Archive for the General Information Category

Adjusting Goals to Deal With Life

Posted in General Information, Words of Wisdom on April 15, 2010 by uziel5000

In case you didn’t know, having a baby changes your life.

Having two however, pretty much flips everything upside down. Add to that these tough economic times and you start to wonder whether you  having children in the first place was a good idea. (The answer, at least for me, is yes)  I knew that adjustments had to be made. I just didn’t know how big those changes where going to be.

Finances

Our daughters are small. The oldest is two years old. Our newest bundle of joy is barely two months old. So that means milk AND formula, two different sizes of diapers, clothes, seats, strollers… you know how it goes. This has put serious stress on our finances, which is normal and expected. It’s my fitness goals and how I want to achieve them that have taken an unexpected hit. Here is how I am dealing with them.

Apart from the extra stuff we have to buy day in and day out, the one thing that really has affected our bottom line is day care. Our daughter has been with her mother since she was born. She has a part-time job working for my father putting all the paperwork and finances of his business in order and up to date. Since his “office” is a room in his house, my wife simply goes from our house to my parents house, does what she has to do for four hours and comes back. My daughter simply tagged along and played in the yard while mom worked. Now it’s complicated. She simply cannot watch over two kids and work at the same time so day care it is! Expensive is what it is.

On the fitness front, it meant giving up some things. After working out at home for quite a while, I was toying with the idea of joining a gym. More and better equipment and more people to motivate you were the main reasons I had in mind. Well, it’s not gonna happen for the time being. What really bothers me though, is having to give up Tae Kwon Do. I simply cannot afford it at this time. Earning a Black Belt is one of my goals but I guess I’m just going to have to postpone it for a bit. Not all of  it is doom and gloom though. Life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

After tackling two different types of workout videos at home (which have worked very well for me) I am “upgrading” to P90X. If you havent seen the infomercial, this is a pretty intense program and I’m expecting it to be pretty much the most challenging thing I have done so far. So I’m pretty excited. No martial arts? No gym? No problem and most certainly no quitting. I will talk about how I do with this new challenge very soon.

We, stumble. We struggle. We get back up again. (and again…)

Posted in Advice, General Information, Words of Wisdom on March 30, 2010 by uziel5000

Have I told you that changing your life is hard? Well, it is.

2009 had some really interesting ups and downs. After 6 months of losing weight, eating right and exercising regularly, came 6 months that quite frankly were a little weird at best, frustrating at worst. For a moment there, life seemed to be conspiring against me and my efforts to lose weight. I injured my back, had therapy, then rehab (my back still bothers me from time to time but to solve the problem I have to lose weight), all the while doing my best to keep my nutrition strict since I could not exercise. Then, my wife got pregnant.

I never thought such good news would get me into so much trouble.

You see, the first three months were fine and pretty normal. This is our second child so we knew what was coming. What I forgot was that the last time she was pregnant I wasn’t trying to lose weight. Here is where the problem starts. My wife is a picky eater by nature but when she got pregnant it got downright annoying. She simply can’t stand my food. As in my cooking. Doesn’t matter what I put in front of her, if I made it, it made her nauseous. She doesn’t cook so I’m left with asking her “Well what do you want?” A question always seemed to be answered with some type of take-out food.

You probably know how this is going to end. You figure: why cook only for me if I have to go out anyway? So you go and buy for both and you try to get something “healthy” for you but after a while that picture of the cheeseburger in the drive-through window starts calling your name…

Quite simply, there is no way to maintain a healthy nutritional program and eat take out food every day. Several months of this and I was almost completely back to my old habits. thankfully, two things happened stopped my downward spiral. First, the months I spent changing my habits really saved me from going totally into the dark side. Even when I was eating complete junk, I noticed I was practicing portion control and trying to make the best choices under the circumstances. I barely drank any soda when a year ago I would drink two and even three of those. Secondly, in February of this year my wife gave birth to another baby girl. The end result? I gained a few pounds but through it all I was able to maintain my weight somewhat. I survived.

