My Fitness Story: Weight Loss and Weight Gain

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I’ve had great success and great failure.  Let me tell you my story.

I’d never been a skinny person.  Nor particularly in shape.  But in 2007 my new “desk job” contributed to significant weight gain and I found myself topping the scales at 330 lbs by mid-summer.  I’m 6 ft 5 in.  One night after dinner at Mimi’s Cafe, I remember walking to the car and feeling completely out of breath.  That turned out to be a pivotal moment for me.

Over a one year span, by summer of 2008, I lost 100 lbs.  It was more than a diet.  I’d made a lifestyle change.  I traded my pizza and burgers for salads and apples.  I feasted on broccoli instead of barbecue.  I drank protein shakes as meal replacements.  Along with the healthy diet, I became a regular in the gym.  At least 5 days per week.  Sometimes 7.  Occcasionally twice a day.  I took up mountain biking with fervor.  I ran, I lifted weights.  I even swam from time to time.  I dropped 6+ inches in the waist and a shirt size or two.

By the spring of 2009 I was in the best shape of my life, at 26 years old, weighing less than 220 lbs – a total weight loss of 110 lbs.  I had aspirations of winning races and competing in triathlons.  Some days I would spend 5+ hours doing various forms of exercise.  And, I enjoyed it.  Mountain biking and road biking were my passion.  I hiked a “14er” in Colorado and fell in love with the mountains.

View from the top of my first “14er” – Mt. Bierstadt

Me in July 2009

Deep in my heart, I still loved food.  Now I could eat without guilt.  The sheer number of calories I burned daily during this time afforded me the ability to eat almost anything I wanted, in almost any quantity.  I didn’t gain weight.  Life was good.  I’d found the solution: I could have my cake and eat it too.

During the next 4 years I slowly faded from my healthy lifestyle.  I had good times and I had bad.  For a while I stayed in pretty good shape.  I continued going to the gym, continued biking, and even ate pretty good sometimes.  Little by little, though, old habits returned.  For the most part I continued to eat a lot, without the corresponding exercise to burn those calories.  I would gain 20 lbs and lose 10.  Over and over.  I took solace in food when I was having a bad day or felt stressed.  I celebrated with food when I was having a great day or accomplished something, no matter how minor.

Slowly but surely, I put those 100 lbs back on, one sweet tea at a time.  Fast forward to May 2013, and I once again find myself weighing nearly 320 lbs.  See my latest hike for exactly how out of shape I am.

Me in February 2013

Part of the goal of this blog is to document my weight loss journey again, my second attempt at losing 100 lbs and regaining my fitness.  I hope that my blog readers can find some inspiration or motivation in following this.  I hope that I can find some inspiration by blogging about my journey, my constant struggle between my love of food and my need to be healthier.  I hope to search deeper into myself and analyze what motivates me to lose weight, what causes me to eat the wrong foods and the wrong quantities of those foods.

Week 8 Update: Camping and Re-motivation

The week started continuing our four day weekend and celebration week.  We had been planning to go camping as a family for some time, and finally got around to going for a short camping trip.  This being the weekend after the 4th of July and somewhat spur of the moment, all of the campsites were full around Beaver Lake as well as some of the other state parks within driving distance.  We made the short drive to Lake Leatherwood in Eureka Springs, where they only have a handful of campsites but still had a few open.  Strange, because the town of Eureka Springs was absolutely packed with people and every motel we drove by the next day had no vacancy.

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Natalie and I were frequent campers before we had children, but we had not been camping since 2009. I’m very familiar with Leatherwood, as it’s a popular mountain biking destination with some of the best trails around and I visited it regularly a few years ago.  I’d never camped there, however. We were car-camping, but the campsite we chose was “primitive” having no water or electricity.  It did have picnic tables, a fire pit, and trash cans though, so it wasn’t too primitive.  It also had abundant shade, which was nice since it was somewhat warm, being July and all.

IMG_0565On Saturday, we opted to take a hike.  Lake Leatherwood is one of the largest city parks in the USA, and has miles of great trails.  As mentioned already, I’d biked them many times, but I’d never hiked them.  So, we set out for the highest point in the park, Twin Knobs.

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It’s funny; hiking is slower than biking.  I started out with Isaac on my back in

the Isaac-carrier (Osprey Poco Premium), and Natalie and Jacob hiking alongside.

Jacob, being only barely three years old, loves to hike.  He just doesn’t love to hike very far or very long.  And the trail was much, much longer when hiking than I had remembered it when biking.  So, I ended up getting quite the workout and carrying both boys up the mountain.  We ended up hiking for 2 1/2 hours and running out of water about midway through, IMG_0568about the time that Isaac fell asleep in the carrier. So the hike was pretty epic, all things considered.  But we had a great time!

