Losing Weight, Gaining Life!

The Alternate Day DietLast night I ran into a friend whom I hadn’t seen since December. She was shocked at how different I looked. Since January 18, I’ve been following a program called The Alternate-Day Diet. I started at 225 lbs. (102 kg) and had a BMI of 33. A few days ago, I weighed in 202.5 lbs. (92 kg, BMI 29.9), a loss of 22.5 pounds or 10% of my starting weight in less than 13 weeks. And 20 lbs of my loss has been fat. I’m looking and feeling younger and I’m really looking forward to continuing the progress.

Why was she shocked? I’ve been obese now for a long time. I crossed into 200-pound-plus territory in 1998, never to return, except for a brief, ill-fated flirtation with the Atkins diet.

Until now, nothing else has helped me take it off. Several years ago, I tried Weight Watchers and found it decent for the strongly-disciplined, but I found counting points tedious and unendurable after a few months. Last year, I attempted the “mindfulness” approach described in I Can Make You Thin by Phil McKenna and The Gabriel Method by Jon Gabriel. It seemed dead-on in principle, but required a tremendous amount of time spent in mental conditioning, and the effort the constant mindfulness required was too difficult for me to keep with it.

The gist of The Alternate-Day Diet is to eat very lightly (really a modified fast) every other day. And on “up” days, eat just your usual amount. I’m keeping myself to around 500 calories on the short days … a few pieces of fruit and a protein bar, and another snack, like microwave popcorn or low-fat cottage cheese. I’ve found that as long as I spread my little snacks well throughout the day, I’m very seldom hungry unless I stay up very late.

The diet isn’t restrictive about what to eat at all… only that for weight-loss, you should limit your “down” days to about 25% of your typical intake. However, to use the diet simply for the benefits of the calorie restriction lifestyle, down days can be as much as 50% of regular intake. “Good” food is encouraged, of course, and the author says that most followers soon find themselves preferring healthier choices. That certainly has been my experience. On my up days, I tend to eat wraps and salads, heavy on vegetables, but often including eggs, cheese or fish. Sometimes I also enjoy a nice dessert. I’m losing my taste for many fried foods—I haven’t had or even wanted French fries since starting, and the thought of a heavy Chinese dish with fried rice actually repels me now. (On the other hand, I still have a weakness for tortilla chips!)

I’ve been blogging my progress on my review of the book at Amazon.

Since I’m training for a half-marathon in September, and I’m currently running about 10 miles per week, there’s a question of whether the weight loss is from the eating program or the running program. I believe it’s almost entirely from the eating program, because last fall I was training even more vigorously than I am now, and I didn’t lose a pound during three months of training. Seriously, my weight was as unchanging as a rock — 225, 225, 225 during the whole period, give or take a pound. More evidence is that in February, I was sidelined with an Achilles’ injury, and not running at all. I lost as much weight during that period as I did in March, when I resumed my running.

However, a mixture of cardio and strength training actually is part of the ADD, although it’s not emphasized and gets easily overlooked.

My goals? At first, I was thinking of shooting for a weight goal, 162 lbs (BMI 24), and possibly down to 145 lbs (BMI 21.5) which is where I stabilized when I got into great shape the first time. However, I’ve been reading about the advantages of Waist-to-Height Ratio over BMI as a fitness measure, and that, combined with the fact that I’m not being drawn to a low-fat diet like I was 20 years ago, makes me think a waist goal, rather than a weight goal, is more in order. My primary goal will be 34 in. (WHtR 49%), and then, I may decide to go further. We’ll see.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to many more celebrations along the journey: crossing the 200-pound mark, breaking 190, buying new pants, and so forth. But the main thing is just the newness, freshness, strength and vitality I feel. It frims!

Marathon (and other) updates

I won’t be running in the Shamrock Marathon this month. I had some substantial problems with my left Achilles’ tendon, and after some rest, a lot of physical therapy, a couple of shoe changes, and wearing an ankle brace, I think that’s behind me, as long as I go slow in building up to the distance. These problems started in late December. At that time, I changed my plans to run in the half-marathon event instead of the full marathon, but my Achilles’ problem kept flaring up, and I was never able to run more than seven miles without tremendous difficulty.