So now I’m back to cooking which means I’m back to eating right and having 6 small meals a day. Changes in my lifestyle (two small kids!) means I have to modify my goals a little bit but I’m back exercising hard, eating right and working on a supplement program to help me out. I’m a happy man.

Next time I will talk about those goal changes (some forced, some renewed) and the adjustments I’ve had to make with the new addition to our family.

Things That Set You Back: Dealing With Injuries

Posted in General Information, Words of Wisdom with tags , , , , on June 19, 2009 by uziel5000

On a weight-loss journey, many things cross your path that throw you off course. Many of those things you have control of. Some things you don’t. One those things happened to cross my particular path.

About three weeks ago, I started to feel a sharp pain on my lower back. At first I thought it was a result of increasing the intensity of my workouts but after a while, I noticed it wasn’t going away. It started as what seemed to me, a pinched nerve. (I don’t know if it really was a pinched nerve but that’s how it “felt” to me) The pain would start at my lower back and go down my left buttocks. Al little research on the subject popped up that those were symptoms of psyatic nerve pain so I went to the doctor who told me to get some X-Rays taken. During the time between that visit and the follow up visit after the X-Rays, the pain evolved to what felt to me like a muscular spasm. It began very strongly and went away over some days. After seeing the X-Rays, the doctor told me I had mild osteoarthritis, a very common condition and that it was normal. He basically told me I was getting old. (I’m 32 so come on! I’m not THAT old) Suffice it to say, I did not take that well at all.

First, it didn’t feel like arthritis to me. Granted, I don’t know what arthritis feels like but osteoarthritis is the erosion of cartilege in your joints which should should(I think) give you the sensation of pain in and around your affected bones. In my case the lower back. It doesn’t feel like that at all. Second, what’s with this getting old crap??!! Third, He didn’t give me any solution to the problem. I realize that arthritis doesn’t really have cure and it’s degenerative but what about exercise? Can  I still do it? What kind of execise can I do then? How can ease the pain in the long term? I don’t want live off pain medication to continue exercising. The doctor’s answer was: “It’s gonna come and go, so exercise when you can. If you feel pain, stop.” Yeah. That made me feel better.

Truth be told, the Dr. is not a specialist so I shouldn’t expect him to be an expert on this but the problem is, he really bummed me out. A couple of days after seeing him, the pain was gone like he said it would so the very next morning I woke up and exercised. Three hours later, my back had tighten up to the point were sitting down was extremely painful. That was over a week ago. I’m still in pain to this day. THis was extremely depressing. After losing all this weight, I wasn’t going to be able to finish? That feeling better than I had in years would mean I couldn’t be active now that I was beggining to be able to do so many things? I still have more than half the weight to lose. Without exercise it would very hard to continue. And what about my black belt? The one goal I wanted to reach so badly. Could I still do Martial Arts? I needed a second opinion.

I set up an appointment with Sports Medicine specialist. The one doctor I never thought I have to visit. After all, my main concerns about this were about exercising so who better to answer my questions. I showed him my X-Rays and told him the whole story. Right off the bat, he told my problem was not the arthritis. It was too mild a case to immobilize a person so severely. The problem turned out to be the bottom-most disc in my back. the space between that disc and the next one is too close. It’s called compression. Not a good thing apprently. It seems the compression of the discs is causing instability in my lower back which the body tries to stabilize by using the muscles in the surrounding area and creates a spasm. THAT is what’s causing the pain and the stiffness. Problem identified. But it gets better. The condition is completely treatable.

The doctor told me I needed to solve this in two stages: First treat and get rid of the spasm with medication and therapy. He gave anti-inflamatory medication and a muscle relaxant to take before I go to sleep. After I finish writing this I will go to my first therapy session. Second stage is strengthening the lower back to avoid future spasms with more therapy. The great thing about all this is that even though I have to take it easy for a while, I will probably be able to continue doing Turbo Jam and Martial Arts without any major problems. For the first time in several weeks, I’m feeling much better and at ease.