The rest of the week I somehow regained some motivation to eat better and exercise.  I put in 17 miles on the road bike and 2 or 3 visits to the gym.  How did it go?  I lost 3 lbs and ended the week at 299 lbs.  I finally made it under the 300-lb mark (total of 20 lbs lost so far, or 20% of my goal).  At this point, I’ve lost 2 inches in the waist and am wearing size 40 instead of size 42.  My shirts are even starting to fit better.  Maybe I can do this!  I love the feeling of being fit enough do more active activities with my family, but I know that I have another 80 lbs to lose.

Week 7 Update: Celebrations and Cracked Frames

Wow, this summer is really flying by!  This post is a couple of weeks overdue, but I wanted to quickly post anyway.

The week started out with a birthday celebration for Jacob’s third birthday, complete with a “pool party” and a construction theme.  I was in charge of the construction cake.  Yeah, I had cake and ate it too.  Along with Nathan’s hotdogs.

The next day, I went for a mountain bike ride.  While riding my 2011 Cannondale Flash 2 29er slowly and gingerly over some small rocks, and less than 2 miles into my ride, my frame cracked.  Just like that: snap.  This isn’t the first frame I’ve cracked, but it is the first one that’s just come undone in one split second.  One might argue that this happened because bikes just aren’t meant to be ridden by 300 pound men (most cyclists in general are waifs who barely weigh in at half that).  But in this case, I consulted the Google for answers and saw numerous examples of my particular bike failing in the same spot, right on the weld where the top tube and seat tube come together.  IMG_0545Surely they weren’t all ridden by Clydesdales.  Then I consulted a friend of mine who has the same bike, who isn’t obese, and found that he’d cracked two of those frames in the same spot.  So, it’s pretty clearly a design or manufacturing flaw.  Luckily, Cannondale stands behind their frames with a lifetime warranty, so I took it into The Bike Route where I’d purchased it for replacement.

Later in the week we celebrated Independence Day with my family and kicked off a great four-day weekend.  As with most holidays, this meant not one but multiple days of eating too much.  On July 4th, I decided my Achilles tendon was feeling much better and I should go for an early morning run.  I set off on a familiar 3 mile loop and made it about a mile and a half of run/walking before I realized that the old foot still wasn’t ready.  I limped home in pain, but was proud of myself for making an effort.  Running is hard.  For all you runners out there: you have my greatest respect.

My mom is a gardener extraordinaire, a skill she learned from my grandfather, who still gardens the best he can in his mid-eighties.  She maintains a fairly large garden full of various vegetables, and probably some fruits (tomatoes are technically a fruit, right?).  IMG_0548Jacob and Isaac haven’t really spent much time in the garden yet, so we got them out there and they helped dig some early potatoes and pick some green beans.  Gardening is hard work, and apparently I didn’t inherit the green-thumb gene.  After an hour or so in the garden, I was pretty much done for the day.

The garden did provide some good sides for dinner, and we had grilled chicken to go with it.  Those were probably the healthiest things I ate all week.

I skipped the gym completely and ate hundreds, or thousands, of extra calories worth of celebration.  How did I do?  I lost -1 lbs.  That’s right, I gained one pound, and weighed in at 302 lbs.  Stay tuned to see how I did the next week.

 

Construction and Deconstruction of the Construction Cake

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Last weekend I decorated a cake for the first time.  I thought I’d share it with you.  Yeah, this is a little off-topic for a blog that is primarily oriented toward weight loss.

These days, extensively (and expensively) decorated cakes are the fashionable and somewhat expected thing to do for your kid’s birthday party.  Before Jacob’s first birthday, Natalie and I decided that we didn’t want to buy in, literally, to this trend.  Even if we could afford it (we can’t), paying big money for a birthday cake is just against our principles.  But, we (read: she) wanted to do a little more than just bake a 13×9 cake of whatever flavor, slop some buttercream icing on it, and stick the appropriate number of candles in it.  I, personally, have no problem with that.

The cakes for Jacob’s first couple of birthdays, as well as Isaac’s first, were handled by Natalie with various other expert parties’ assistance.  I got lucky those times, and they created some really nice cakes.  For Jacob’s third birthday, the fortune, or misfortune, fell to me.  I’d made the mistake of volunteering way back then, but hadn’t gotten stuck with it until now.

The chosen party theme was construction, which is pretty big on every 3-year-old boy’s list of favorite things/toys.  I’m just an overgrown 3-year-old myself, so I thought it might be kind of fun to make a cake depicting a construction scene.  I spent some time looking at Pinterest, which offers no shortage of construction cake pictures (apparently it’s a popular theme), some really “professional” looking, and some not so much.  I took ideas from a few of them but didn’t want to clone any of them.

