). Everything is smaller portions than I used to eat as well.

    In addition, we joined Lifetime Fitness and go 6 days a week (or try to, sometimes schedules get in the way but more times than not Monday thru Saturday). Debbie joined Team Weight Loss which is a group that works out together with a trainer. I just went back to a routine I did when I was younger and in much better shape: Cardio daily (moving to 2 mile morning runs) Upper body workouts Monday, Wednesday & Friday – Legs and abs on Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday.

    My goal was 30 lbs to lose and then convert to lean muscle. I’ve been fluctuating between 26 and 30 lbs for the last month, so I feel like I’ve reached the “maintain phase”.

    Anyway, good luck and keep with it!

    • Rob: Congrats on the progress! That’s about 1 lbs/week over the past 4 months — keep that pace up.

      Our food diets have changed quite a bit too, and very similar to what you have. It also sounds likes you are moving to more meals each day than the Big Three, just smaller. Does that help with hunger?

      What are you doing to help make sure you eat better?

      How are you making sure you make it to workout?

      Again, congrats on the progress. I’m happy to my friends are also working on this — “misery loves company”.

  3. We’re not quite at 20, but Jason has lost about 15 and I’ve lost about 12, since late March. It sounds really basic, but we just try to watch our calories and exercise regularly. Of course, we try to make sure our calories are coming from better sources – lean proteins, fruits, veggies, complex carbs, etc – but we don’t go into a deep depression if we decide to have a beer or a scoop of ice cream. Drinking lots of water also helps, which is a huge challenge for me.

    • Betty: We don’t go into deep depression when we decide to have a beer or scoop of ice cream, either. In fact, we celebrate.

      Good tip on the water intake reminder.

  4. Keep up the good work, David!

    For me, the biggest aid in making the continual healthy day to day decisions are metrics. The same way in which you are a stickler for time tracking–I’ve found the periods in my life in which I observe the most success are when I’m tracking my food intake and my exercise habits.

    I think for the most part we all know how to eat healthy and know how to exercise, but as soon as its “out of sight”, it’s “out of mind”.

    The above graph looks like it was generated by the Withings Scale. How are ya liking it?

    • Matthew: I agree on the metrics. It’s the times in the past that I’ve counted calories — both consumed and burned — that I’ve experienced success.

      Yes, it’s a screen shot of the Withings WiFi scale, which was my 10% milestone reward (more about that later). I absolutely love it. I think it has been a significant factor for my progress — I respond to biofeedback loop (more about that later, too). My 20% milestone reward was the Withings blood pressure monitor for iOs, also equally impressive.

      I went back through my journal and found historic data going back to 1994. Actually, I was only 5’6″ in 1994. It wasn’t until 1998 that I reached my max height of 5’9″. In other words, while I weighed less in ’94-97, I was also shorter. That’s why my leanest days from rowing in 1998 is my ultimate goal.

  5. David- Moving to more meals a day than just the Big Three is a huge help. The 1st month or so was difficult to change from just eating 3 big meals a day to 6 small ones, but once we got used to it, there are days you have to force yourself to eat the snacks between meals because you’re just not hungry, but it helps keep your metabolism going. I started watching calories and keeping track, but now I have a good enough idea of what I’m eating a day to know if it’s to0 much or too little. Back when we started in March, Deb and I both stopped going out for lunches during the work day as well. Not only a HUGE cost savings, but also helped in assuring what we put into our bodies really was good for us. I also gave up my Diet Mountain Dew, been 1.5 months since I’ve had a soda. Aspertame* is brutal in your body, worse than sugar.

    We don’t fret over a “cheat” here and there either. Actually, we have a “cheat” day set aside each week…we walk from our house down the square for a low fat frozen yogurt @ Yoguri on Sunday evenings. We justify it in the 4 mile walk there and back =) If we go out with friends and have drinks and not so healthy food, we skip that indulgence on Sunday.

    I personally don’t have a problem going to the gym every night, but I do have a hard time with the morning runs as I’m not a morning person at all. I try and set myself goals to reach which helps me stay on track. Kind of what you’ve been doing with the bike races I’ve seen you talk about, my next big goal is I want to find either a Sprint or Intermediate Triathlon for sometime in the late Fall (if Sprint) or Spring (if Intermediate) and train/compete in one or both. We’ll see though….

    Anyway, look forward to hearing how it works with you! Stay the course!

  6. Rob: I’m ambivalent on the Big Three vs. Little Six. I read about the benefits — increased metabolism throughout the day — but I’ve also read some other research that says differently. For me what matters the most is that I’m practicing Mindful Eating. Everything that goes in is accounted for, so I have to have a plan on how to get it back out. I’m free to eat that pizza or hamburger if I want, but that means I have to schedule a equitable burn before.

    So, on Monday I ran the 10k, which gave me 1,200 extra calories to play with. On Sunday I rode 32 miles, which gave me 2,000 extra calories to play with. I went to town on those! But after calculating them, I only netted a consumption of 100 calories. Meaning — I consumed 2,100 calories. It felt like so much because I’m not used to eating “that much” in one sitting (900-1,000 calories vs. my normal 350-450). Once I calculated things, however, I was completely fine.

    I agree on the asparatame. I’ve weened off diet coke from 24 oz/day to 24 oz/week. I avoid all foods that have added sweetners. If I’m going to have sweets, I’m going to have the real stuff. And because I can’t really consume that much sugar, that means I’m not consuming the sweets. I don’t think there are any shortcuts.

    Are there any foods you’ve noticed are a no-go? Now, I’m rarely eating the calorically dense stuff as it’s just not worth it. Yesterday I saw how much calories a bag of popcorn had and threw the rest out. It’s just not worth it 5 miles of running. But two slices of Mellow Mushroom Bruchetta are. Have you found any specific dishes you like?

    There are some great spring and intermediate tris in the Fall. There aren’t that many in the spring because the water is too cold for most. I recommend the Octoberfest Super Sprint Tri in Hiawassee, GA (.25 / 8 / 2) on 9/25. It’s equivalent to 1 hour of running, and doesn’t require special equipment.

    http://thebeastoftheeast.net/race-schedules/octoberfest-super-sprint-distance-triathlon/

    The year after, upgrade to the International Tri (.8 / 16 / 4).

    http://thebeastoftheeast.net/race-schedules/octoberfest-international-distance-triathlon/

    If you are interested, let me know. Also, we do training rids on the Silver Comet a lot. Everyone goes at their own pace, and no one gets lost. Usually we ride in 1 hour and turn around. That way, everyone gets done at the same time.

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