Weight Report and Some thoughts on Depression

IMG_20150913_070233When I returned to my program, on September 6, 2015, my weight had gone back up to about 278 lbs. (about a 23 lb. increase, with most of it after rotator cuff surgery). I remember it being within a pound or so of that, but didn’t take a photo. Part of the reason for not taking a picture is that I wanted to get back into fat burn and properly hydrated before reporting my weight. The reason for waiting until properly hydrated over several days is because (as I reported in the past) my weight will differ by as much as 5-7 lbs. Inflammation, as joints and organs hold water to maintain proper function adds weight. There is also the additional weight of a full bowel—sorry to share that.

This past Sunday (September 13) I weighed in at 266.8 lbs. This might seem like a large drop for just one week—which it is—except that it likely includes additional loss for the above reasons. However, I usually lose very fast on this program, at least for the first few months. After several months my metabolism will slow down to compensate for the long term calorie count. But in the first few months my body happily burns major fat.

A couple days in, I stopped feeling any hunger pains. There was the occasional grumbling tummy, but that will come and go any time. After three days, I was in fat burn and my energy levels were back up. My motivation is high and I am very pleased with the program. This actually brought up some thoughts about another time I tried to go back on program.

Last spring, for various reasons I decided to go back on program and, a week or so in, I became terribly depressed. It really came on suddenly. It was also quite extreme. That is one of the reasons I dropped off the radar blog-wise. It got bad enough, that I thought I might need to seek help. I’ve used traditional and over the counter methods for years to counteract depression, and they usually work very well (I’ll share some later). This past spring nothing seemed to work, except for dropping off of program. Even that only brought me out of “the deep dark”, into the “not as deep and dark.” I was still fairly depressed. There was an element of it that continued until recently. This helped me to figure out what happened.

Low Carb diets can affect our serotonin levels and cause lowered moods—and for some even a depressive mood.  I don’t want to say it can cause depression, because depression is something medical. If you suspect depression, see the doctor. I can talk about moods and recommend ways to improve those, but really am not offering advice on depression. I am only offering what I have learned about myself. Please take it in that spirit.

I went back on program right about the same time that there were some new stresses in my professional and personal life. Those stresses and the program joined up with it being the time my doctor lowered my testosterone dose by a third to see if my body would make up for it. It didn’t. Instead I got very low on T-level, and only recently found that out by my latest blood tests (I’ll share some of what I’ve learned about testosterone later). The doctor recently raised my dose back up and confirmed this as the cause of my symptoms.

One problem with health, and trying to return from an unhealthy state, is that there are so many different factors. One thing good for you can actually compound with something else. These together can have an undesirable effect. Throw in three or four changes together and your world can seem to come apart. Take things slow. Don’t try to improve everything at once. We want everything to be undone immediately and to return right away to that healthy young man or woman we once were. The thing is, I didn’t get to be over 400 lbs. with all the health issues I had overnight. It took decades to get there. I hope it doesn’t take decades to fix it—especially since I am not so sure how many decades I have left. The thing to remember is that my goal may be total health. But that is long term goal over the distant horizon. My goal today is to be healthier than I was yesterday; healthier than I was last week; healthier than I was last month; healthier than I was last year…

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Body Fat Percentage?

IMG_20140829_071627This morning is another weigh-in Friday. I’m now down to 274 lbs. This gives me a total loss of 110 lbs. on program (150 lbs. from my beginning weight). This loss is 67% of my original goal of 220 lbs. This brings me to some other research from this week and some changes to my goal.

I have always been large. I don’t mean fat. I mean large build. In 8th grade I went over 6 feet tall and weighed 210 lbs. While fat was a problem that I had to watch, I had enough musculature to throw off the traditional BMI chart. Being told to shoot for 198 lbs. makes me laugh. Now, don’t take this as my saying to ignore the BMI chart. For many builds it is quite accurate and from what I’ve heard it is more accurate for women than for men. However, for anyone with a large amount of muscle the chart will be unrealistic. For those with very little muscle, the chart may show you at an acceptable weight, but you could still have enough actual body fat to be unhealthy.

