I’m Not Stocky, I'm Just…Fat

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine started joining me on a few of my 5+ mile jaunts. One night, we started talking about fitness, physicality, and our personal goals in relation to both. It’s not something that I usually talk about in conversation with other people, and I offered up more than I expected I would. I don’t want to run the risk of repeating in depth something that I’m pretty sure I’ve written about before, having been in the “large” body type camp since I was a child, so I’ll stick to the point: I’ve never been skinny or even physically fit for that matter, but I have always been comfortable in my own body. Even though I’ve wanted to change that ever since I hit my early 20’s, that feeling of complacency kept me from feeling an imperative need to implement that change. As we shared about our goals and experiences, I mentioned that my goal was to hit a target weight range between 165-170 lbs.

Full Length Mirror Shot
Took this pic at the end of November. People on Facebook said I looked good – but I know the truth underneath the shirt.

The few times that I’ve shared that tidbit with people, I’ve been met with surprise, as if going that low would be clinically unhealthy for someone with my build. This time was no exception, though the reaction was more one of curiosity rather than that of disapproval. To prove my point, I lifted my shirt up and pinched the excess fat around my midsection between my thumb and forefinger. That’s when I got the big reaction I had initially been anticipating; he was shocked at how much fat I was able to pull away from my body, to which I responded “see, I’m not stocky, I’m just…fat.” He told me he could see why I set my target as low as I have, and added that he thought it was really commendable that I was able to recognize and admit to that self-assessment.
Up until last year, I’m inclined to say that I bought into the line of thinking I’ve heard before, that I’m acceptably proportioned in relation to my body frame. I can’t say for sure whether it’s something that’s happened with age or whether it’s a result of the reconnection with my high personal standards, but since last year, I haven’t felt that feeling of comfort with being in my own skin.
Even if I were to take a photo of myself and include it with this post, I think most people would be inclined to think that I’ve developed a form of body dysmorphia. Yet, being the person that has to go through life in this body, I can confidently say that that’s just because I carry myself pretty well. If I were to take a photo framed to focus in on my abdominal body fat squeezed between my fingers, I’d then expect people to tell me to keep at my work and kill the extra weight for good. Last year when I started feeling daily discomfort in simply existing, I invested about $15 in a pair of body fat calipers. For anyone that doesn’t know what those are, they’re essentially a mix of a ruler and fat pinching tongs that help calculate body fat percentage. When I bought them last year, I could even fit them around the isolated mound of fat in the target measurement area.
Earlier this week, I found the set of calipers as I was cleaning my bedroom closet. In an uplifting sign of progress, I found that I can now actually use them on myself, even if the readout is still less than ideal. Presently, I’m astonished at how long I managed to go without this feeling of dissatisfaction settle in. And I don’t just feel it – I actually see it too. The more fat I burn off through my 5+ mile runs, the more my true body type begins to show itself. I’m not stocky or broad as most people seem to think. If I were in my target weight range and had a decent amount of muscle definition, I’d classify more along the lines of “average” or “athletic”.
So now, even though it makes me feel like utter crap some days, I’m glad that I started feeling uncomfortable with my body – it’s a constant reminder and motivator to physically get myself to where I should have been all along.

Weight Loss Project: The Big 100

After migrating from a self-hosted installation back onto wp.com, I’ve been tied up in other affairs (justifiably so, not just another manifestation of the productivity myth) to hammer out an update. Though I haven’t been on-point about updating, I’ve definitely been sticking to the work behind it. Thanksgiving week was expectedly gluttonous, and I ended up gaining about 3 lbs back, according to the scale. I also think I was weighing in less than I should have, since I wasn’t eating much the week prior because of all the stress. Since then, I’ve been trying to work on my running, but winter makes it a real challenge to push myself out the door once I get home from work. By the time I get home from all the traffic, it’s already dark out and the sunlit hours of the day have been cold lately. Still, I’ve managed to do a decent job at keeping the running habit going, and even set a new best personal time for the 5+ mile route I do down to Balboa Park a few days ago.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about my logging process. I started writing about my fitness efforts as an accountability mechanism as well as a journal throughout the process. However, with all the social networks and fitness apps available on the mobile web, it’s so easy to outsource the logging to different services to where blogging about it feels redundant. While they all do a great job tracking activities and overall progress, they don’t provide the granularity that someone like myself who’s enamored with the idea of the quantified self would find sufficient. For that, manual logging is the tool for the job.
Going only by my weigh-ins on the digital scale was working fine for awhile, but the fluctuations in weight over Thanksgiving week made me realize how badly I need to get back to taking regular measurements. Though the fluctuations in weight were minor, the resulting physical sensation would have me believe otherwise (there’s more to be said on that, but I’ll save that for another post). So, here we go again:

MEASUREMENTS

Stats
Height 5’ 10”
Goal Weight 165
Day # 100
Date: 12/10/2013
Measurements
Neck  16″
Chest 42″
Upper Arm (Left) 11.75″
Upper Arm (Right) 12.5″
Waist 36.5″
Abdomen 39.4″
Hips 40″
Upper Thigh (Left) 23″
Upper Thigh (Right) 23.75″
Calf (Left) 16″
Calf (Right) 16″
Total Inches 276.9
Total Inches Lost
Weight 199.9 lbs.
Weight Lost to Date
BMI 28.7
Change in BMI
Goal Distance 34.9 lbs.

