Tag Archives: weight loss

Road to a Lean Body

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Translation: It’s not what you think or assume, but what you actually do that matters.

Today I return to the topic of health and fitness. Previously I reported a seven step plan to get lean again in 2020. So far, my progress has been limited because discipline has been sporadic in several areas. I lose some body fat, then fall prey to boredom, indifference, and/or entitlement and cheat on my diet. This has not been terrible, but any cheating inhibits progress, and enough cheating initiates regression.

I have remained rock solid on workouts, however. This has been my saving discipline. I continue to do strength training three days per week, and I’ve continued to run the other three days. The latter is a significant accomplishment for me due to my contempt for running.

I burned up 20 days and am currently behind my weight goal. I have lost some body fat, which is good, just not enough for this much effort. So, what must I do? Return to a stricter diet and more consistent intermittent fasting. My body doesn’t want to lose the weight, so I become voraciously hungry at night. I excuse eating after sundown by telling myself, “Well, it is intermittent fasting, so I can eat at night occasionally.” Or, “I’m working out with weights, my body needs the additional protein.” Most excuses contain a sprinkling of fact. The truth is, I cannot eat like that if I’m going to hit my goal.

I’m 40 days out and motivated to hit a goal weight of 149 by my birthday. When I’m there I’ll measure body fat and determine how much further down to go. Truth be told, I like being lean and skinny. When I’m fatter I become more lethargic. I also hate looking at my gut and love handles, especially when this can be seen through a tucked shirt. Here’s where vanity works in my favor. I WILL LOSE THIS FLAB.

Until next time, I hope you are busy achieving your fitness goals for the new year!

1/11 – 3/11

All right, I just finished a workout, drinking black coffee in the cafe at the gym. Cheated my way into the new year, now I’m motivated to make a change by my birthday in 60 days. I rolled into 2020 with more muscle mass, which was my goal for 2019, but I also have 5-7% more body fat than I want. So, it’s back to cutting down & getting lean. To motivate you and keep me accountable, here is my goal and the means I’ll achieve it.

At the beginning of 2020 I weighed in at 158lbs (I got as high as 161). That’s 12-16% body fat (depending upon which tool I use to measure it). I’ll call it 14%. I want to be at around 7%. If I retain the same muscle mass, that will make my target weight 147, so I’ll work to drop 11 lbs in 60 days. That equals a loss of 1.37 lbs per week, so I’ll aim at losing a pound and a half per week.

Here’s how I’ll achieve that.

1) Count calories. No matter what diet you’re on, your body requires a certain amount of energy to maintain. Calories are not perfect, but they are a measure of the energy I’m ingesting. At my age and current weight I need around 2400 calories per day to maintain. I use a free app called MyPlate to enter my food & drink. It also estimates my caloric needs based on the goal entered. I’ve overestimated the number of pounds I want to lose per week by entering two (rather than my goal of 1.5). This should help cover for entry and miscalculation errors. At this point I must not exceed 1692 calories per 24 hours.

2) Don’t drink alcohol. I like craft beer and a good margarita. Alcohol inhibits fat loss by keeping the liver peoccupied with transforming it from its toxic state into (potentially) beneficial blood sugar.

3) Don’t cheat. One cheat day will EASILY undo a week of hard work.

4) Intermittent fasting. This makes the lower calorie intake easier and reduces or eliminates insulin resistance. This means as my baseline I stop ingesting calories at 6pm and don’t eat or drink anything but water, herbal tea (night) and black coffee (morning) until noon the next day. That’s an 18 hour fast. To keep it intermittent (somewhat random) I’ll drink a protein drink before morning weight workouts at around 10am, which equals a 16 hour fast. Occasionally (once a week or so) I’ll go until 2pm or 4pm before I take in calories.

6) Keep carbs below 20-25% of overall calories, which equals 85-100 per day.

7) Work out 30-45 minutes per day, six days a week. For me this breaks down as three weight workouts and three cardio workouts. I lift, practice karate, run the treadmill.