My original plan called for a backhoe or dozer digging in the “dirt” of the cake, so that mandated the cake be chocolate, since it looks like topsoil.  Natalie made the cakes from a Paula Deen chocolate pound cake recipe (grab it while you can before Food Network yanks it down, because even the name might be offensive to someone after the recent “scandal”).  The caloric content of this thing is offensive to my weight loss plan, however.  Natalie made the chocolate buttercream to “dirty ice” the cake, and a batch of homemade white fondant.  We also bought some Wilton’s fondant in white and black, on sale at Hobby Lobby.  With those raw materials at my disposal, I was left to create whatever I could.

The fun part is carving the cake.  I carved a road up the mountain and shaped the whole thing like a 3.  The hardest part of cake decorating, in my newfound experience, is dying the fondant.  Not just getting the color right, which I never really did, but the strength required to knead the coloring into the stuff.  It made my hands hurt.  Only later did Natalie tell me that you’re supposed to heat it up just a bit to make it softer.  I dyed the Wilton’s fondant greenish to make grass and the homemade fondant gray/black/brown to make rocks out of.  Some mini Caterpillar toys and a few road signs that I printed off and stuck to sticks rounded off the cake.

Here are the pictures.

All Jacob really wanted to do was play in his cake.  So we dedicated the front portion for him to construct (or, deconstruct) and served up the back portion with ice cream.  He had a lot of fun playing in the cake; I think it was the highlight of the day for him.

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The deconstructed cake:

IMG_1945That’s it for now, and the boys’ birthday parties are over for this year.  I may have another couple of cakes to share next year, unless I can pawn it off on someone else!

Week 6 Update: Cardio is Overrated

This post is a bit delayed, as I’m trying to post the weekly updates on Saturdays.  It’s been busy.  More than that, I’ve just not really been in the blogging mood for a few days.

On the exercise front, I slacked off last week.  Even more than the week before.  I got in 3 gym workouts but they’re getting shorter.  I’m losing whatever tiny bit of passion I had found for the weight room.  I know, I’ve got to find a way to fix that problem.  Suggestions?

My Achilles tendon was feeling a lot better by the beginning of the week, so I thought I’d try  a little running.  Bad idea.  I made it all of 5 tentative steps before I had to stop, wincing in pain.  So, in order to give it some more time to heal, I took the week off of the road bike.  Again.  Later in the week I visited one of my chiropractors who adjusted my back and did some therapy stuff on my foot/ankle.  We’ll see if that helps.

I did venture out onto my long-neglected mountain bike and got in a couple of rides on the local trails (Blowing Springs and Slaughter Pen) with friends.  Total mileage was about 13 miles.  I really enjoy mountain biking and was glad to be back on the bike.  It didn’t seem to bother my Achilles much.

Diet-wise was pretty good, for me.  The latter part of the week I had a 3 meals that consisted primarily of Slim-Fast.  Maybe it will make me slim, fast.

So it was all going pretty well until Friday night.  Friday night we went out to dinner with some friends and I had a massive moment of weakness and ordered this super massive IMG_0533stromboli from Doma Bella’s in Centerton.  It was one of the biggest strombolis I’ve ever had (see picture…yeah that’s a crayon for size reference) and probably one of the best.  Not having eaten anything this indulgent since I started my journey 6 weeks ago, I devoured it with abandon.  Thankfully I got pretty full after only half of it so I stopped, but I ate the rest of it the next day (it was really good!).  In my mind, it was at least better to spread the calories out.

So, in light of all that, how did I do?  I still managed to lose 4 lbs last week, and weighed in at 301 for a total of 18 lbs lost.  It must have been the Slim-Fast.  Maybe if not for the stromboli I might have lost 5 or 6 and broken under 300.

Week 5 Update: Losing is Better Than Gaining

This week, after completing my goal bike ride of 32 miles on Saturday, I completely eschewed all forms of cardio.  Not because I’m lazy or I needed a week of recovery (nor because I hate road biking), I promise.  Because of my Achilles tendon.  I’d injured it with all the riding prior to the Tour de Fun.  Originally I had planned on doing some running, but as it turns out, running (even walking) hurt it worse than riding, so that became out of the question.  It’s feeling quite a bit better now, so I’ll be trying some mountain biking and hopefully running later this week.