This week I’ve done some experimenting. Mostly, it was to figure out my final goal to shoot for. I started out by simply choosing to shoot for 220 lbs. or so. The intention was always to get down close and then fine tune that figure once it was easier to make proper measurements. I downloaded an app to calculate body fat with various methods. First, I did a standard military tape test. This is the test used in the military to calculate body fat for anyone over the mandated weight charts. I spent eight years in the Army and always had to be “taped.” One time the First Sergeant screamed, “Cluck! You’re fat! You’re only supposed to weight 198 lbs.” I responded, “Then you should have recruited me in seventh grade!” He was not amused. I passed the tape and laughed as Top walked off grumbling. Funny thing is the tape method used in the military is extremely inaccurate. After running the military tape test, I purchased some body fat calipers and did a proper “pinch test.” Then, this morning, I used a more advanced tape test method (reportedly accurate within 2%). The military tape test showed one set of results. The other two methods had almost identical results to each other—less than 1% difference between them—and both were very different from the military method.

The main interest for me was not my present fat percentage. This number is of little value. It is little more than asking, “How fat am I?” Well a simple look in the mirror could pretty well tell me that. What I wanted to know was my lean weight. When testing for body fat, you get both a percentage of fat, but also get a lean body weight—muscle, bones, organs, etc. With this number you can simply calculate a target weight by adding the desired fat percentage. I figured I would select the fitness level of body fat and shoot for 15%. I selected this because for men this level is not the lowest possible, but the recommended amount for someone who is physically fit. Women should shoot for a higher level, because most professionals recommend 15% as the minimum body fat for women (other than competition body builders). The female body needs a higher fat percentage for hormonal requirements.

When I took the military tape measurements, it showed 198 lbs. of lean mass. Interesting, this is the exact weight the BMI chart tells me I should be. This means to make the chart, I would have to have zero percent body fat. In other words, I’d have to be dead! With this, however, I can calculate 15% body fat would bring me to a goal weight of 227 lbs. (198 * 1.15). This is pretty close to my original goal, and fortunately does not require death to attain.

Of course, the military tape is probably little better than a guess—when compared to other methods. I wanted to double check. A lot of careers have been ruined by the military insistence on inaccuracy. I purchased a set of calipers and did a Jackson & Pollock 4-site pinch test. This showed me to have 210 lbs. of lean mass. So I would have to lose 12 lbs. of muscle and all of my fat to make the BMI chart—“No!” Fifteen percent body fat would make my weight goal 241 lbs. Ok. So this is a big difference. I needed something else to back it up.

I found another tape measurement system online. It claims to be accurate within 2 percentage points. I did the test and it showed me as having 22.6% body fat. This means I am somewhere between 20.6 and 24.6 %. It gives me a lean mass of 211 lbs. (notice this is within a pound of the caliper test). This would give me a goal weight of 242 lbs.

The first method shows me that my original goal was not quite right, and that the BMI chart is not even close for me. The two latter methods, both being considered far more accurate, being in such close agreement gives me confidence in them. Because of this, I have changed my goal weight from 220 lbs. to 240 lbs. I’m not doing this because it is an easier goal to attain, but because looking at the numbers it appears to be a more realistic weight for my body. Assuming the latter two to be accurate, 210 lbs. of lean mass would require 5% body fat to reach 220 lbs.—a fat percentage sought by cut and defined body builders. That goal is unreal for me. I am shooting for health, not trophies.

This doesn’t end it. I plan to get tested by other methods. I at least want to use the electrical resistance method. It is considered accurate since fat has a different resistance to current than tissue. We’ll see if that changes me back to a lower figure or helps to refine my goal in other ways.

Measuring body fat to know your percentage isn’t very helpful. However, to set a proper goal you have to know what you are building on. It helps to know where zero is. Then you can shoot for optimal weight based on this knowledge. Do you have to do all this? No. For many the BMI chart is the best tool. For others it is unrealistic. Don’t just reject it because you don’t like the number, though. Check into it. Make sure you are basing your goals on reality and not simply on preference, or bad information.

Weekly weigh-in, a bit late

IMG_20140714_072034This week was a wild roller coaster ride for weigh-ins. On the Fourth of July, I visited a friend’s house for some celebratory fun. The place was full of food and drinks—almost all of which forbidden on my program. I decided before going, that even though I had already eaten my Lean & Green meal for the day, to allow myself a splurge, but only items that had zero carbs. High fat would be allowed, but not carbs because I wanted to have some relaxed fun with my friends, but did not want to pay for it for several days trying to get back into fat burn. Though the table was spread with delicious food, I limited myself to several pieces of brisket—this is Texas after all, and we have special dispensation from the governor to include brisket on any diet plan and it doesn’t count against you, neither will it ever make you gain weight. That last was a joke, but I might talk to my representative to get that law passed in the next session.