This works. I’ve done it. In 2017 I dropped to 5.3% body fat. I’m well north of 50 years old now. I intend to stay at around 7% which will make 150 lbs my new high weight, (141 is the lowest I’ll go). My waist will be 29. Watch me work! Now, you set some goals and get to work too!

You Can Be Less Fat & More Fit

Fitness is more than how thin you are, but I believe a good start (probably the best place to begin) is with a change in your diet, which results in a leaner body. A lean body is better for many reasons: less prone to heart disease, increased longevity, avoidance of type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, joint problems and a host of other complications which result from hauling around too much body fat every day.

It’s not popular to say this, but neither is it a secret: many people are simply carrying too much body fat. Perhaps you are one of them. Notice, I didn’t say “too heavy.” It’s not about weight; it’s about body fat percentage. The average American carries between 28-40% body fat (and it may be worse today, since that stat is from a study done 15-20 years ago!). That is not healthy. Not at all.

One year ago my body fat was around 23% at a weight of just over 170 lbs. I’m around 71 inches tall. I wasn’t terribly unhealthy, but I was getting there gradually. You see, everything accumulates over time, whether fitness or fatness. In 2012 I had gotten down to 7% body fat, was lifting weights and running regularly. I felt great! Then I broke my clavicle doing incline presses and that slowed the weights down considerably. I was discouraged. I stopped running. My diet gradually got less healthy. I still went to the gym a couple of times per week, but my workouts weren’t enough to burn off the additional calories.

The difference over a five year span was a gain of 16% body fat, which translates to around 20 lbs on my frame. That’s an annual gain of a little over three percent fat, or a mere four pounds each year. Consider, if I had gone another decade I could have been carrying around the high average of 40% body fat. NO THANKS!

I took a look at myself in the mirror at 23% and didn’t like what I saw. I looked like a round, slightly lumpy snowman. I knew what I could look like when healthy and fit. I knew it was going to take some work to get back. It did! I’ve journaled about that process here, so you can look back at those blogs if you’d like. The picture I’ve included in this entry is a screenshot I took this morning from a body fat calculator on my mobile device. To use the app you still need body fat calipers, and, yes, you need to weigh yourself. Currently I weight around 145 and am carrying about 5.5% body fat. Did I mention I’m 56 years old…

If your sex is male, and you’re not an elite athlete, then you should aim for 10-15% body fat. If your sex is female and not competing in some sport, aim for 20-25%. If you need to be leaner for a sport (I am a martial arts instructor), then you may seek to go lower. However, men shouldn’t get below 4% or women below about 9%. You do need some body fat. I am keeping mine between 5-7% because I want to stay at that level of fitness to teach my karate’ class. That, and I like how I look and feel when I’m this lean.

So, what’s the secret? Did I do Keto? Count calories? Fasting? Run an hour a day? Overall friends, although it’s hard at first to apply the self-control, the concept is really very simple: you get fatter when you eat more, and you get thinner when you eat less. You also get fatter when you’re less active, while still eating the same, and you get leaner when you’re more active without increasing the amount you eat. Everything accumulates over time, fitness or fatness.

Duh? Well, why do we read so much disinformation when it comes to this? People want to believe, “You can eat whatever you want and lose the weight!” No, you can’t. Don’t buy it (metaphorically or literally). There are many paths to the goal of losing fat, and there are variables, but the truth is your body carries more fat when it doesn’t burn the excess (yes, I’m going to use a bad word here) CALORIES you’re consuming.

So, do you want to get fit? Start with your diet. You need to establish a healthy diet. If you want less fat, then you need to eat fewer calories. You need to cut out the sugar and starch. You need to schedule your eating.

Next, you need to move more. Find a form of exercise you will do regularly: walk, swim, bike, lift weights, get into an aerobics class, learn and practice a sport like basketball or an art like karate’ or yoga. Aim for 30-40 minutes of vigorous activity five or six days per week.

