Thursday, September 25, 2008

Happiness is getting thin. How thin?

I have lost weight. Technically, according to those published weight charts and Body Mass Index stuff, supposedly I was just up in the "obese" category, but no one would believe that. So my doctor said I needed to "make some changes." The weight itself didn't scare me all that much, but the blood pressure was higher than it used to be, and my blood pressure had always been quite low. That scared me.

I decided to lose weight. I figured out a few simple rules:

1) No between meal snacks.
2) No desserts, except maybe on very special occasions.
3) Cut out the soft drinks.
4) Control the portions: Sensible helpings. No seconds.

I figured if I did those, I would lose weight. I was right. But I also discovered the most important rule for losing weight:

Be hungry.

That's all, just decide to be hungry. Don't try any fancy, schmancy diets that are supposed to avoid it by eating wierd foods. Just embrace hunger. I adopted a mantra:

I like being hungry.
Hunger is good for me.
Hunger means I am losing weight.
Hunger won't hurt me.
I embrace being hungry.
I want to be hungry.
If I'm not hungry, I'm probably not losing weight.
Just let the hunger be.
It's OK to be hungry.
I really want to lose weight.
I really, really want to be thin.
Getting thin is more important to me than the hunger.
If I don't get thin, I will die sooner.
It is worth being hungry to get thin.

It's amazing how effective that has been. I have been more or less continually hungry since the beginning of June. Every time I want to eat, I just remember the mantra. Every time I see desserts or snack foods or greasy, sugary food, I just repeat part of the mantra.

I haven't ever really starved myself. I have always eated an adequate amount of food, with reasonably balanced nutrition. It is not a starvation diet. In fact, I avoid thinking of it as being on a diet at all. I am just eating sensibly.

As I got into it, I saw several studies that said the people most successful at losing weight and keeping it off write down what they eat. I decided I should do that. I looked into various calorie counting software that I could use on both my PC and my PDA, but found that good calorie counters are available for free on the Internet, and I can get to my food journal from any Internet connection. I signed up for one called "My-Calorie-Counter." It is not the only one, and I don't know if it is the "best" or not, it is just one I tried and decided it would work. It does. It takes a while to enter everything carefully in detail, and you can spend more or less time at it depending on how exact you want to make it, but it is pretty good.

It recommended a diet of about 2,000 calories a day, which it said should lose me about 2 lbs per week if I exercise regularly. I ramped up the exercise, too, but that's for another post.

So now, I have lost nearly 40 lbs. and I am down to 200 at 6'1" tall. Is that enough? My wife thinks so. Many people have said they think I should not get any thinner. But by those infernal charts and indices, I am now well below "obese," but still technically in the "overweight" category. It is not easy to look at my body and figure out where the overweight is. My face is gaunt. My arms are skin and bones. My stomach is almost flat (not quite, but then I'm almost 60 years old, so six-pack abs are probably not a realistic goal). I now fit into the 36 inch waist pants that I wore when I was younger, fit and thin. Should I keep losing weight?

The funny thing is, I have gotten into a weight loss groove, and there's nothing to stop me from just keeping on. I don't think I am anorectic. I have just gotten in the habit of not eating a lot and letting myself be hungry, and I exercise a lot (I run 3.7 to 5 miles per day, 5 to 7 days per week). As long as I keep that up, I will keep losingl. It isn't really that hard. Once I made my mind up to do it, I just do it. I have occasional splurges on something fattening, but then I make up for it and move on. I could just keep on losing weight as long as I want to. There is no particular reason to stop here. But then, where should I stop? Should I believe those charts, or should I believe how my body looks? I don't know. Kind of a different sort of problem than I have worried about before. I can't say I am really worried. I want to keep running regardless, and I see no reason to start pigging out. I can get along just fine on 2,000 calories and continual hunger. I'm used to it.

I am supposed to go back to the doctor in two weeks. I'll see what he says.

But getting thin is great:
I can run much better.
I never have heartburn.
I look good, and feel good about looking good.
My blood pressure is back down.
My clothes fit better.
I believe that I am healthier.

I want to stay this way.

Mountain Man

Saturday, I decided to try a more challenging running course. There is this trail up to the top of the hill/mountain in front of my house. The high school cross country team calls it "radar" because of the radio and tv transmitters up at the top. It is very steep. I have hiked it several times and it is a steep hike. But anyway, I figured if the high school kids run it just for training, I should be able to have at least some shot at getting to the top.

Well, not so much. I did get almost to the top. I went up (what I afterward figured out was) 2.5 miles and was within sight of the top, but time ran out. I allowed myself 40 minutes going up in order to have half that time to get back down within an hour, before my wife called 911. The climb was about 1,400 ft, starting at my house at about elev. 1,250 or so. The top is about elev, 2,900, so I was probably about 250 below the summit, and maybe another half mile. If I had more time, I would have gone all the way. Someday.

I also could not truly say that I "ran" the whole distance, as I had to walk up most of the steep parts, and more and more of them the farther up I went.

Still, I thought it was a huge accomplishment. My wife thought I was crazy to even try it. I got back and said to her that I am not in good shape, as I was not able to run the whole way. She really went off on me for saying that, as she said it was incredible just to do it at all, and that I was in great shape. I guess "shape" is all relative.

It wasn't the fastest five miles I have ever run, but it was the hardest. My calves were sore for several days. I don't know if the soreness was due to going up the hill or going back down.

I'm not sure if I really should have done that run, but I'm proud of myself for trying. It was a lot harder than I expected. I knew it was a lot of up hill, but I had not remembered just how steep it gets. I really don't know how the high school cross country team does it, or if they actually run it. It is so steep, with loose sandy areas on the road, that truly running the whole thing hardly seems possible for most mere mortals like me. My wife asked why I would do it, and the reason is that I think I need to keep challenging myself to go beyond my comfort zone and push myself. One way is by trying for more speed. One way is with trying longer distances. And one way is with steeper and higher mountains. And raising 203 pounds 1,400 feet must use up quite a few kilocalories. I'm going to have figure out the conversion.

OK, I figured out the conversion. Shucks. Raising 203 lbs 1,400 feet only burns 92 calories. Oh, well, it was still a good workout.