They say all things happen for a reason and this is no exception. Although I got a bit depressed and was pretty worried for a ttime there, I learned a few very positive things about where I’m at as a person trying to change his lifestyle. First, I found out just how important exercise has become to me. The prospect of having to stop really got me down which means it has developed into a habit. A good one for a change. Second, that first visit to the doctor, despite being so depressing wasn’t all bad. He told me to get some blood work done and the results were great. Everything normal across the board. My cholesterol is 120. Very low for someone my size and weight. I don’t know what it was before I started to lose weight but that is certainly very good news.

The Plan continued…

Posted in General Information with tags , , , , on May 12, 2009 by uziel5000

Okay, so last time I went into some detail about the changes I was making to my daily food intake. So far, I have lost 32 pounds(as of 5/10/09) following that nutrition program. However, eating has been only part of the equation. As I mentioned on the post “Things I have Learned”, nutrition is only half the battle. Exercise is a crucial part of an effective weight loss program. Not only does exercising burn calories, which really makes achieving a calorie deficit that much easier, but working out has immense health benefits and in some cases increases your body’s ability to burn calories by helping you build muscle mass(not body builder type muscle mass mind you but some).

Cardio vs. Strength

Cardiovascular training burns fat. All types of cardio are, by definition, aerobic which means they use oxygen. Without oxygen you can’t burn fat. Therefore the exercises you do that are aerobic, will maximize the amount of calories you burn during the workout. Jogging, Cycling, Rowing and the like are examples of cardio training. Strength(or resistance) training on the other hand, is anaerobic. It does not use oxygen.  You increase your muscle strength and mass by breaking down muscle tissue when you lift. After you lift, when the muscle is at rest, it rebuilds bigger and stronger. Obviously you burn calories while doing this, but not as much as when doing cardio. Doing push-ups, pull ups, sit-ups, lifting weights, they are all examples of strength training.

So, that basically means that if you are looking to lose weight you should stick with cardio training and you’ll be set right? Well, not exactly. The process of burning fat(or any other fuel like sugar for example) is complex. The body needs the energy for breathing, circulation, digestion, tissue regeneration and brain function just to name a few. Some of these processes are more metabolically active than others. Meaning, they require more energy than others therefore they burn more fuel and hopefully fat. Building and retaining muscle mass is one of those things the body does that require lots of fuel. The more muscle you have, the more fuel it requires to remain there. Bodybuilders are an extreme example. When they train to build muscle, their diets can be as high as 4,000 and 5,000 calories a day yet their body fat stays below 8%. Believe me, at 5,000 calories, no matter how little fat you are consuming, if you are not exercising (and I mean REALLY exercising) your body will turn all that to fat. The reason why bodybuilders get away with it is because those huge muscles require so much energy to maintain that they burn fat just by standing there. They NEED the calories, otherwise they start to lose muscle tissue.

Although an extreme example, (however if you want to achieve that physique as a goal, by all means go for it) there is a lot we can learn from bodybuilders. They have taken fat burning to the most efficient form possible. Going back to the world of us mere overweight mortals, we can take some of that knowledge and apply it to our weight loss goals. The facts are right there: If you want your cardio workouts to give you the most efficient calorie burning possible, spend some time developing muscle. In other words, a combination of cardio and strength training is the most efficient exercise program to lose weight. Following this blueprint is a win-win situation. Not only will you burn more calories, but as you lose weight, you will begin to see a nice physique emerging from the fat.