Do you want help? Coaching? I’m considering doing that for people in the near future, so stay tuned…

From Fatness to Fitness, a Journey

It started on November 8th, and today is February 26th. I was sick and tired of my gut and my “snowman body,” which had accumulated over four years. In early November I weighed around 170 with 19% body fat (according to my smart scale, which may not measure body fat with great accuracy but was my gauge all along). My last weigh-in showed 147.4 pounds. I used calipers and found between 8.38% to 10.12% body fat, depending on the method of calculating. I dropped from a 33” to a 30” waist.

Previous to this I had worked hard and effectively to arrive at the same point. However, everything accumulates over time: fatness or fitness. It all depends on what you’re doing, or not doing in the case of decreasing levels of discipline and activity. I didn’t decide to start being unhealthy one day; in fact, I never stopped going to the gym. Everything happened gradually.

I think I did make a decision to gain some weight, but I wanted it to be muscle. However, I broke my clavicle and was unable to perform any bench presses. This is demoralizing for a guy. I continued to work out, but not very hard, and finally averaged only once or twice a week. I continued to eat a fairly healthy diet, and I didn’t overeat. In spite of this, I gained fat and lost muscle mass. Four years ago I weighed 149, so I gained 21 pounds, or five pounds per year. Had I continued on this gradual increase I would have eventually become obese, and likely struggled with type-two diabetes, which runs on my father’s side of the family.

My vanity kicked in when I stared at myself in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw. Coinciding with this was my decision to return to teaching karate’. I have been an instructor for over 30 years, but had quit teaching or even practicing. I didn’t realize how out of condition I had become. We deceive ourselves when we get older, thinking that everything is pretty much the same this year as it was last, or five or ten years ago. Unlike young people, who naturally grow, when we hit about the mid-twenties we begin to decline, slowly at first, but everything accumulates over time. If you’ve not chosen a disciplined lifestyle of exercise and healthy eating you may be in your late twenties (even younger) and already show significant signs of decreasing fitness.

The last time I started, it was a more difficult journey out of the slough of fitness despondency in which I had found myself. I am happy I didn’t wait any longer to get back into shape. It could have been significantly more difficult to do at this point if I had not already built a fitness foundation. As we get older we have decreased physical capabilities and increased liabilities. In spite of this, we may not realize how far removed we are from the halcyon days of our youth. The result? I go to the gym and attempt to do what I used to 10 or 20 years ago, and discover I cannot. Disappointment may stop me there, or soreness and injury may slow me to a stop later. Then I quit, become depressed, eat more, care less, and put myself at risk for serious physical problems. I learned to meet myself where I am (as opposed to expecting I will be where I used to), and keep moving forward. This motivational strategy has worked to keep me going each time.

I really like being skinny! I have more energy. I look better in my clothes. Since I’ve been going to the gym regularly I’m stronger. Since I’ve been running my cardio-vascular system is healthier and I have more energy. I have more self-discipline in other areas of my life too. Temptation is tough. I was at a birthday celebration at an Asian buffet two days ago and our room was right next to the dessert section. All those beautiful little cakes, cookies and tiramisus were calling to me. I resisted! Why? I’d just purchased new jeans and pants a few hours earlier with waist sizes between 29 and 30. I’m not going to keep myself from fitting into those new clothes! I want to be lean, look good, feel good, have energy and have no self-consciousness about a pooching belly. Half of that is vain, but it’s honest.

In the end, I’m a Christian and a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus. I’m called to offer my body to God as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, which is my reasonable and spiritual offering in worship. God is worth more than a feeble sacrifice. I want to present a clean, healthy body for him to use. If I am going to serve the Lord by teaching karate’, then I need to be in top condition. If I’m going to keep away from sickness, and disease like Alzheimer’s, then I have to discipline myself to exercise, eat healthy, as well as reading and writing regularly. If I’m going to defend myself or my congregation against the attack of some violent individual, then I want to be as trained and fit as possible to do so. My body belongs to God; it is his temple. I want him to be pleased. That’s worship. That’s the best motive of all.

Don’t Give Up

When your expectations aren’t met it’s tempting to give up. When on a fitness program–or most any other plan you make in life–you need to see progress. Or what’s the point, right?

I’ve seen progress, but it hasn’t gone according to my original plan, which was to lose 2lbs per week until January 1, then lose 1lb per week until around Valentine’s Day when I reach my goal. I wrote my target weights on a calendar and met about half of them at the right time. I did the 10 day modified juice fast and hit my goal for January 1 on December 24. Then I proceeded to gain SIX POUNDS. The next week I dropped back down a couple of pounds then fasted for three days and got back to where I had been. That’s where I am currently, and it’s about three pounds off of my original goal.

Still I look at myself in the mirror and it has been a remarkable physical transformation in a two month period. My scale measures body fat, but I’ve determined that it is grossly inaccurate. At my current weight, based on the original body fat calculation, I should be at 10-12%. The scale says 15.6. I’ll need to get calipers and pinch the fat in various places and plug those numbers into a formula that calculates more accurately than my $100 scale from Amazon.

So, although I’ve not met my original numeric goal YET, I have made significant progress. I’m not giving up. In fact, I’m more determined than ever to make my body do what I believe it can and will do: reach 9% body fat with 40% muscle mass by my birthday, which is in 52 days. At middle age this is not as easy as it used to be, but I’m up for the challenge! And I’m looking and feeling great–except for the constant muscle soreness!

Body Fat comp

Addendum: I used calpers. The various formulas for determining body fat lead me to believe my scale is closer than I’d assumed. I’m probably between 14-15% now. So, I adjusted by goal to be at 9% by my birthday, which is 49 days from this addendum.

Frustrated on a Plateau

Weighed in at the beginning of the week and barely made my goal (as recorded in the previous blog entry). Now it’s Friday, I’ve gained weight and it WILL NOT drop. I am frustrated and angry right now. I’ve confirmed, however, that even a small amount of alcohol consumption will interfere with fat loss. I had a margarita for lunch yesterday and a beer the night before. What to do? Channel the anger into determination. Change course to gain control and thereby eliminate the frustration.

The last time I got to the level of conditioning I am seeking I had to do something drastic to break through at this same weight: Juice Fast. I was introduced to the practice by watching the movie Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, in which a man named Joe Cross drank only juice for 60 days and lost a huge amount of weight and was able to stop taking prescription meds in the process. I did an eight day juice fast and dropped eight pounds. I broke my pateau and stayed beneath it for years.

So, I’m writing this for accountability’s sake. I’ve been tempted to do a juice fast as a fast track to weight loss, but what I do must be sustainable, and one cannot go on a permanent diet of juice, even if that were enjoyable! However, I’ve gotten back on a path of healthy diet and exercise, which I will continue after this juice fast. I’ve got eight more pounds to lose by the end of the year, or roughly 7.5% body fat. I should be able to accomplish that by pulling out the big guns and drinking nothing but juice until, hmmmm, until when? How about Christmas Eve, which is nine days away, so that would be 10 days of juice fasting if you count both today and Christmas Eve day. I’ll eat again after our Christmas Eve candlelight service.

I’ll weigh in (pun intended) on what is happening along the journey, so stay tuned….

Fitness v. Fatness Update

Weighed in today, and I barely made my goal. I ate a brownie last night. This is more difficult during the holidays when almost everyone else is going the opposite direction. I want to lead people in January, so I’ve got to be ahead of the ones I propose to lead.

I started my diet and exercise plan on November 8th (check the blog from that date). I’ve been eating a healthy lower carb diet of around 1700 calories per day. I’ve ramped up my activity level, working out at least 30 minutes per day, five days per week. This is not strenuous, I’m coming back from an injury I sustained several years ago. My muscle mass has increased and my gut has gotten smaller. I’ve now lost 10lbs and 2% body fat according to my smart scale.

I’ve also juice fasted several days in the midst of this. Well, not even a true vegetable juice fast, because I’ve added a protein meal replacement shake each day. However, it’s been part of my regimen. I’m watching and praying and may add regular fasting days, or more juice fasting before the end of the year.

I’ve dropped about 2lbs per week and  have six more pounds to lose to achieve my original end of year goal. I’m on target.