 

Update: 12/15/2013 @ 10:27:20 PM

I just compared these numbers to the ones I posted back on Day 1 in September. This is why logging is important. The story the numbers tell is that I basically gained weight in September, and slowly started burning it off again throughout October and November to break even. However, my running times and stamina have started to gradually improve and are much better than they were back in September. Physically, I feel much better now than I did then as well. That being acknowledged, I clearly need to kick things up a couple notches.

Weight Loss Project Update: Day 64

It’s usually shocking to me when I sit down to bang out a new update how much time has elapsed since my previous post — this time is no exception. It hasn’t felt like much time, but seeing the entry date on the “Day One” entry of 09/01/2013 was really jarring. Sixty-two days in, and comparing the present numbers to those then, I’m seeing that I haven’t made any progress at all.
At the start of October, I found myself having gained some pounds back, pushing me five past the 200 mark. In an effort to correct course, I started trying to get back in the habit of regular exercise and hitting my old 20-mile-a-week goal. The first week of October, I went on one run after a squat/lunge/yoga routine that I pushed myself a little too hard with. That ended up incapacitating me for a good few days. The second week, I went on a run as soon as I was able to move without persistent pain. That went well, but in the days that followed, I was afflicted with a random pain along my right side. It constantly felt like I’d been punched in the kidney for three days. The time throughout the rest of the month, I spent telling myself mentally I would get around to doing things but getting distracted by all the other things going on in life. It’s a pitfall I’ve identified before, and am still prone to falling into. This past week, I resolved to get back on track with the 20 mile goal. I did good on Monday and Tuesday, then lost momentum by giving myself a couple of days off to recover from the resulting soreness. I intended to clock in the last 10 miles over the weekend, but fell ill with what appears to have been a 24 hour bug.
I have to admit, there’s a strong element of frustration in how poorly my body keeps pace with my goals. I don’t feel as if I’m pushing myself as hard as I can/should be. Admittedly, I do it because I try to pace myself – being able to do continuous moderate/low intensity exercise is far preferable to strong bursts that leave me incapacitated and in recovery. Yet even these “minimal” efforts take a toll on me. This, and the prioritization of other forms of productivity, are a big reason why I’ve not made much progress. It’s frustrating to want to engage in a healthy lifestyle and satisfy basic physiological needs, only to feel like it’s not possible to do so.
At present, the only thing I can do is keep pushing and keep trying to go further, even when my body refuses to keep pace. Already, the shift in climate is starting to become an obstacle. With the colder weather settling in and the inability to invest money into a gym membership, I’m going to have to do workouts at home to compensate. This is going to be a challenge in itself, since it’s at home where I’m surrounded by the most possible sources of distraction. Still, I want and need to start seeing some progress reflected in the data, and I have no reason or room for continued failure in this regard.
Get it together, me.

Doin' Stuff

Last update I made while I was sick over the weekend promised a run and a measurement log on Sunday. That obviously didn't end up happening, even though I really wanted it to. After forcing myself out of bed and into the office on Monday morning, I found myself feeling decent enough to get something done by way of exercise. I hit the streets and pushed myself to go further than I'd planned and clocked in over 5 miles, in addition to a light arm workout using two 25 lb dumbbells and a yoga session through an iPad app. Having been in a sedentary state for the past two and a half weeks, the two days after all of that were spent dealing with full-body muscle soreness.

This morning I woke up at 5 AM and went on a run before getting dressed for work and going into the office. I still felt some slight strain from Monday, but pushed through it. Felt good at the time, but once I got to work, I definitely paid for it. All day, my right knee and my left glute have been hitting me with sporadic shots of pain. I wish I had some epsom salts on hand to get in a good soak before going to sleep tonight.

So, I'm four days late on this update (and I'm placing fault for that on all the other things going on in life at the moment), but the important thing is that I've been getting the work that matters done. Starting back up after a prolonged period of inactivity is always a drag, since it takes my body time to acclimate. I'm eager to get it back to being capable of handling at least four 5+ mile runs per week. This excess body fat has got to go — I'm going to need to start investing money in new clothes in the not too distant future, and I don't want them to be the same size as the stuff already in my closet.