What I’m doing

When I began losing weight, I started to take Tae Kwon Do lessons as my form of exercise. For those not familiar with this martial art, Tae Kwon Do means “The way of the hand and foot”. It has two very distinct parts: The self-defense aspect and the sport aspect. After being introduced as an exhibition sport in the Seoul Olympics in 1988, it has become extremely popular. It is full contact, meaning participants pull no punches and it can be pretty brutal. Think of a boxing match where instead of using the hands, you primarily use your feet. 3 rounds of TKD can be as grueling on the body as 12 rounds of boxing. The reason I take the time to explain this is to show that if the matches are that brutal, you can imagine what the workouts must be like. They are a combination of cardio, strength, and explosiveness training. It is an awsome workout that burns monster calories. Every time I finish a class, I end up drenched in sweat. It really gives your legs a great workout which is a plus since the biggest muscle group in your body is the thighs so, they are the muscles that burn the most fat.

The problem is that while TKD has been really effective, classes are only twice a week. This left me with 5 other days of doing nothing.  For a time, I would go with my wife and daughter to a track near our home and walk for 30-45 minutes but we weren’t that motivated and soon we were skipping days and not going more times than we were going. We needed something we could stick with. Low and behold, out of all things, an infomercial gave us the answer. We were watching TV one morning and saw this infomercial about this workout DVD called Turbo Jam. Now, I’m the last guy to buy something off an infomercial but sometimes, you have to make a compromise. Turbo Jam is a set of videos that offer to give you a full body workout. It’s a combination of Kickboxing and dancing and other things. I wasn’t really thinking of “jazzercising” my way into fitness but the minute my wife saw it she was hooked. I was looking for a more straightforward(manly?) workout but in the end I caved because well, it was my wife after all and it was something we could do together. Watching the infomercial and looking up the information on the Internet, several things convinced me to buy it: First, it’s affordable. Compared to buying equipment or buying a gym membership for two, the videos were a steal. Second, convenience. You workout at home. You don’t have to go anywhere or worse, going to a gym full of people that look a thousand times better than you. Third, unlike other infomercials, this one made no promises of miracle cures or the like. You have to put in the work and do the workouts, which looked challenging, so I bought them.

Let me tell you, these videos are no walk in the park! The cardio routines are gonna make you sweat big time and the strength training video can be quite rigorous. Of course, no video, workout or exercise program is not gonna work unless you actually do it. We really took a close look at our schedule to see where we could fit the time to work out. We considered the evenings after I returned from work but thought that if the time caught us tired or unmotivated, we would look for excuses not to do it. Finally we struck a compromise: we would MAKE the time. We decided to wake up at 5:50am on weekdays to do the program. This was especially hard for me because of my sleep apnea so every second of rest counts. But in the end, we are doing this for better health so less sleep will result in better rest down the stretch. With these videos, I now work out every week day in the morning and do Tae Kwon Do every evening on Mondays and Wednesdays. Pretty grueling schedule but I like both workouts so I have been able to do both and stay very motivated. The secret of sticking to an exercise program is to like what you are doing and so far I certainly do.

Come back next time, when I give you a 30 day report and post new pictures to see if there is a difference so far.

The Plan

Posted in General Information with tags , , , , , on May 4, 2009 by uziel5000

This is me at my heaviest. 319 pounds.

I HATE these pics

I HATE these pics

Needless to say, there is a lot of work to do. Funny thing though: You are never really aware of just how much you have let yourself go until you see yourself in pictures like these. I certainly didn’t see that when I looked in the mirror. Then you have your picture taken and suddenly you go: “Man! Am I THAT fat? The answer is yes. For me, there were two pictures, taken on New Year’s Eve and new Year’s Day respectively, that really brought things home for me. Those are posted below.
New Year's Eve 2008/2009

New Year's Eve 2008/2009

New Year's day 2009

New Year's day 2009

 That’s my wife and child in that picture above by the way. These pictures were the last straw. Seeing what little neck I had left, it was only a matter of time before my sleep apnea would go from a partial to a total block of the respiratory canal. My wife was going to wake up one day and find me dead. If this sounds melodramatic believe me, it’s not. People who suffer from sleep apnea die in that very same way all the time. The question then, was: What am I going to do about it? This just couldn’t another “attempt”. It had to be a solution and it had to be a permanent one. Earlier in my life I could afford to fail but now I have run out of time and my wife and child are on the line. Here is what I’m currently doing. If you have read my previous posts, you’ll be surprised to see some of the things I’m doing but really, there is a reason behind the madness.

