When I first decided to count calories and take weight loss seriously, back on Feb. 23, I had an arbitrary target in mind: let’s see what happens by the time my daughter is born in September. I had not been planning to stop counting calories then — I thought I’d use that milestone to take stock and re-evaluate how I’ve done. It was good a time as any, it was far enough away to see decent results, and I was doing this partially for my girl anyway. I figured all’s I needed was to keep it up, work hard, and remain diligent until late September.
OK, so that happened. Check.
Then the baby happened. Check.
Let’s see where we are.
I started in late February at 208 pounds. When I started blogging about it, I was 187. As of this writing, I am 168 pounds. I’ve lost an even 40. I don’t remember the last time I was 168. High school, possibly? I can’t even guess. Behold: my weight chart.
I save a lot of information on Stickies on my Mac, some notes from years ago. Sometimes I write story ideas, phone numbers (but stupidly never with descriptions, so I never know who the hell’s number it is), lists of things I want to try, bits of HTML code I need for this website, password information (yes, I know this is a terrible idea). I dig through the notes years later and it’s like self-archaeology. In Sept. 2008, I wrote a note called “GOALS.” I listed lots of things I wanted to accomplish before I died. I’m morbid. Hey, I have to read obituaries as part of my job — so at least once a day, five times a week, I remember I’m going to be dead someday. Anyway, some of these goals are things like “Visit Venice/Ravenna/Siena,” “Visit all 50 states,” “Go to a Star Trek convention” (which I did), “Ride a motorcycle,” “Finish my novel” — and then there’s a section for exercise and fitness goals. One goal I wrote was “175 pounds.” At the time, these were big, unapproachable goals I’d made, things I thought would be fantastic but which I figured I’d hardly ever get around to. I forgot about this list and found it again by accident a few weeks ago. I was about 173 at the time. I blew past this big life goal and didn’t even realize it because I was too busy working at it. My point is, reaching this goal didn’t happen because I wrote it down. It happened because I applied myself and did some fucking work. Maybe if I did some more work instead of wishing and writing lists and saying gee wouldn’t it be nice if…, I could scratch my more noble goals off the list too. Sucks that it took me so goddam long to figure this out about life.
Yes, yes, I know BMI is mostly a crock of shit. It can also be a fine general guideline, as long as you stop using it once you’ve gotten big muscles. I’m not there yet.
I started this at a BMI of 33.6, which is obese. My BMI is now 27, which is overweight — but I’m only 14 pounds away from normal. And again, I don’t really think I’ll be in the “normal” category for long, if I ever get there. I hope to build more muscle, and then BMI will be a crock of shit for me.
Body fat percentage
This is tricky, because I don’t have a 100% foolproof scientific method of calculating it. I’m using calipers on my hip and taking skinfold measurements, which works pretty well when I get it right. It takes some getting used to.
When I first started losing weight, I was about 27% body fat. I’m now at about 20%. Let’s keep that going.
This is the big one. When I started, I’d been doing CrossFit for a little more than a month. I was learning the ropes and struggling to get through classes. I began to recompose much more quickly once I dialed in the nutrition:
- I wore size 36 pants for as long as I can remember. I generally wear size 34 now, although I have fit in size 32 and could probably start wearing those regularly if I wanted to spend the money to buy more new pants (which I don’t).
- I wore size 16½ dress shirts. I now wear size 15½ dress shirts.
- I wore size L or XL T-shirts. I now wear medium T-shirts. That’s probably as small as I’ll get, shirt-wise. I’m limited by my ribcage.
- I went down six or seven belt notches.
- I have pecs.
- I don’t have cankles.
- I have grown a bit of muscle on my shoulders, arms, and thighs.
- I don’t have abs yet. I can’t until I reduce my body fat much further — but the top two abs are starting to peek out. You can feel them and see little bumps where they are.
I still have work to do. I have flab on my gut and love-handles. You can’t spot-reduce, so I have to keep losing until I burn off those fat reserves. I am not a badass by any stretch of the imagination, but I look like a better version of me.