 

Feelin' Fat & Lazy

I’m supposed to be exercising regularly and posting updates about it, but I haven’t. Two weeks ago, things were seemingly financially stable enough for me to give myself a small break from stretching every dollar and living the broke college student lifestyle. Last week I meant to get back to work, but I’ve fallen into the trap of prioritizing other things on the “to-do” list above exercise.

So to get the fire going again, I’m going to be doing a light dumbbell workout tonight and some yoga. Tomorrow will be a stat update and my return to running.

Weight Loss Project: Day One

After uploading the posts I drafted yesterday, I went on a good 8 mile jaunt. There was an issue with my primary app not tracking distance, which I only noticed about 2 miles in before switching over to the RunKeeper app. As I told myself I would yesterday, here’s the first of many progress updates. Time to make this finally happen. 

STARTING MEASUREMENTS

Stats
Height 5’ 10”
Goal Weight 165
Day # 1
Date: 09/01/2013
Measurements
Neck  16.75
Chest 42.5
Upper Arm (Left) 12
Upper Arm (Right) 12
Waist 37.5
Abdomen 40.5
Hips 40
Upper Thigh (Left) 23
Upper Thigh (Right) 23
Calf (Left) 16
Calf (Right) 16
 
Total Inches 279.5
Total Inches Lost
Weight 199.9 lbs.
Weight Lost to Date
BMI 28.7
Change in BMI
Goal Distance 34.9 lbs.

First Things FIrst: This Body of Mine

When it comes to getting to work on long-standing personal projects, the thing that immediately comes to mind is my physical state in relation to health and fitness. Getting in shape has been, at this point, a goal that I’ve been meaning to accomplish for years now with very little traction. All of my life, I’ve been on the heavy side. As a child, my diet was controlled by my parents who seemingly had no notion of proper nutrition and portion control. What started as my 9 year old self having to resort to wearing “husky” sized childrens clothing culminated in a record weight of approximately 255lbs when I was ending my time in high school. Up until that point, I had somehow always managed to be comfortable in my own body. Shortly after I turned 18, I started running regularly even though I had a long-established hatred for the act, and dropped my weight into the lower 200’s. Over the past few years, I’ve fluctuated through the 200–230 lb range, the lower end at which I presently find myself.

Throughout this time, I’ve tried many different ways to motivate myself to not simply lose the weight, but to implement a complete lifestyle change. I don’t just want to fit into smaller pants and have my shirts flatter my form, I want to have the option to engage in physically taxing but rewarding experiences like learning how to rock climb. To this end, I’ve invested money in workout equipment, gym memberships, smart scales, and various fitness training/tracking smartphone apps; I’ve written public blog posts with photos to shame myself into maintaining a steady pace; I even buzzed off all of my hair, one of my most personally prized features, and told myself I had to reach a target goal weight before I’d allow myself to grow it out again. Yet, all these mechanisms have resulted in failure because I’ve lacked a key component, an actual interest in myself, my life, and my well-being. I don’t want to deviate and go into detail since this isn’t the post for it (and also one of the reasons I archived all of my existing posts a couple weeks ago), but I’ve admittedly been in a very long depressive state for years. Now that I’ve found my self and my way again, it’s time to start turning desired goals into achieved accomplishments.

One thing that I do want to carry over from my old composition style are the weight loss centric posts I used to put together where I log my activity and progress. I still intend to document that progress photographically, but those will be kept offline (for the time being, at least) and I’ll continue to use numerical data and narrative text to represent the outcome of my efforts. Tomorrow will be my “day one”, and I’ll upload my first check-in then. In the mean time, more writing and productivity, and perhaps a good run/walk later in the evening — this whole California-currently-being-on-fire thing is making the weather quite the de-motivator.

Sweet Sweet Progress

As covered in my previous post, last week was pretty terrible in terms of performance due to the blistering from all the running the week prior. Earlier this week on Monday, I went ahead and drained the blister before heading out on a run. When I returned, I was disappointed to find that the new preventative measures I tried failed, and had a new blister formed in the exact same spot as the previous one, only one skin layer deeper.
New Blister
 