So now, I’m training for the Rock-and-Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach in September. That should give me ample time to train without hurting myself. I’m looking forward to it!

Other news:
La Sagrada FamiliaI’ll be going on vacation to Barcelona and Majorca this summer. I’ve dreamed about this for years. My dad will be coming along with me, and I think this is going to be an amazing experience for both of us.

I’ve been trying to studying both Spanish and Catalan this year, but I’m finding that studying two languages at once, especially if they’re closely related, is really difficult. The result is that I haven’t really studied much of either so far this year. I have a pretty good base in Spanish now, which I’ve been studying off and on for about three years, but my Catalan is very basic, and it’s tough to find good learning materials and anyone to practice with.

I love Catalan and really want to learn it (it’s like a cross between Spanish and French, spoken with a Russian accent); but I’ve come to realize that I need to give Spanish priority. That way I when I get there I’ll have a very decent grasp of one of the area’s languages. If I try to concentrate on Catalan alone for a few months, I probably won’t be very good in either one when I get there. (Sigh.)

I’m planning not just on going to Esperanto USA’s national congress this year as usual, but I may actually be giving a workshop in Esperanto there. (Public speaking in a foreign language! Just a couple of years ago that would have been unimaginable to me.)

Marathon(s) update

Well, the writing marathon, NaNoWriMo, is finally over. I and my friends Zach and Margreet all won, which is to say, we completed the challenge of writing a 50,000-word rough draft of a novel.

Now, some friends have enquired about when they can read my work, is it public yet, is it “finished” yet, and so on. Here’s an excerpt from an email I sent to a good friend about that:

… I’m discovering that the words “rough draft” seem to mean wildly different things depending on the author, the book, and to non-writers.

I’ve got friends asking me to post it online, as though this is something slightly less polished than the book I envision. NOTHING could be farther from the truth.

I tweeted that my rough draft is so rough, it makes the surface of Mars look like glass by comparison!

The main story arc is pretty much finished… needs to be fleshed out, and needs an epilogue… everything is about as sketchy as can be… Most of the minor characters still are named with XXX as a placeholder!

So, yeah, I pretty much finished a “rough draft” in the roughest, draftiest, most skeletal sense of the word, but yeah, there’s a heck of a lot more for me to discover!

2009 NaNoWriMo winner badgeOr to put it more concisely… you don’t even want to think about reading it in this state… I’m probably going to take many months to revise it. I do think it’s a good science-fiction story, and will be seeking to publish it eventually.

As for running, my eight weeks of preliminary conditioning are over, and I’m officially on the training program of The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer. Last night I jogged four miles. Sunday, I’ll do five. And on March 21st, I’ll do more than 26. It’s exciting, and I’ve got to say, endorphins are the best drug in the world! They make it worth it, even in spite of sores, rain, and slogging through mud.

These continuing projects, both turning the draft into a book, and turning myself into a marathoner are great challenges, but I’m already off to a great start, and I’m enjoying the heck out of them.

Re-Centering

A good friend of mine told me that my mother’s death would change me. He was right.

I’ve found that I’m re-prioritizing things in my life. I’m wanting to integrate into my life more of the things that I’ve neglected and strike a better balance. One of those areas is the body. Seeing death up close has reminded me that this body only lasts a relatively short time under the best of circumstances, and I’ve not been giving mine the best. So in addition to my semi-vegan diet, I’m exercising more, and I’m currently in training for a 5k run in early May. (Man, have I got a long way to go!)

But things are already progressing well. I now can run 1600 meters (that’s a mile for my fellow Americans) without pausing or feeling exhausted, and I’m getting a little bit closer to getting back into shape every day.

I’ve also become aware of how much of my life has been spent sitting on my butt in front of computer screens. I really want to reduce that a bit. I’m not talking about changing my work, but I might be talking about changing my play. Parkour, anyone? Of course, I know I’m not ready for that yet. (Emphasis on yet.)