As I’ve said before, at first I concentrated on simply cutting calories. That worked well. As the months have passed, I gradually started following more and more a paleo or primal-ish eating style because it was more effective, more fun, and more satiating, and that’s where I’m at now. I generally eat about 70g to 100g of carbs (sometimes a tad less, almost never more), about 100g of fat, and 100g to 120g of protein. I eat this way because it teaches my body to burn my own fat for fuel, instead of just fueling with carbs. I’ve seen several charts and image macros people shared online about using vegetables and fruit as protein sources, and they often cite “30-55” grams of protein as recommended for adult males per day. The USDA recommends a flat 56g. Hmm. Firstly, I take no health advice from anything that calls an apple or a plum a “protein source.” A speck of protein in them, yes. Protein source, no. There’s radiation in bananas, but I wouldn’t bother trying to power a nuclear submarine with them. Secondly, “adult male” is rather a flexible term encompassing everybody from DJ Qualls to Benny and Billy McCrary to Hugh Jackman. So I wouldn’t’ve thought any one number would be correct. I’ve read more sensible recommendations for protein intake based on body weight (or target body weight). I try to eat about 0.7 × body weight in grams of protein, because I lift weight and I’m trying to build muscle. I consume loads of eggs and fish. When I eat carbs, I don’t waste them on grains — I get carbs from things like fruit and vegetables.
When my daughter, Malley, was being born, I spent a few days at the hospital with her and Nik. I ate almost every meal at their cafeteria: mostly pizza and the salad bar, and once a not-terrible turkey panini. The salad bar had very few protein choices there — bacon crumbles or minced bits of boiled egg, but nothing with heft and substance, no good honest grilled chicken breast chunks or what have you. I added what I could, so I’d have a meal that could sustain me, otherwise I’d have a bowl of about 80 calories. One night after I missed the caf’s dinner time, I had a Hot Pocket from a vending machine. I can’t believe people eat that bullshit on purpose. I didn’t count calories for about three days, because it was difficult to impossible to do, and I had other things on my mind. Point being, it was difficult to maintain my discipline. But by the end I was figuring out the caf’s quirks, and with another meal or two I could’ve gamed their system more in my favor.
Now that I’m back home and the kid’s settling in, I’m back counting calories again, and I plan on doing so for as long as I need to. Life may get hectic, but I plan on sticking to my disciplined way of eating as much as possible. I may shift away from paleo/primal someday, but I don’t see that happening in the near future. It’s been working.
I started this thing as a newbie Crossfitter. I’m still a newbie Crossfitter, but I’m better at some things now. I can do an unassisted pull-up, although I’m limited in how many I can do per day — I get in two or three, and that’s me done until tomorrow. I can lift more weight, row harder, last longer, do more burpees, get in more rounds. I try a lot harder.
I plan on keeping this up for the long haul. Crossfit has been the best fitness program I’ve ever followed, bar none. It’s done more for me than anything else, and I want to become better at it. I want to lift heavier weight, become stronger, more flexible. I want to get a muscle-up. I want to deadlift 2× my body weight, or more. I want to figure out the snatch and the handstand pushup. I’m going to practice the hell out of these things.
My running has gotten faster as a result, without my doing any training. Back in the day, I was a slow fat runner. I did a Pfitzinger speedwork plan and became a slightly faster fat runner. With Uncle Pfitzy’s help, I learned to hit the 10 min/mi pace, but it was still a struggle. Now I can hit the 10 min/mi pace without thinking about it. The other day I was out walking Stanley and he started to pull me — so I decided, what the hell, let’s run a little bit. I ran a 10 min/mi pace in jeans and my walking-around shoes. I threw some striders in there at the end and checked my Garmin — 8:30 to 9 min/mi. I hadn’t prepared or hydrated or anything. We did some walking when Stanley wanted to and to let him sniff and pee on things. Then he’d want to run again, so we ran. Remember that “GOALS” note I wrote in Stickies? Another one of them was “Run a 10 min/mi pace.” I thought that was outrageous for me. My one-mile pace PR is 9:30, set in June. All this to say that running is a lot less difficult than it was when I was a slow fat runner. (But no, I still don’t feel like running a marathon.)
I’ve also come to realize in this first 40 pounds that I’m never going back to just chronic cardio. I’m totally sold on the barbell now. I want to perform better, look better, be stronger, and lose more fat. That doesn’t happen unless you have muscle, and that doesn’t happen unless you lift heavy things.
I’ll continue working to drop weight until I reach about a 50-pound loss. Seems like a nice round number. Or, until I burn off my flab, whenever that is — and then I may put some weight back on in the form of lean muscle. I plan on doing this in and around my newborn daughter’s schedule, which I realize makes things tougher. But I guess if it were easy, this wouldn’t be called “work.”
I’m hoping soon I will become less concerned with the number on the scale and more concerned with body composition. Which will be nice. That’s more important. The number fluctuates from day to day, which is normal, but the physical improvements are increasing, so I guess it’s working. Also, paying a little less attention to the number means I’ll stop doing this: