Losing 20 pounds: Six things that have happened

I've lost 20 pounds. Here's what I've noticed about myself ...

As of my last weigh in (which I do every day with Noom) I dipped below 260 pounds for the first time in years. Since I started my (latest) weight loss journey at over 280 pounds, that means I've shed over 20 pounds.

Here are six things that have happened since losing 20 pounds:

I snore less

I have to take my wife's word for it, of course, but she says that I'm snoring less than I used to.

It used to be that I would drive her out of the bedroom with my snoring. She would go downstairs on the living room couch — and she could still hear me upstairs. Not good!

Not snoring as badly is a virtuous cycle. Better sleep encourages better weight loss, which encourages even better sleep, and so forth.

I don't hurt as much

I still get sore if I walk around a lot or stand around a lot, but going up and down stairs is noticeably easier. My back, feet, and knees can take my movements more in stride.

This is another virtuous cycle. Hurting less means that I can move more, which improves my health and encourages more weight loss.

My cheeks have more definition

This was actually the first thing my wife noticed. It happened maybe at about 10 pounds off.

When I was up at 280+ pounds, my face was really round. It looked like Captain B. McCrea's face from WALL-E.

After losing 20 pounds, though, I'm getting definition in my cheekbones. It's the first outward hint that I'm actually losing weight.

My clothes fit better

I currently wear 40-30 jeans. At the start of my weight loss program, those jeans were almost too small. Getting those jeans buttoned after they had just been washed and dried was … an adventure.

I resisted getting 42-30 jeans, but it wouldn't have been long before I had no choice.

I'm not down to 38-30 jeans yet, but it's no longer a chore to button my 40s.

Additionally, some of my T-shirts were getting way too tight around the stomach. I had started buying 3XL tees and those fit all right, but the 2XLs were more sausage casings than clothes. The 2XLs are fitting a bit better now.

Eventually, getting down to XL size would be great, because the larger sizes cost more money.

Hugs are easier

My wife and I are both “physical touch” people so we hug each other a lot (among other things).

At 280+, she could still wrap her arms around me, but she could only hook her index fingers behind my back. It tickled her when she could interlock all of her fingers.

It's not painful to look in a mirror anymore

My daughter is fifteen and an athlete. She's drawn to mirrors like flies are drawn to cow pies.

Prior to starting my weight loss program with Noom, looking in the mirror was something I avoided most of the time. I could brush things off most of the time, but seeing myself heavier than I'd ever been in my life was painful.

Though I still have a long way to go, I'm headed in the right direction, and that's good to see.

Is weight loss easy?

Is weight loss easy?

I've been using Noom for two weeks now.

I'm down about nine pounds, which is good.

Down anything is good, but nine pounds in the first two weeks is a lot, and it's not sustainable.

(I understand that this rate isn't sustainable. But it is part of the initial boost that I'll talk about later.)

The weight-loss question I shouldn't have asked

Last night, I posed a question to my wife:

“Shouldn't it be harder than this?”

(Which, of course, virtually guarantees that it will be harder now, haha.)

I guess I asked the question because it hasn't been nearly as difficult to cut out as many calories as I have.

I'm probably eating about half the number of calories that I was pre-Noom. (A single giant Jersey Mike's sub is about 1700 calories. That's my total daily intake now. And yes, I could easily eat the whole sub.)

But come evening, after I've recorded everything, I usually still have some calories to spare, and I'm not overly hungry.

Why might weight loss be easy at the start?

One reason is that the effort is novel. These things are new:

  • The app is new. It's a new thing to play with, and has a lot of easily-digestible content (pardon the pun), lots of numbers and stats, streaks, etc.
  • The diet is new. Even though it's a lot fewer calories, it's still new, and that's been keeping me going.
  • The routine is new. There's food preparation, new recipes to make, exercises, conversations, and other things.

Another reason is the initial “jump” down that comes from reducing the amount of high-calorie-density foods. There's simply not as much food mass in the pipeline after a couple of days.

All of this adds up to one statement:

I'm in the honeymoon period of this program.

And just like a real honeymoon, it's going to end at some point. What follows is what Noom calls “The Plummet.”

And then … “The Lapse.” Uh-oh.

It's easy now, but …

… it won't be easy forever.

And if I know that I'm going to plummet from this honeymoon stage, and lapse, then I can choose either to push through, or give up.

I don't want there “always to be an excuse” this time.

I'll go over my calorie budget. I'll miss getting my steps in. I'll eat the wrong foods.

It's always tempting to give up when the struggles come. And I've succumbed to that temptation every other time.

Knowing that I'm going to struggle at some point is half the battle. The other half is using the self-awareness and other psychological “helps” to get me back on track.

So I'll enjoy things while they're easy, and prepare for when they're not.

Celery is my friend

As I'm starting up a weight loss journey (again) I had had a false understanding of how my body would handle a lot of vegetables.