The eating part

People hate counting calories. It’s a hassle, it requires some math, which I hate, and sometimes it lets you know just how much less you are eating which can make you feel hungry. However, I have to say that there is no better or effective way to watch what you eat. The good news is that all the hassle is temporary. After three months of keeping to a 1,800 calorie diet, I have to say that I do very little counting anymore. It just becomes second nature. I mean, you can only look up the calorie content of a grilled chicken breast so many time before it sticks. You simply learn the right portions and combinations that make out your meals. So really, calorie counting is just a hurdle you need to jump. It will become a part of you and it wont annoy you. I promise.

Like I said my diet consists of 1,800 calories. It is also a low-fat diet (I’ll explain why in a minute). I have to stick to about 21 grams of fat a day. This meant I had to work out some stuff. Had to be careful about butter, oils, mayo and high fat proteins like some cuts of beef. I also had to think of some substitutions. I’m a coffee drinker and the latte is my drink of choice. With whole milk that can mean up to 250 calories for a tall serving. Problem: I hate skim milk. And don’t get me started on non-fat milk. They simply weren’t options and 250 calories was half of my breakfast so just when I was starting to think I was gonna have to give it up, somebody gave a sample of vanilla-flavored soy milk while at Costco. I have to say I was really surprised. I used to avoid soy milk like the plague but it really tasted good. Plus, the vanilla flavor really brought out the flavor of my coffee and breakfast cereal. I also switched to low-fat mayo,(which i don’t use much but it tastes just the same) non-fat salad dressing and for butter I use a spread that rhymes with Country Rock. Now, all the low-fat stuff still has fat so you can’t go bananas pouring it over everything. The secret is in the serving size. Stay at or below the serving size and count the calories. For example I can make myself a Turkey Burger with wheat bread, lettuce, tomato, mayo and ketchup and stay well below 500 calories. The condiments help with the flavor and I don’t have to starve.

How many times you eat during the day is up to you. Studies have shown that spreading out your meals from three a day to five or six smaller ones can really boost your metabolism in addition to help you not go hungry. This is not an option for everyone however. Time and work might not allow you to follow such a plan so work with your schedule. I do three meals a day and a snack. Whatever you decide make sure you don’t go past your calorie limit for the day(which can vary per person). The purpose of my snack is to deal with one of my main problem areas: At night, I go crazy. I hate going to bed hungry and I would always cheat at night after a whole day of following a diet. Now, I make sure I have enough calories left at the end of the day to have an early evening snack. A snack that I use to take a multi-vitamin at the end of the day.

In my next post, I will continue to explain THE PLAN.

In the Beggining, there was fat…

Posted in General Information with tags , , , , , on April 21, 2009 by uziel5000

10.2 pounds.

That’s how much I weighted when I was born. My first time in the display window of the delivery room, I inspired some guy(who wasn’t there to see me I might add) to say: “That kid is like a 747!!”.  The nurses called me “The Big One”.  That’s how I came in to this world.

From that point on, weight became the issue that defined me. I have been overweight all my life. The closest I have ever been to my “ideal” weight was when I was 23 and came within 25 pounds. 25 pounds overweight. That is the thinnest I have ever been. Anyone who has ever been to school knows the weight (pun intended) the “fat kid” has to carry around. The jokes, the insults, the advice… the advice of course comes from teachers, family and the like. Now that I think about it, I learned to deal with it. It actually did not bother me that much. Whether because of my upbringing or something else, I never placed any importance on looking good which at the time seemed like the main reason given to me to lose weight. That just wasn’t important. Health on the other hand, was rarely brought up. There was just not a lot of emphasis put on that back then. Of course, it didn’t help that I was a healthy child. “What health issues? I feel fine!”.