However, during the week before I hadn’t been hydrating properly. To be honest I just didn’t want to drink that much water. I should have made myself though, because my weight loss suffered, and so did my body. Dizziness, constipation, etc. all were my rewards for not drinking enough fluid. All of this was stacked on top of not losing much weight during the week. Of course, the weight could have been because I am down lower and going into a more normal weight loss pattern.

The important thing to keep in mind though is that all of this happened with my free choice. I chose to eat far more fat one day, and that is fine. It just means I have to make adjustments to my expectations. There is no guilt; no concept of having cheated; no making up for it.

Friday I weighed 302 lbs. which would be a one pound loss from the week before. However, a couple hours later I weighed 300 lbs.IMG_20140714_071954 That would be a three pound loss. I’ll take the latter as the official weight for the week, since (1) it was closer to the usual time for me to weigh each week; (2) it was in exactly the same physical condition in which I weigh each week, while the earlier one was not; (3) it’s my program and I can do that.

I have over the last few days been very careful to fully hydrate—or as close to it as possible. I have also reevaluated to make sure I am exactly on program. My program has been altered by the nutritionist because of my own body conditions—for example, I am to have 3 more ounces of protein a day than usual in the program because of my build and certain other health concerns.

IMG_20140714_072110This morning I weighed again and was at 296 lbs. We’ll see over the next few days how accurate that number is and if I am lower than this by Friday—my next weigh-in day. The nice thing to consider is that this is the first time I have been under 300 lbs. since 2004.

Friday Weigh Day! More Good News!

2014-05-30 06.29.27This week has seen more non-scale victories, more lessons learned, and more weight lost. I’ll give the weigh-in results first and then the others. This morning I weighed 331 pounds. That is 53 total pounds lost on this program (in 6 weeks). I have reached 32% of my goal. If you look back over the past few weeks this one’s numbers are far less dramatic. I lost four pounds from last week. While this may not be nearly as impressive as the ten plus pounds lost in the earlier weeks, it is a far healthier and normal amount to lose on this program. I’ve learned that it is normal to start out with quite impressive losses and then balance down into a healthier rate of loss.

One thing I did this week was create a tool on Excel to help me record each step and predict possible outcomes. There is a table where I enter each week’s numbers and it compiles total pounds lost and calculates the percentage of goal. I can also query how many weeks to expect to reach goal if a certain weekly loss is maintained. For example, it tells me that from where I am now, if I average this week’s four pounds per week then it will take me just over 27 weeks, or 6 ½ months to reach my goal weight. I wanted to have this so that a few weeks from now, if I have some unreal expectations I can look back and see that I am actually right on track—it will also help me to see a problem early enough to fix it.

This brings up a lesson learned this week. Like most people, I have a problem with unrealistic expectations. One such expectation is the amount of weight to be lost each week. Recently I fell into the habit of looking to the scale each day—sometimes multiple times per day. The problem is that our weight can fluctuate all through the day and from day to day. I would look at the scale and see either the same weight as days before, or even a couple times it would look like I might have gained weight. However, I’ve learned to look at other things than the scale. While it is nice to see those numbers progress lower and lower, there are other benefits to losing weight that don’t involve a scale.

One way to overcome this ‘tyranny of the scale’ is to look for non-scale victories and not let the numbers dictate your mood. Also understand that, while it is nice to lose huge amounts (10 lbs. or more per week), such loss over an extended period is not healthy and can cause great problems. If you are like me, it took years to get overweight and unhealthy and such problems will not go away in a few weeks or even months. It can take a lifetime of good choices to correct a lifetime of bad choices. Go slow, have real expectations and look for good results that don’t just involve numbers on a scale.

I’ve had several good non-scale victories. Some I have shared before, like being taken off of meds for prediabetes. This week I found out I no longer need my C-PAP machine to sleep. I had discovered I could sleep without it, but the doctor insisted I use it until I had another sleep test. The latest sleep test shows I still have apnea, but it is mild enough to be treated with sleeping position and continued weight loss. Yesterday I had another such victory. Just a couple weeks ago I fit into old pants that had been too clothing racktight. I also cheered when I was able to go buy shorts off the shelf at a department store—instead of spending an arm and a leg at a Big & Tall specialty store. Then I was able to buy shirts there as well. Now, I have lost even more weight and had to go shopping for new pants. I was able to buy jeans off the shelf at the same department store. Let me explain why this is such a victory. Right now I am wearing several items of clothing including undergarments, a button down shirt, denim jeans and a leather belt—aren’t you glad to know I don’t write these in my birthday suit? All of these items were purchased off the shelf at a local department store. The reason this is exciting is that the combined cost of all of them was significantly less than a single pair of shorts at the specialty store I had to buy clothes from just over a month ago. I will always cheer loudly about stretching my budget and getting more for my money.