BMR. Want to Lose Some Fat?

  1. Calories. Your body burns energy measured in calories.
  2. Macronutrients contain different numbers of calories.
  • Carbohydrate 1 gram = 4.5 calories
  • Protein 1 gram = 4.5 calories
  • Fat 1 gram = 9 calories
  • Alcohol (not a macronutrient) 1 gram = 7 calories
  1. Count Calories. Each person burns a different number of calories depending upon their metabolism and activity level. Count your calories.
  • Write down everything you eat in a normal day and add up the calories.
  • Go online or get a calorie counting app for your smart phone.
  1. BMR- You can determine the number of calories your body needs each day by determining your Basal Metabolic Rate, then adding or subtracting from that depending upon your goals.
    1. Females:  Multiply your weight by 10, and add your weight. Now subtract 2% for every 10 years of life.
      1. Example of 120 lbs 20 year old woman: 120 x 10 = 1200, 1200 + 120 = 1320, 1320 x .04 = 52.8,  1320 – 52.8 =1267.2
    2. Males:  Multiply your weight by 10, and add twice your weight. Now subtract 2% for every ten years of life.
      1. Example of a 150 lbs 20 year old man-  150 x 10 = 1500, 150 x 2 = 300, 1500 = 300 = 1800, .04 x 1800 = 72, 1800 – 72 =1728
    3. Males and females:  Add 20% – 40% depending upon your activity level.
      1. 20% = couch potato/sedentary job, 30% average, 40% active.
      2. Example of the female above with an average activity level: 1267.2 x .30 = 380.16, 380.16 + 1267.2 = 1647.36
  1. Lose fat.
  • If you want to lose fat, you must burn more calories than you eat!
  • There are 3,500 calories contained in one pound of fat.
  • Once you accumulate 3,500 more calories than you need, you will gain a pound of fat.
  • Eat less! Cut between 250-500 (no more!) calories per day.
  • Exercise more! Do a 30-45 minute workout 3-4 days per week, which will enable you to burn at least 250-350 calories per workout.
  • Eat more often! You should eat 5-6 small, healthy, balanced meals per day equal to your BMR, minus 300-500. This will keep your metabolism from slowing down and storing fat in spite of your calorie cutting efforts. Watch the carbs! No more than 30-40% of your diet should consist of carbohydrates.
  1. Gain muscle.
  • If you want to gain muscle, work out with weights 3-4 times per week and take in more calories than you burn.
  • Add 500 calories to your BMR.
  • Eat an amount of protein equal in grams to your body weight in pounds.
  • Eat every three hours throughout the day to feed your muscles.
  • Consume your largest meal of the day within one hour after a workout, composed mainly of carbohydrates and proteins like: pasta, potatoes, corn, bread, lean meat.
  • Drink a whey protein shake within one hour before and after your weight workout.

These statements have not been evaluated by a physician. Always consult your doctor before  starting a diet or exercise program. 

BMR. Want to Lose Some Fat?