And so it went. Through Junior High and High School I did enough physical activity to actually stop gaining. Playing basketball regualrly and participating in the Civil Air Patrol plus all the growing I did in that time helped keep my waistline in check. I was still overweight but active. In college I made an attempt to lose weight to join the military, something that always interested me. I have to say I went extremely overboard. For one semester, I skipped breakfast (something I would continue doing for a loooong time), ate two slices of white bread with a slice of cheese and and a slice of ham(I wouldn’t dare call that a sandwich) for lunch and a small salad for dinner. That and running a mile and exercising every day. That’s how I reached the lowest weight I have ever achieved: 214 pounds. Needless to say, I burned myself out. I started eating again and of course I gained everything and then some. After leaving college, I started working and that is when the excersize stopped. After several attempts of yo-yo dieting I went from 283, to 294, to finally 319. The heaviest I have ever been.

Thinking about all the times I have tried to lose weight – and believe me there have been many- I analyze just how serious those attempts were. That is, not serious at all. By that I mean my willingness to lose the weight. Oh, the diets were serious enough. I tried medical supervision, pills(Many to list), fads, gimmicks, LA Weight Loss, Doctor’s Weight Loss Center, 6-week Body Makeover, Atkins… you name it, I did it. Nothing worked. My heart was really not into it. I would quit after a while. And I forgot to mention all the gyms I signed up for and quit after a while. Then, things changed.

I noticed I was getting sleepy all the time. I would fall asleep while driving. No matter how much I rested, how much I slept, I would still be tired and sleepy. I ended up falling asleep during work meetings, which of course brought me a lot of trouble. People at work thought I had a drinking problem. Sometimes, I would find blood on my pillow when I woke up. I had developed Obstructive Sleep Apnea. A chronic case at that. I had never heard of that before, so when it was explained to me that I had trouble geeting a good rest because I wasn’t properly breathing while sleeping, I saw it as an annoyance, not a health problem. Life continued. Incredibly, I have never had a major accident related to Sleep Apnea. A miracle considering I drive for a living. (I work for a labor union) So,  by now you are probably asking: “So what made you change your ways?” Well, here it is.

I got married. Had a daughter. Turned 30.

Simple, right? Suddenly, it wasn’t about me anymore. Bringing life into this world made me realize I wasn’t immortal, and if I wanted to see my kid grow up, I couldn’t keep gaining weight. It was gonna eventually catch up with my health. In fact it already had. That’s when I learned that Sleep Apnea leads to High Blood pressure and heart problems. Reggie White, one of the greatest footbal players of all time, died in his sleep because of Sleep Apnea. One day, I was traveling on business, from North Carolina to New York. As usual, I feel asleep the minute I hit the chair. While on approach I woke up. There was a lady next to me and when she saw I was up, she told me: “Do you know you suffer from Sleep Apnea?” to which I replied that I did. To which she said that she was doctor, and that I had a pretty bad case (I already knew that part), and that in Texas, were she was from, they did a 10-year study on people who suffered from it and at the end of the study, half were dead, either by heart problems or traffic accidents. Half the subjects. What a grim prognosis. I have a 50% chance of dying early. Well, that hit me like a ton of bricks.

So this has led me to analyze many things about my past attempts and really put some thought into a real, final, permanent weight-loss solution. I have done a lot of research and studying. I have set up this blog to share what I have found out and how I’m putting that knowledge into practice. I will also use this as a progress tracker so you can see the results. Hopefully, this will help others trying to lose weight and avoid the mistakes I have made. Moreover, feedback from this blog will help me learn even more. So join me in this quest as I share with you my metamorphosis.