Since I was skipping cardio, I did make up for it a little bit with consistency in the gym doing upper body workouts.  I went 4 times.  My weight room workouts have been averaging in the 20 minute range but reasonably intense.  I do know that building muscle is absolutely essential to my success.  Building upper body muscle runs anathema to all that is road biking — my body literally eats my upper body muscles while trying to fuel my hungry quads.  In fact, building muscle while losing weight in general is hard to do, but I have to try.

Aside from that, how did I eat?  Terrible.  It turns out that there’s a holiday, birthday, or other occasion to celebrate every week of the year, and most weeks have a couple of them.  And if they don’t, we can always celebrate the end of the workweek on Friday night.  We can even celebrate Friday-eve on Thursday night.  And so on.  Last weekend was Father’s Day.  We celebrated that starting a day early with some brisket, sides, and cheesecake for dessert.

Thursday night we celebrated Friday-eve with some nice thick pork chops.  I cheated and cooked them in the oven before finishing them on the grill.  Not sure that helped with the tenderness, but pretty sure those things would have been hard to get done in the center on the grill alone.  Ain’t nobody got time for raw pork.  See the healthy broccoli!  That was before I smothered it in cheese sauce.

IMG_0530How did I do, after all of the celebrating?  I lost 2 pounds this week, and I’m down to 305 lbs for a total of 14 lbs lost since I started 5 weeks ago.  I’ll take it.  I’m getting close enough to the psychological goal of breaking below the 300-lb mark that I could easily do it next week if I get motivated just a little.

I Survived Tour de Fun 2013 50k

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Today I completed the 50k Tour de Fun bike ride, my first big goal of my weight loss journey.

I’d been training for only three weeks, and I’d put in a little less than 200 miles on my road bike since I decided to do this ride.  I was glad I’d invested at least that much time on the bike to prepare, but I wished I’d had more.  Good thing I love road biking so much.

The picture above is actually the 100k group, consisting of serious riders all lean, light, and spandex-ed out.  The 50k group was smaller, but still primarily riders who looked like riders.  I counted a grand total of 2 other riders who looked to be as, um, heavyset (read obese), or out of shape, as I was.  Most were on road bikes, some of them very nice.  There were 2 mountain bikes, 1 recumbent, and 1 tandem in my group.  I’ll guess there were 40 or 50 riders in my group.

My ride started at 7:00 am, and I got there around 6:30, in time to see the bigger 100k group start.  I had brief thoughts about joining them and pushing myself to my absolute limits and beyond, but decided against it.  My longest two road rides ever were around that distance, and that was in the past when I was in much better shape.  I didn’t think today was the day to go for that distance, plus my Achilles tendon had been bothering me all week and I was actually pretty concerned about it for even the 50k.

This was the first ride I’ve ever done in a group larger than about 4, so it was a bit of a new experience for me.  But it was fine.  We cruised out of Rogers easily and soon hit the first uphill.  Up to that point I was just behind the lead pack and considered joining them.  The hill removed all aspirations of that as they pulled away and I fell behind.  Rider after rider passed me.  I was in my lowest gear and wished for several lower gears!  This is where being overweight kills you – the hills!  Dragging my larded self up those hills is no easy feat.

The route after that was easier than I thought it would be.  To be sure: it’s hilly.  More so than any route I’d ridden in preparation.  But aside from two hills of significance, most of the route is rolling hills with some relatively flat ground interspersed.  Here’s the Cyclemeter link.

And the KML file as shown in Google Earth.

Tour de Fun 50k Route 2013

The route

The TASC folks and volunteers had done a great job organizing and executing this event.  There were multiple rest stops stocked with snacks and drinks.  It was really encouraging to pass the rest stops and have people there clapping and cheering you on!  In addition, there were support vehicles following the riders in case of breakdowns of the bike or rider variety, and there was significant presence from local law enforcement.

It wasn’t until the last two hills, in the last few miles of the ride, that I really began to fade.  I, ever so slowly, made it up them and cruised back to downtown Rogers.  I was following a couple of other riders in the last few blocks and they missed a turn so I didn’t cross the finish line going the right direction.  But, hey, I completed the route in right at 2 hours (actually I tracked it at 32 miles vs the planned 31) so I’m pretty happy with that.  I don’t know for sure, but I’m estimating that I was in the middle of the group as there were a large number of riders finishing behind me.

Natalie and the boys were waiting for me and the boys were enjoying the bounce house.  They had several activities set up for kids, which was really nice.  I saw an old mountain biking buddy and we made plans to ride together again soon.  After I changed, we enjoyed some tasty breakfast at the Iron Horse Coffee Company (ironic since I’m not drinking caffeine these days).  All in all, it was a great morning and I’m excited about hopefully riding the 100k next year.

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Post ride pic

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Post ride meal