Weigh-in Friday, Week Three

2014-05-09 07.37.00Today is another weigh-in Friday. I also have another non-scale victory to report as well as a nice way to get visual encouragement on my diet without being a slave to the scale.

First, the weigh-in report. As I’ve said before, I am careful to weigh in the same location, in the same state of dress and physical condition, and at the same time of day. This morning my weight was 350 lbs. That is 8 lbs. down from last Friday; 34 lbs. lower than when I started the program; 70 lbs. from my lifetime highest (worst). I lost 36 lbs. with the help of a prediabetes medicine and then stuck around 384 for over 8 months. I’ve lost 34 lbs. in three weeks with Take Shape for Life and the help of my coach. I was a little concerned at first about the cost of the program, but we no longer eat out and most of my meals come out of the program, so our food costs have gone down considerably. There is also the investment in my health. This program is the best investment I’ve ever made.

Now, I’ll touch on my non-scale victories. First there is my clothing. I am shrinking right out of my clothes and, even with my belt as tight as it will go, my pants keep falling off—I don’t mean sliding off slowly. I was going to go buy new pants today, but instead will wait a bit and simply go pick up some suspenders and a new belt to cinch everything up better. A friend recommended tying a beverly1rope around my waist, but since I have a couple missing teeth (and am bad about forgetting to wear my partial plate) I can only go so far before people start asking me to play the banjo. Another non-scale victory was just noticed yesterday. My wife’s car has grown! She drives a small Hyundai and I usually fit in it quite ‘snugly.’ Last night driving home from a meeting I realized my belly was not even close to the steering wheel (a good six inches away) and my knees and thighs were touching nothing. I was shocked and realized I had shrunk quite a bit. My wife’s Hyundai feels as roomy as my old Lincoln Town Car did when I was heaviest.

Another non-scale victory I reported earlier in the week was being able to sleep without my C-Pap mask. Well, due to the insistence of my doctor I am once again sleeping with the mask. I managed to pull together parts from different masks to make one fit enough not to make loud leaking sounds. However, this too is a victory. I am able to sleep comfortably and restfully without the mask, but can choose to wear it. My whole thing here is making health my choice. I choose to follow the doctor’s recommendation. He is ordering another sleep study to see if I still need it, or if I need an adjustment in my pressure setting.

KetostixFinally, I spoke before about a different way to get visual encouragement without constant weighing and worrying about spinning numbers on a scale. I did, for a while, get trapped into constantly weighing. It doesn’t help that my wife would insist I weigh so she could see. The problem is that one’s weight fluctuates throughout the day—and I’ve been told it can fluctuate as much as ten pounds in some people. There were times it looked as if I had gained a bit of weight, which can be discouraging. What I do now is use Ketostix to test my urine for evidence of fat burn. I know if I am in fat burn, I can rest assured I am losing weight. I test each day with a stick rather than jumping on the scale. This tool has been used by low carb dieters for years and it was something I used when I was on Adkins many years ago. For me it has been especially helpful, since I have switched from 4-2-1 over to the more demanding 5&1, which means I am back to being tired and a bit hungry for a few days. The Ketostix assure me that I am still burning fat. That way I am able to motivate myself to keep moving forward. Of course, my wife doesn’t like it because she claims I miss enough without trying to pee on a stick. Sorry honey!never-miss

A Nice Surprise

scaleToday I decided to cook an elk roast given to us by a friend a while back. My plan was to finish it and then portion it out to package for my meals over the next few days. When I opened the package I discovered that it was not a roast, but was four nice elk steaks. Once cooked they were each already small enough to serve as proper portions for my program.

In case you are wondering how I cooked them, I grilled them over coals. Yes, I posted yesterday about the cast-iron grill plate I use on the stove. However, nice elk deserves to be treated with time and a kiss of smoke. For flavor I added a couple of chunks of hickory to the coals.

I thought my wife would join me, but she didn’t want the elk, so that just means more for me. I have three elk steaks in the fridge to 2014-04-21 14.03.44get me through a few meals.

Today is my fifth day on the program. I no longer feel tired and weak. I no longer feel hungry, other than the occasional small hunger pangs when it is almost time for my next meal.

On my first morning on the program I weighed myself at 384 pounds. Later that day a trip to the doctor confirmed that weight. Today I weigh 370 pounds. I doubt I’ve lost 14 pounds of fat in five days, but have probably lost excess fluids as inflammation is relieved. I am noticing a change and so are others.