Shedding a few pounds

Time for Change

I've never really cared much about my weight. Over the years I've watched it gradually climb. I'd always weigh myself from time to time, and my internal "that's a bit much" limit was 100kg (15st.10lb).

Earlier this year I hit the 100kg mark again. To be fair I was never much below it anyway.

In the latter part of 2012 year my mindset started to change. I wasn't actively trying to lose weight but I was starting to think about it more seriously. Around the end of February I hit 101.2kg. I decided it was time to do something about it.

Increasing weight

The new regime

One thing I did not want to do was go on a crash diet; starving myself, being miserable and potentially damaging my health were not things I wanted to subject myself to. It was important to me that I eased into a new lifestyle that suited me and also helped buck the trend.

Keeping informed

I've never been a fan of weighing myself regularly ... I'd read all about weight fluctuations from day to day, and being demoralised when your weight goes up for no apparent reason. I'd heard about weight-tracking applications that used the measurements to show a trend over time.

With that in mind I looked around for an application that allowed to me enter daily values and that showed me my trending weight.

I started using Simple Weight Recorder - a more than capable free Android app. For reasons I can no longer remember a few weeks in I decided to switch to Libra - Weight Manager, even going as far as manually entering my data from Simple Weight Recorder. I'm still using Libra now. (the black background screen-grabs in this post are from Libra)

For some reason, one set of data and one graph wasn't enough for me - so after seeing it mentioned on Twitter I also started recording my weight in WeightGrapher. (the white background screen-grabs in this post are from WeightGrapher)

Getting back under control

I was able to see what my weight was doing over time. Information is power.

I am what I don't eat

Having lovely graphs doesn't make you magically lose weight. I needed to change how I lived my life in one or more ways to actually drag the graph in the direction I wanted it to.

When I first started losing weight I didn't make drastic changes to anything. That would have led to failure.

I started by, for want of a better phrase, cutting out the crap. I got a lot better at having fruit near my desk at work, in my bag when I was on the move, somewhere convenient at home. Whenever I felt the need for a snack I stopped grabbing a chocolate bar from the shop or vending machine - I devoured an apple instead. I (re)discovered how tasty apples (Royal Gala and Jazz are the two tastiest types in my opinion) and grapes are.

I stopped having a large unhealthy meal for lunch followed in the evening by a large unhealthy meal.

All of this happened over time. I didn't want to shock myself into giving up.

After a while, like anything you do often enough, it became habit. I was craving fruit, not chocolate. I was enjoying salad with tuna or chicken. I started to not want deep-fried, artery-clogging food.

I didn't stop eating all the nice things. I learned that having them occasionally, rather than habitually, makes them taste so much nicer when I do have them whilst helping the trend line point down instead of up.

Gathering more information

Once I'd settled in to the initial dietary changes I started to crave more information. I wanted to know more about how I was living my life. Knowing what my weight was doing was only the start of learning how to affect it.

For some time I'd had the idea of a FitBit at the back of my mind. I'd partially dismissed them because they didn't look like they'd suit my lifestyle. I wanted something that I could, for the most part, just forget about.

A few weeks ago I stumbled across Jawbone UP. It looked like exactly what I was looking for ... something I could just wear and forget about, that collected data and let me see shiny stats and graphs.

My Jawbone UP

When I received my wristband I was able to start monitoring how active I was ... the act of monitoring had the desired effect of making me want to be more active. "Whaaat?! I've only walked 8,000 steps today? I suck!". I was able to start visualising how well I appeared to be sleeping too.

A day's summary in the Jawbone UP Android App
I was cautious about the data at first, but things seemed to match up; the wristband did 'know' when I'd woken up in the night. It doesn't measure the full REM sleep cycle, but seeing light/deep sleep and matching that with how I felt the following day did make me more aware of how much harm I was doing with my messed up sleep patterns and sleep deprivation. (I haven't changed them much, but I'm less surprised at feeling bad after 4 hours' sleep).

Calorie Counting

Shortly after starting to wear my wristband I explored another feature the app offered - calorie tracking. A lot of the food I eat could be added simply with a scan of the package barcode, other items could be searched for. As a last resort, values could be entered manually (or simply guestimated, for the sake of having non-zero mean entries).

I never thought I would become 'one of those calorie counters'. Starting to track what I was putting into my body made me realise that those mysterious kcal numbers are very useful in a quest for a declining personal mass.

Knowing that I've eaten 'a lot' before leaving work for the day made it more likely that I'd eat something smaller and more sensible in the evening instead of another large meal.

Rough guide to my intake
Measuring the calories in a pint of beer has meant I don't drink as much as I used to. [I wasn't a big drinker before, but I drink next to nothing these days.]

When I've had a less strict day I'm no longer surprised, or upset, when my weight trend becomes more shallow.

I record 80-90% of the food and drink I ingest. It's a good indication what to expect when I jump on the scales the next morning.

Current status

My weight is still on a downward trend. Sometimes it's not as steep as I'd like. The important thing is that the trend is down, and has been for a few weeks.

I've set myself an intermediate goal of 90kg (14st.2lb.). This isn't my ultimate goal, but reaching it will be a massive achievement and should motivate me on to my second goal.

Aiming for 90kg

Once I reach 90kg my intention is to aim for 'not being overweight'. This seems to be somewhere around 82.5kg (13 stone). I don't think I've been this light since my Uni days (mid 90s). I don't know if I'll get there. I'd like to try.

No longer overweight

If I reach that target my stretch goal is an insane sounding 75kg. That's somewhere in the mid-normal range, instead of hovering on Overweight/Normal.

Mid-normal weight
I have a feeling I won't reach either of the last two goals. I don't want to look like a gaunt skeleton version of myself. I think I'll probably settle down and be happy if I keep my weight fluctuating between 85kg and 90kg, with 90kg becoming my new upper-limit for the 'uh-oh' reaction when I step on the scales.

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