I turn, I took a few days off to let my foot heal up. When Thursday rolled around and I realized I was still only 1/4 of the way through my 20 mile goal for the week, I tried a new tactic:
My Blister Prevention Solution
Using a combination of J&J’s friction block stick and medical tape, I went out on my second run for the week. My fitness app ended up pausing for a good chunk of a mile, so I actually ended up running about 6 miles that day. When I returned home and checked to see how well my new workaround had fared, I was pleasantly surprised. The blister site wasn’t further aggravated, and I now have a reliable way to combat future occurrences.
One of the things I find myself enjoying most about modern technology is how encouraging it can be in relation to personal health. I have a Withings Smart Scale that integrates my RunKeeper activity (which is highly accurate since I use a Wahoo Heart Rate Monitor and a Wahoo Stride Sensor) in its body tracking functions. When I stepped on the scale yesterday, I was surprised by how much progress I’ve made.
Withings iPhone App Dashboard
I’m only 6 pounds away from breaking under 200, on track to meet goal if I run 5 miles today and 5 miles tomorrow, and am really close to meeting my weekly 2lb loss goal. Having all of this data compiled and calculated in such a useful format without having to force myself to build spreadsheets with formulas and manually log the data is great. Not only does it save me time, but it actually makes me eager to get geared up and go exercise. The advanced metrics available in my Withings dashboard on a computer browser are even more motivational.
Screen Shot 2013 04 13 at 2 11 12 PM
Ever since we moved to this new apartment and have started exercising regularly, things have changed more than I realized. Hard to believe that just 3 months ago, I was 12 lbs heavier. If I keep up the pace, I’ll be within objective range by the end of this year, and that excites me a lot.

Assessment

Since this isn’t the first time I’ve set out to make a big lifestyle change, I think I can call this force of habit by now. Still, I always reason to myself that it’s good to write up a post like this to have a point of reference, the idea being that I want to one day be able to look back at this and find it hard to believe that my life used to be like it is now.

0 to 26, in 5 Minutes

When I was a kid, I was your normal kid. As things started getting unstable at home throughout the years, a lot of my dietary choices were left in the hands of my dad, who always defaulted to fast food. So I got “husky”. As I grew older, those bad diet habits got worse, as did my weight – I topped out at around 265 lbs in my sophomore year of high school. Up until that point in my life I’d always been comfortable in my own body. Physically, I still was. Mentally, I was over it. I started waking up before the sun on a daily basis and going on long morning runs. Once I started working and managed to afford my own gym membership, I found that I actually do like spending prolonged periods of time working out. By the time I hit 21, I was down near 200 lbs – not all the way there, but not too bad either. Compared to my old photos from high school, I looked like a completely different person.
Then at 23, things started taking a turn for the worse. Things in the personal life and with work all started crashing around me. Now, I’ve gotten accustomed to things being pretty bad in life – I’ve been struggling with a personal depression dating back since 2005. But that was the beginning of an entirely new downward spiral in life. At 25, I finally found myself bouncing back from everything. I started trying to get myself to care again. As motivation, I forced myself to part with my hair that I’m so very fond of, and told myself that I’d only grow it out once I hit goal weight. Instead of getting motivated, it opened the door for me to turn into someone else. As the problems piled on, I lost sight of myself. I let myself go, and really packed on the on the pounds.

Now

Presently, I find myself halfway through 26. One hand, it feels pretty lame that earlier in life I’d planned to have taken care of this by 21 permanently. Still, rather than dwell in the past, it’s time to look to the future. Now, the weight problem extends beyond image and self-esteem. For me, it’s a contradiction of the perceptions I have of my actualized self. In other words, I’m not me. I’m not living a life that’s in line with who I really see myself as. I’m not as young and stout as I used to be. Age is going to start rearing its ugly head at me if I’m not ready for it. In a sense, I kind of feel like it already has. So now, it’s important for me to finally get this over with. Because I need to do damage control on what I’ve put my body through up until now and take care of myself for the long run, and because I need to really start living my life like its supposed to be. What it’s like now is pretty much the complete opposite of that.
Right now, I’m up near 230 lbs. I’m not entirely sure, since I haven’t been to the gym in about 3 weeks – I’ll be sure to take care of that soon.
I alternate between three sets of pants, since they’re the only things that fir me in my closet and I don’t want to waste money on clothes that aren’t going to fit me in the near future. I’m running low on shirts that fit appropriately as well. My dress style is boring and limited because of this.
I feel uncomfortable in my body at all times. I have a hard time with prolonged sitting in chairs, probably due to a combination of “office ass” and my body screaming at me to get up and move around. This isn’t the fattest I’ve ever been, but it’s been the most I’ve ever been so constantly aware of it. I’m highly attuned to all the problems that are resulting from it, like terrible posture. I’ve got a lot of goals in life, and they’re not going to happen feeling like this.
I’m a heavy user of marijuana and cigarettes. Though my usage over the past year has spiked alarmingly since I’ve been using them as emotional crutches throughout my hardships and in combination with my therapy sessions, I’m really starting to feel the adverse affects. Furthermore, I feel like I’ve reached a point where they’re just no longer useful to me. They’ve been as “helpful” as they can possibly be, and it’s time for them to go. At this point, they’re nothing but a barrier between me and my actualized self.
Now that I’m not so young anymore, I’m also highly aware of the dangers of failing to do anything about this. There’s a history of diabetes in my family. Much as it scares me to admit it, I wouldn’t be surprised to find I’m pre or near diabetic. Since I don’t have the luxury of health insurance, my only viable course of action at this point in time is to take charge of the things I can control, which is admittedly quite a lot.