I've had GI tract issues in the past, and though it's under control now, I had attributed the occasional bouts of “angry gut” (a euphemism for explosive diarrhea) to consuming even a modest amount of salad. It's hard to tell, really, what the true cause for it was, but it was a convenient excuse.

And that made me leery when the Noom app started resetting my diet to include a lot of “green foods.” (A green food, in Noom parlance, means a food that is low in calorie density. These foods fill you up without blowing your calorie budget. By coincidence, a lot of green foods are green in color.)

I can eat celery! Yay!

One food that I thought would have been especially troublesome gut-wise was celery.

I'm glad that this didn't turn out to be the case. It actually hasn't turned out to be the case for most of the fruits and vegetables I've consumed this past week. And I consumed (for me) a lot of them.

What's great about celery in particular, for me, is the following:

  • It agrees with me. That was a revelation to me this week. It sucks when you like a particular food but it doesn't like you back, and I'm glad this isn't the case.
  • The taste is fine. Any new tastes may take some getting used to. But this is something that I can eat plain, without drowning it in dip or something else caloric like that.
  • A whole stalk is a mere eight calories. (See here.) I can eat a full handful of the stuff, feel unusually full afterward, and barely dent my calorie budget for the day. I ate three stalks this afternoon as part of my snack.
  • It's super-crunchy. On this front, celery is very satisfying to eat. Everyone in earshot knows you're eating it, and it has a snap to it that makes you feel like you're accomplishing something good with each bite.

Changing habits takes time

Learning to reach for vegetables and fruits instead of high-density foods is one of the habits that I'm learning.

Noom promised me that my enthusiasm for making these new habits will ebb and flow. I'm in the “honeymoon” period for using the service. Everything's new and exciting, I'm seeing results, and I'm pumped up.

But just like real honeymoons, the excitement doesn't last forever. To push through the dips and get past the valleys, I'll need different kinds of refocusing to keep going. My family is supportive of this, so that helps a lot.

But, like Noom keeps reminding me: “You gotta believe it will work.”

Let’s try this weight loss thing again. I’m running out of chances.

I'm still fat

I looked back to the first post on this blog, which is now exactly twelve years ago.

I've gained 45 pounds since then. About four pounds per year, up.

I'm now 48 and weigh 286 pounds. At five-six, that's awfully fat.

I have my past three driver's licenses: 2000, 2012, and 2020. The progression looks a lot like the captains of the Axiom in WALL-E: fatter and fatter as time progresses.

It's now substantially harder for me to get up and down the stairs. I'm nervous as I go up and down the ladder to the above-ground swimming pool we just installed. It took me about a half-hour to figure out how to get out safely the first time.

I lack the energy to get all of the things I want to accomplish done. That's frustrating.

I've started and stopped exercising at least a dozen times in the past 12 years. As one of the guys who used to go to our church (he's now dead) said, “There's always an excuse.” I didn't overcome the excuses in time for him to actually see it, and that pisses me off a bit.

(He's right, of course, until I figure out a way past the excuses.)

Weight loss and habits

I started using Noom today. A friend of ours said that it worked for her.

I'm only through the introduction part of it but it seems to focus a lot on building habits to change people's relationships with food and activity.

I'm hoping that this program will hold my hand enough and working with my psychology enough to nudge my habits in the right direction.

I've read enough on habits and their power that it makes sense to go about it this way.

The piece I like about it so far is that there are no bad foods, but there are better foods (particularly ones with low caloric density).

Anyway … this is my latest try. And like the app says, I need to believe it will work:

Whether you think you can, or you think you can't — you're right.

Henry Ford

So here's to one more shot

I'll talk here regularly how things go. You'll see whether I overcome the excuses and get in shape. I could end up in good health, or like the gluttony victim in Se7en.

Feel free to play along.

Fitocracy: Here are the points you need to level up

Fitocracy is a great community for spurring each other onto great fitness things. Here's what you need to level up …

Fitocracy: Because Internet Points

Fitocracy gamifies fitness and exercise. Do exercises, get internet points.

It's amazing what people will do for (fake) internet points.

I'm at Level 12 in Fitocracy, and as of today need 1269 more points to level up to Level 13.

It gets harder to level up the higher you go. Getting from Level 5 to Level 10 isn't nearly as hard as getting from Level 25 to Level 30 — even though you're only advancing five levels in each case. (And getting from Level 60 to Level 65 is ridiculous.)

Breakdown of Fitocracy Levels

Since I'm a math geek I analyzed people's scores on the site to determine exactly how many points you'll need to get to the next level.

You can use these point values to set realistic goals. Let's say you just cracked Level 10, and do workouts that usually get you 300 points. You'll need 10500 more points to get up to Fitocracy Level 14, which is 35 workouts at the same intensity (10500/300 = 35). So you should get to Level 14 if you work out five times a week for seven weeks.

See how that works?

Anyway, here are the levels. Enjoy! (And … if you haven't signed up for Fitocracy, then you should … it's free!)