  1. Calories. Your body burns energy measured in calories.
  2. Macronutrients contain different numbers of calories.
  • Carbohydrate 1 gram = 4.5 calories
  • Protein 1 gram = 4.5 calories
  • Fat 1 gram = 9 calories
  • Alcohol (not a macronutrient) 1 gram = 7 calories
  1. Count Calories. Each person burns a different number of calories depending upon their metabolism and activity level. Count your calories.
  • Write down everything you eat in a normal day and add up the calories.
  • Go online or get a calorie counting app for your smart phone.
  1. BMR- You can determine the number of calories your body needs each day by determining your Basal Metabolic Rate, then adding or subtracting from that depending upon your goals.
    1. Females:  Multiply your weight by 10, and add your weight. Now subtract 2% for every 10 years of life.
      1. Example of 120 lbs 20 year old woman: 120 x 10 = 1200, 1200 + 120 = 1320, 1320 x .04 = 52.8,  1320 – 52.8 =1267.2
    2. Males:  Multiply your weight by 10, and add twice your weight. Now subtract 2% for every ten years of life.
      1. Example of a 150 lbs 20 year old man-  150 x 10 = 1500, 150 x 2 = 300, 1500 = 300 = 1800, .04 x 1800 = 72, 1800 – 72 =1728
    3. Males and females:  Add 20% – 40% depending upon your activity level.
      1. 20% = couch potato/sedentary job, 30% average, 40% active.
      2. Example of the female above with an average activity level: 1267.2 x .30 = 380.16, 380.16 + 1267.2 = 1647.36
  1. Lose fat.
  • If you want to lose fat, you must burn more calories than you eat!
  • There are 3,500 calories contained in one pound of fat.
  • Once you accumulate 3,500 more calories than you need, you will gain a pound of fat.
  • Eat less! Cut between 250-500 (no more!) calories per day.
  • Exercise more! Do a 30-45 minute workout 3-4 days per week, which will enable you to burn at least 250-350 calories per workout.
  • Eat more often! You should eat 5-6 small, healthy, low fat meals per day equal to your BMR, minus 300-500. This will keep your metabolism from slowing down and storing fat in spite of your calorie cutting efforts.
  1. Gain muscle.
  • If you want to gain muscle, work out with weights 3-4 times per week and take in more calories than you burn.
  • Add 500 calories to your BMR.
  • Eat an amount of protein equal in grams to your body weight in pounds.
  • Eat every three hours throughout the day to feed your muscles.
  • Consume your largest meal of the day within one hour after a workout, composed mainly of carbohydrates and proteins like: pasta, potatoes, corn, bread, lean meat.
  • Drink a whey protein shake within one hour before and after your weight workout.

These statements have not been evaluated by a physician. Always consult your doctor before  starting a diet or exercise program. 

Return to Fitness 3

I’m sore.

Sometimes recovery from weightlifting and high impact exercise causes soreness. However, as I’ve gotten older I’ve found that this becomes a whole body experience! Ever had the flu and experienced the characteristic body aches? Yes, it’s like that. The result is different, though. I’ll become better, not worse.

When rebuilding my body I must give time for recovery. Working out hard every day is for teenagers and early twenty-somethings, and even they need recovery. Rest is every bit as important as exercise. Muscles don’t become stronger (or larger) until they’ve had time to rebuild after a workout.

So, after a day filled with exercise I took the next day off. During the rest day I ate high protein foods to help muscles rebuild. I avoided high carbohydrate foods and was careful not to overeat. It would be easy to justify eating whatever I want on a day like this; after all, I burned so many calories the day before. That, my friends, is how you fail a weight loss program. It is far easier to gain weight (for most of us) than it is to lose it. On the other hand, eating too little, particularly not enough protein, will interfere with recovery, and–ironically–slow down my metablolism and make it more difficult to achieve a sustainable weight loss.

The following are things I’ve learned after coming back to training as an over 40 adult. 1) The need to stretch and warm up before each workout. 2) For weightlifting: take the first month to focus on lighter weight and higher repetitions. 3) Good form for each exercise is very important. It is easy to pull a muscle, or stretch or tear a tendons or ligaments, and the first three principles will help me to avoid injuries. 4) Moderate my expectations. I’ve been in great shape in the past. I’ve been faster, stronger and had more stamina. It can be disappointing to find that I’m not there any longer (not yet!). As a result, I may push too hard and hurt myself, or give up because I can’t do what I used to. Meet yourself where you are, and keep moving forward. All of this applies to younger people too, with the understanding that their bodies may respond more quickly and take less time to heal.

I jumped back in this morning with some light weightlifting. I’ll practice my karate’ several times today also. All the while I’m being careful to meet myself where I am, as opposed to expecting my body to be where it was four years ago when I was in top condition. I will challenge myself, but I won’t push so hard that I sustain an injury or two, or three…

I weighed this morning and I’ve lost several pounds already. More importantly, I’ve lost nearly a percentage poin of bodyfat. My goal is to get below 10% bodyfat by the end of this year. That means a total loss of around 16 lbs. I’m on target. I’ll keep moving forward.