If you look at the physical section of my bucket list, I have a lot of activities listed that would require me to be in tip-top shape. Ironman Triathalons aren’t for wimps. Right now, I’m a wimp.
Last year, I lost 63 lbs. by walking almost 1100 miles in eight months and, also, by watching what I ate most of the time. The months where I wasn’t so great at the diet, the weight didn’t come off very fast, I noticed. But it still dropped. Walking an average of 5+ miles per day will do that for a person.
Walking that many miles per day takes me around 1.75-2 hours, depending on how much picture taking I do along the way. That’s a hefty chunk of time to dedicate to my exercise each day. Last year, I had nothing but time. I wasn’t working. I am, however, currently employed as a long haul truck driver. My schedule is often changing, and I never have the same routine from day to day in terms of when I get up, when I go to bed, when I eat, or how long I even work. Some days I work five or six hours. Some days I work 12 or more. These constant changes make it very difficult to plan any sort of regular exercise, especially for upwards of two hours at a time! I do go for nice long walks when I am able, but I have found it is very difficult to do often.
So, if I want to lose weight and get in shape, it would seem that I need to look at a different approach. I already know that diet seems to be 60-70% of the battle, since when I stuck to my Zone Diet, the pounds just melted off! Therefore, diet is #1 on my list of tools for making my physical goals.
I really liked Dr. Sears The Zone Diet. It gave me lots of energy and the weight melted off. For those of you who haven’t read this book and don’t know what it is, it basically suggests people break every meal and snack down to 30% protein, 30% fat, and 40% carbohydrates. In doing my own research, I discovered that is actually the ratio that is recommended for people with diabetes. In a nutshell, it is easiest to figure out the ratio of what to eat P/F/C by this exchange ratio—7 grams, 3 grams and 9 grams respectively. So if you are eating something that has 21 grams of protein, then it should have 9 grams of fat, and 27 grams of carbohydrates respectively (3 exchanges of each), if you want to make sure you are staying within the percentage ratios with each meal or snack.
Dr. Sears shows a lot of research behind why his diet works, and much of it breaks down to having to do with insulin. Hm. Not unexpected, since the diabetic diet recommends the same ratios for probably the very same reasons.
I have since read The Four Hour Body by Tim Ferris and liked a lot of what he had to say, too. I adopted the FHB diet as of July 1st and have been recording what I eat and crunching the numbers. I’ve already lost 5.67 inches in just 4 days and I haven’t even started my exercise regimen yet.
The main thrust of the diet in his book is this—it’s essentially the paleo diet, except with a few tweaks. No carbs of any type that derive from grains or potatoes. Also no fruit and no dairy, since the carbs from each does the same thing insulin-wise as the carbs from the other sources (I may be paraphrasing this incorrectly, but suffice it to say fruit and dairy are bad for burning fat and make our bodies store it instead—actually Dr. Sears recommends limiting dairy, too, from what I remember). Where do we get our carbs then? From legumes. Ferris is legume-happy. Also, one day per week is allowed to go wild in terms of our diet. We can eat anything we want and even the off-limits foods are allowed. His research has shown him that by having a “feast” day at scheduled intervals, it actually encourages our bodies to lose more fat, rather than gain it. Bodybuilders and athletes trying to cut fat know this and change the level of their calories from day to day. Also, he recommends at least 20 grams of protein per meal. And 30 grams of protein for breakfast on the cheat day.
Now I mentioned that I crunched some numbers. From looking at what I ate, it looks like the protein/fat/carb ratio of the FHB is pretty close to The Zone Diet—which may be why it works so well. If anything, it seems like I’m usually just a half an exchange higher in my protein than my carbs each time. I could twiddle with it and get it right on, but that is difficult to do with any precision, since I can’t check food composition on the internet with any regularity. Not to mention, it is very time-consuming and I don’t have the time. I just use my best estimates and if I’m stumped do a quick browse of my Zone Diet book to see if the food I want to know about is listed. I’m not worried about getting it exact right now. I’m more worried about these damn junk food cravings and the I-just-started-a-diet-and-now-I’m-ravenous-because-my-stomach-hasn’t-shrunk-just-yet feelings. When I go home next, I may just make a chart of the foods that I eat consistently all the time and their composition numbers. That would be pretty handy!
Since the books work so well together, I think I will be essentially doing a combination of the two. I’m sticking to the Zone, but with the changes Ferriss suggests. In addition, I’ll be adopting some of the other practices in his book as best as I am able (the supplementation he recommends shouldn’t be too difficult to follow).
The #2 item in my toolbox has to be exercise. After all, I can’t go out and run a half-marathon without having trained first. (Not that I can run at all right now. Running does damage to my joints, since I’m still so overweight. I have to drop some more poundage before I can hope to do any running or jogging.) Walking for two hours at a time isn’t something I can commit to over the long haul (get it—I’m a long haul trucker!).
Therefore, the kinds of exercise I do must change. Yes, I will still go for walks whenever I can. Long ones when my schedule permits it. But, I need to be able to do shorter workouts as well. To this end, I purchased some dumbbells so that I can get in some weight lifting. Building muscle means the metabolism goes up as we burn more calories to maintain the muscle. In addition to this benefit, I will get stronger, something I dearly want to be. I miss how strong I used to be. I could totally kick ass, once upon a time. I also plan to buy a bike for some good cardio. A fifteen to thirty minute bike ride here and there ought to be very helpful. Research has shown that people can get cardio benefits from their exercise broken up into small chunks like this.
BUT—Tim Ferriss recommends in his FHB book that weight lifting type exercise shouldn’t be started until about two months of the diet has been followed. That way, when you start in on a plateau (and he found they usually start around end of month two), you can kick it into high gear by starting up with the weight lifting and break through the plateau more readily. I’m not sure if I want to follow that advice or not. I want to get stronger now. I have no patience.
I think I will wait at least until August 1st before I add in the weight lifting, though. I want to see how effective this diet is on its own without the benefit of exercise. The first couple of weeks are always when the most poundage drops off (a lot of water, usually, and some fat), as the body is shocked into submission (as I like to say). So if I wait a couple of more weeks, I should be able to see just what this diet does all by its lonesome. I’m really curious! Then, when I start my exercise regimen, it will be interesting to see how the fat loss spikes (or if it doesn’t). I may decide to wait the two months he recommends, but my patience level tells me that I might not succeed.
Of course, I will be logging my progress on several fronts.
First, I find that I stick to a diet best when I log what I eat. If I don’t, or fall out of logging it, I fall out of eating the right way pretty darn quickly. Second, I’ll be measuring myself with a measuring tape at least once a week and weighing myself whenever I get home time, which is usually once every 3-4 weeks. Third, when I do start my exercise regimen, I’ll be sure to log that, as well.
Y’all could probably care less about what I eat for each and every meal and what exercise I do each and every time. So I won’t make a page on the blog to log for those things. I will, however, create a page to show the “before” photos and to keep track of my measurements from week to week. This means sharing with the world the dimensions of my fat ass and unflattering fat roll photos in a bra and shorts. Ugh. Once every three months or so, I’ll update my photos so you can see the changes for yourself.
I’m like most people—public humiliation is a great motivator. So is public support!
I’ll also be doing some other things for extra motivation—rewards vs. punishment, but I’ll get into that in another post.
Please keep checking in on my progress! I can use all the support I can get!! I’ll be keeping track on my Physical Transformation page.