Level Minimum Pts Pts to Level Up
1 0 100
2 100 250
3 350 500
4 850 750
5 1600 1000
6 2600 1250
7 3850 1500
8 5350 1750
9 7100 2000
10 9100 2250
11 11350 2500
12 13850 2750
13 16600 3000
14 19600 3250
15 22850 3500
16 26350 4000
17 30350 4500
18 34850 5000
19 39850 5500
20 45350 6000
21 51350 6500
22 57850 7000
23 64850 7500
24 72350 8000
25 80350 8500
26 88850 9000
27 97850 9500
28 107350 10000
29 117350 12500
30 129850 15000
31 144850 17500
32 162350 20000
33 182350 25000
34 207350 30000
35 237350 35000
36 272350 50000
37 322350 60000
38 382350 70000
39 452350 80000
40 532350 100000
41 632350 120000
42 752350 140000
43 892350 160000
44 1052350 180000
45 1232350 210000
46 1442350 240000
47 1682350 270000
48 1952350 300000
49 2252350 330000
50 2582350 360000
51 2942350 410000
52 3352350 460000
53 3812350 510000
54 4322350 560000
55 4882350 610000
56 5492350 685000
57 6177350 760000
58 6937350 835000
59 7772350 910000
60 8682350 985000
61 9667350 1060000
62 10727350 1135000
63 11862350 1210000
64 13072350 1285000
65 14357350 1360000
66 15717350 ???????

I’ve become a Fitocrat

A friend of mine posts his workouts on Facebook through a service called Fitocracy.

Fitocracy gamifies the whole exercise process. I can get achievements, keep track of personal records, and level up.

Pretty cool!  I'm actually motivated by such silly things.

I've already logged over 2 miles on the treadmill since yesterday, and am starting to do push-ups again.

Boycott Halloween?

Len Penzo posted a tongue-in-cheek list of thirteen yucky Halloween treats that kids hate.

My (semi) tongue-in-cheek response was that the solution to make sure that kids don't get any treats that they don't like was easy:

Don't take the kids trick or treating.

Following that, I said this:

“Besides, most of that stuff is nearly [as] addicting as any hardcore drug that you can take. Predisposing kids for a lifetime of obesity isn’t being kind to them.”

Studies have indeed shown that sugar is as addictive as some pretty hard drugs.  Further, one of the most respected homeschooling curricula out there recommends that refined sugar be taken out of the children's diet.  From the article:

“Be kind to any new babes, don't let them have that first taste and they won't have to break a bad habit, dare I say .. an addiction. I wish I had had this resolve when our children were very young. ”

Having been terribly addicted to carbs for most of my life, and seeing how my wife has dropped close to fifty pounds by cutting out the carbs (she had cut out refined sugar a while back) I can see the wisdom in not indulging in sweets, and not allowing children to indulge in them, either.

My wife controls my meals this month

My wife is a very persistent and patient woman.  She asked me to let her take over my diet for this month in an effort to help me get rid of my carbohydrate addiction.

She's taken to a low-carb diet for the past six months to a year, and she's dropped 35 pounds.

She's making it pretty easy on me, though.  All she's modifying this month is what I take in.  Not the amount.  Not how much exercise I get.  Just the particular foods.  That, and I'm not going as low-carb as she did.  She went down really low on the carbs the first month.  I'm going quite a bit lower than I have been, but not as low as she did.

I've substituted orange juice for milk, rice for low-carb bread in a sandwich.  I'm eating more salads.  I can eat at Chipotle, but I get a bowl rather than a burrito (no rice, no tortilla).  I take steamed broccoli instead of a baked potato for a side when I ate out with a friend yesterday.

How is it working?  I may have lost a little bit of weight, but I can say that I feel better.  At the very least, I felt the carb load of the pizza I had Saturday night really bad.  It really knocked me to sleep.  I'm going lower-carb, but for now, probably not lower-calorie.  I have a stash of raw almonds at work that I hit pretty hard during the day.

Anyway, I've been playing along with my wife's experiment for a week and a half now, and it's going pretty well!

Low-carb substitute for rice

I really adore my rice and beans because it's something that I can eat day-in, day-out, cheaply, without getting sick of it.

Unfortunately, rice — even the somewhat lower glycemic index brown rice — is really high in carbohydrates.

My wife has gone really low-carb (as in around 40 grams per day) and she's lost about 20 pounds over the past few months without even needing to count calories.  It's really quite amazing.

So my wife did an experiment tonight.  She made some shrimp curry, but instead of putting the curry over rice, she put it over grated fried cauliflower — also known as cauliflower rice.  Instead of nearly 40 grams of carbs (net) per cup, the cauliflower rice only about 2.5 grams net carbs per cup.

She first grated the white part of a head of cauliflower into rice-sized chunks, and then fried it up with some oil and a little bit of seasoning.  One trick that she found was to not use extra water, because it makes the cauliflower rice mushy.  The water in the cauliflower is enough.

I was pleasantly surprised how good it tasted.  I hardly would have known the difference between the cauliflower rice and a small grain.