Archive for Nutrition

Taking it Slow: A Guide to Making Your Changes Stick

Posted in Advice with tags , , , , , on September 1, 2009 by uziel5000

At it’s most basic, losing weight is pretty simple thing. Use more calories than you consume. Period. End of story. Right? Well, yes and no. Certainly, a calorie deficit is the cornerstone of any weight loss attempt. The variables however, that help you optimize that weight loss are so many, that thousands of books, magazines, web articles and blogs have been written about them. Needles to say, the information can be overwhelming and the more you look into it the more you feel that you have to do everything at once. This is one of those areas were you can be setting yourself up for failure without noticing. We have all been there. We feel there is so much to do that we end up not doing anything at all. We either think it’s too hard and don’t start at all or halfway through it becomes so much that we quit. There is a solution though. The very first thing we have to realize is this: We are in no hurry. Long term weight loss is a long term commitment and for those of us who have a lot of weight to lose, we have to simply accept that its going to take a while. Putting ourselves in that frame of mind, we are now ready to take the next step. Since we are not in hurry and we are in this for the long haul, then we can sit down and break down our plan into little steps. We take one or two steps at a time and we don’t take the next one until we have mastered the one we took last. The easiest way for me to exlain this is to use my own example. I’m going to give my list steps I have taken for the past 8 months and explain why I took them. From this, maybe other people can build their own list. Just remember: These were gradual changes.

 1. Oct. ‘08: Signed myself up for Tae Kwon Do classes – After years of inactivity, I started here, going to class twice a week just to get my body adjusted to regular exercise.

2. Feb. ‘09: Started a calorie deficit – Notice I didn’t call it a diet. Hopefully, this was the start of permanent changes in the way I eat.

3. Apr. ‘09: Started doing cardio 5 times a week on top of Tae Kwon Do/ Also started to use a daily multi-vitamin.

 4. May. ‘09: Changed my meal distribution from three meals a day to three meals and two snacks – Eating more frequently boosts your metabolism.

 5. Jun. ‘09: Changed my meal distribution to five meals a day.

6. Jul. ‘09: Changed my meal distribution to 6 meals a day./Also began to supplement with Glucosamine-Chondrointin-MSM(I’m gettng old!l ol) 

7. Aug. ‘09: Started a weight training program, three days a week while still doing the cardio and TKD./Also started to supplement with protein post-workout and Creatine.

My next step is to try a pre-workout formula. Now, all that time, I have been consistently losing weight. I just adjusted the things I needed to do so it wouldn’t overwhelm me. Now, I just gave you 10 things I did in seven steps over 8 months. Doing them one or two things at a time allowed me time to adjust my life accordingly. Now imagine doing all those things at once right at the beggining of your journey. Doesn’t sound pleasant or easy right? Breaking it down makes it more digestible. Slow and steady wins the race!

The Real Truth About “Cheating” on your Diet

Posted in Advice with tags , , , , , on June 10, 2009 by uziel5000

Of all the books I’ve read on diets, all the programs I’ve tried, all the myths I’ve heard, no subject is treated more lightly or more ignored than cheating or as some call it indulging. Whether we are talking about a well-researched book by an expert or some new hype we hear on the street, I haven’t seen any other subject regarding weight loss that is less mentioned. Is cheating good? Is it bad? Some casually mention it, others ignore it completely so it is always left unanswered. So here are my thoughts on the matter.

Nutritionists, trainers and doctors almost always neglect to mention this very real aspect about dieting for several reasons. Most are afraid that endorsing any type of indulgence might lead to the reader or program follower down a path that will end in quitting the program altogether. You write that you can indulge once in a while, we interpret it as permission to cheat all the time… game over. Therefore, even though it is not actually written that way, it is implied that strict adherance is expected. But what are the consequences of that? As it turns out, it leads to the same path as saying you can cheat: You end up quitting altogether as well.

The reason is simple. You will have cravings eventually. That cheeseburger begins to call you, but you stand strong and resist temptation. Then, 2 days later it calls you again. You refuse to back down. Now the cheeseburger is all you can think of. 3 days later you meet some friends and go to lunch. Then it happens. Everyone is eating what they want. You cave. You have the cheeseburger. But then, you can’t stop. You have the burger for lunch, figure that the day is ruined and have pizza for dinner. You wake up the next day and think:”Might as well have a big breakfast.” and end up downing a “Super-Duper-Mega-Slam”. By lunch time, you figure you have ruined your diet and give up. back to square one. Sound familiar?

One of the main questions I asked myself when starting this weight loss journey, was how to avoid this scenario. This is actually one of the main problems with diets that restrict certain food groups (low-carb, no fruit, no(insert food group here) diets). The minute you decide to go on these diets, you set yourself up. Especially if the restricted group is something you love to eat. We all know how it works: We crave what we can’t have.(In food and life in general) So the propensity to fall is always there. And I’m not even going into the health aspects of consuming an un-balanced diet. So the first rule on cheating is: To avoid cheating and keep your sanity, eat a balanced diet. You are less likely to crave something if you don’t feel it is restricted. The mantra shoudn’t be : “I can’t have that” It should be: “I don’t want to have that right now“.

Of course, there will come a time when that cheeseburger will call you. What to do? Eat it. Get over it. Continue you program. End of story. One cheeseburger wont sabotage your diet. Thinking that because you ate it, you should continue cheating because you already ruined your diet will do it though. There is no way around this folks. It will happen. We are only human so let it go. Here is my way of dealing with this problem and so far it has been golden. It might help you.

I have seriously decreased my cravings for high calorie and unhealthy foods by just saying to myself I can have them. That’s right. In my “program” I can have any food I want. The catch is that I can have them at certain times. For me, those times are special occasions. My wedding anniversary, my daughter’s birthday, mother’s day, those are some of the days where I have eaten stuff not exactly conducive to weight loss yet I have not gained a single pound since I started this journey. I have my cake, steak, ribs or whatever and then I keep going. Most of the time I’m not stressing over what I can’t have because I know I will have it eventually. Recently, it was my anniversary (4 years) and I knew we were going to Outback Steakhouse to celebrate so the two weeks prior to it I followed my diet with no problems or cravings because I knew I would eat a nice steak then. That day I had clam chowder, a steak and shared a dessert with my wife. The next day, back to my usual eating habits. Simple.

Which brings me to the second rule of cheating: Just because you cheated once doesn’t mean you ruined your diet or your progress.The most important thing to keep in mind when you do cheat is to NOT quit. Thinking you can continue cheating because you cheated once is the death blow to the goals you have set. Accept the fact that it will happen and get on with it. Also, having the occasional indulgence plays right into one of the crucial steps of successful weight loss: Slow weight- loss is permanent weight-loss. So you lost just one pound instead of two because you went to that BBQ. So what? It is better to adjust your body to how you are going to live the rest of your life(eating healthy with the occasional indulgence) during you weigh loss than losing a bunch of weight quickly with some extreme, over the top diet and than having make massive adjustments to keep that weight off.

Progress Report #1

Posted in Weigh-in with tags , , , , , on May 20, 2009 by uziel5000

OK, let’s go back a moment to the pictures I took at my heaviest. Not my favorite thing in the world but then again the whole point of this blog is hold myself accountable so here it is again: Me at 319 pounds.

Before Pictures copy

Alright, now let’s look at the most recent set of pictures. This was taken on 5/15/09. 4 months after starting the eating plan and 30 days after starting the full-on exercise plan.

30 Day Frank copy

Some differences REALLY pop up by just looking at the two sets but first lets look at the numbers. On my last weigh-in, the scale read 275lbs. That is 44lbs. less than my heaviest weight of 319 and 33 less than my starting weight of 308. Also, my measurements went down. My chest is 50″(down 1 from 51″), my arms are 16″(down 1′ from 17″),my legs are 27 1/2″(down 1 1/2 from 29″), my hips are 48″(down 3 from 51″), my waist is 47 1/2″(down 1 1/2″ from 49). So that is 8 total inches less. Not bad…

Looking at the pics, the things that really stand out for me are the bottom part of my face, my belly and my waist on the back view. On the original pics, these areas, more than looking fat, I look bloated. Swollen even. Like I had some disease. Also, the new pics confirm my long-standing suspicion that I, in fact, have a neck somewhere between my head and shoulders.

Not noticeable on the pics, are the effects of the weight loss and exercise. I am sleeping much better now and feel rested when I wake up even though I am waking up much earlier now to exercise. This has meant that I fall asleep much earlier as well, which has affected my TV-watching habits but I don’t mind at all. I have a lot more energy during the day as well. My performance in Tae Kwon Do classes has improved significantly. I don’t get tired as fast or run out of breath. In fact I can pretty much go through the whole class without much problem. My Turbo Jam workouts are also much better. A fact very noticable at the end of the workouts as I’m able to finish much stronger than before. All in all, improvements all around. However…

Things to consider…

Because of the amount of exercise I’m doing, I think I have to revise my daily calorie allowance. Not necessarily an increase or decrease but a revision on how I’m reaching that number(1,800 calories per day). There is no set amount perfect for everybody so I’m looking into calculating calorie allowance based on things like body fat percentage, weight, height and age. This should help me tighten up my diet to suit my needs more.  Also I’m considering spreading the calories a bit more by adding a meal, which helps keep your metabolism running in top form. Long term, I should also revise my workout. As I lose more weight and my body adapts, making changes in diet and exercise programs helps avoid plateaus, which are bound to come up so I need to have options ready.

So far, so good. I learned many things in my previous attempts to lose weight but one never stops learning and this time around I am learning plenty. Hopefuly I can apply those things and improve where it is needed as I go since there is not going to be a next time. Next full report in 30 days. In the meantime, keep a lookout for articles on the importance of peer support, some things I have found out and some cool websites I have discovered along the way.

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.

Things I have learned

Posted in Words of Wisdom with tags , , , , , on April 26, 2009 by uziel5000

In choosing the path I was going to take to change my lifestyle, I did a lot of research and self-analysis to make sure I did everything in my power to avoid failure. I thought about how other attempts that failed and why. I thought about everything I have learned about nutrition and learned some new things along the way. Also, science has revised a lot of things we thought we knew about weight-loss through the years. These are some of the things I have picked up and learned so far.

ALL DIETS (EVEN THE CRAZY ONES) WORK

That’s right. Even the “Pound of Bacon a Day” Diet and whatever else you have heard of. You see, the thing about all diets and fads are based on the same principle: Someone- either by themselves or through some study- tried all these diets and actually lost weight. If that didn’t happen, then they wouldn’t be trying to sell it to you. So, in principle at least, they all work: If you follow the diet as explained, you will lose weight. Period. But if that is true then why do we fail so miserably EVERY TIME WE TRY ONE? The problem, it turns out, is not how diets works. The problem is that they are diets. You see, the definition we have given the word diet implies a finite, temporary thing. You eat a certain way for a period of time and lose x amount of pounds. Then it’s over. You are done. Back to the way you used to eat, or worse. Because you lost some weight, you actually feel you can eat more. The result of course, is you gain the weight back and then some. The worse part is that you end up with even more horrible eating habits than you had when you began the diet.

People who over-eat (and people who are obese and morbidly obese always are) simply cannot approach weight-loss by going on a diet. Not in the traditional sense. If you use the actual definition of the word diet, which simply means “the way eat”, then to lose weight and keep it off we don’t need to go on a diet. We need to change our diet. Forever. That means building an eating plan that allows you to lose weight but at the same time, you will not need to change too much once you achieve your goal weight. In other words, we need to change our lives by eating healthier forever. Of course, the benefits of getting in this state of mind are many. You will not only lose weight, but it will help you keep a more positive attitude and since it is a permanent change, your body will thank you for the rest of your life. I can’t stress this enough. If you are thinking of losing weight and not thinking sbout making permanent changes, it is actually better not to go on a diet at all. In the end you will end up in a worse situation than the one you began with.

THERE IS NO MIRACLE CURE

If it’s true that all diets works, it’s even more true that everything that promises a quick, easy or miraculous way to lose weight doesn’t work. There is an old saying that a person never learns by other people’s mistakes but if you listen to me now, you will save so much time and hassle. If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. There is only one way your body loses weight: You use more calories than you consume. A calorie “deficit” if you will. To achieve this deficit you have to eat less calories and burn some calories by exercising. Anyone trying to sell you any other way than that is lying to you. Period.

SOME SORT OF PHYSICAL ACTIVITY IS REQUIRED

Okay, in the strictest sense of the word, you could change your diet and lose weight without exercising. But I warn you: it will be SO MUCH HARDER to do so. All extremes are dangerous. If you do not exercise, you will have to eat so little calories to achieve weight loss you will probably be hungry and miserable all day. This leads to cheating and eventually quitting. Not good. Also, the oppsite is true. If you think you can lose weight simply by exercising, you better get ready to say good bye to your social, work and private life. To burn the calories needed to lose weight on the average diet of an obese person, you will probably have to exercise all day. Plus, an obese person simply doesn’t have the physical condition to do that anyway. Again save yourself the trouble. A combination of diet and exercise is the sure-fire ticket to achieve your goals.

I have many more little “nuggets of wisdom”. I will share them with you as we go along. Next time, I will tell you exactly how I’m applying what I have learned to lose weight.

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.