Was away for the weekend – back on the diet & exercise

As I posted yesterday, I was out of town for a long weekend and wasn’t able to ‘diet’ properly, so I just tried to eat mostly protein and keep carbs limited to fruit and veg, with bread to a minimum…actually that doesn’t sound much different to a normal low-carb diet week!

Because we were camping and had a BBQ and a couple of gas canister cooking plates, we bought food for breakfast each day (basically bacon and eggs, except for the final day, when I had muesli because of the time it took to take down the tent and pack up). We also bought food for dinner for a couple of nights (lamb burgers one night and burgers & kebabs another night). Then we ate out a couple of nights – Nando’s for lots of chicken (no fries) and a cheat meal at Pizza Hut on the last night. At the actual Festival of Spee, we ate (mostly) sensibly, while carrying around lots of water (with ice packs) and tons fruit to munch on. It was ‘festival food’, so mostly burgers, roast beef, etc., (I didn’t have much of the bread, just a couple of bites) but we did have ice cream a couple of times as a treat.

So after four days away I weighed myself yesterday morning and was just under 93kg, about the same weight I was last Wednesday when we left! Mission accomplished – I didn’t want to gain any weight over the weekend, so woo-hoo!

Yesterday I had a killer migraine, and I was still tired from all the driving/walking/sun, so no mountain biking, but I’ll pick up where I left off with the lifting tonight, after I finish unpacking the car and before watching the Uruguay/Netherlands World Cup game.

My lowest weight in many many years

Down to 91.8kg (202.4 lbs) this morning, I’m really surprised.

I haven’t worked out in a week (no lifting, no bike riding) because I hurt my back a couple of Fridays ago and had to have near-total bed rest for a few days, and even now walking for more than 30 minutes or so can give me some pains. So with the reduced exercise capacity I’ve reduced my calorie intake (when exercising 5-6 days a week I require 3000 calories a day), and I’ve been losing weight steadily for several days now.

I’m aiming for 200 lbs (about 90kg) and I’m well on course for that, but I’m on holiday from Wednesday so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to stick to mostly low-carb stuff. It shouldn’t be too bad really, it’s a weekend festival/camping thing down south so we’ll be able to buy food from a grocery store each day.

Weight plateau broken?

Every dieter hits a ‘plateau’ – a time when they seem to stop losing weight. I’ve been on about 95kg for a couple of weeks now and tried not to worry about it, just eating the same stuff I’ve been eating and going on with my life.

I think my plateau may have broken, though. I did a fruit fast all day yesterday (apples & bananas only), mainly because I woke up late and didn’t have time to make breakfast, then I figured what the hell, I’ll just have fruit today. This morning I’m at 93.3kg (~205 lbs). I’ll have to see if that sticks for the next couple of days, but it was nice to get back to bacon and eggs this morning.

Definitely on a plateau

I’m nearing the end of my third week on low-carb. Most days I’m under 30-40g of carbs, except for cheat days when I might be about 150-200g. I’ve lost a few pounds, gone from about 213 to a steady 208, but I haven’t moved in weight or body fat % in a week and a half.

Until I hurt my back last Friday I was alternating lifting/intervals 5 to 6 days a week, so I’m not sure I can increase the intensity of my workouts. And hopefully it won’t be too long before I can start up again!

But to break this plateau I think I’ll have to drop the amount of calories I try to take in. On the days I do try to count calories (not with a book, but with the Daily Plate website on Livestrong.com) I’m trying to get to 2300 calories, which was figured out from an active calorie requirement of 3000 calories minus a 20-25% deficit to encourage weight loss. So maybe I should try to get to 2000-2100 calories instead, and continue my working out. I’m just not sure, because the working out will require calories to encourage muscle growth.

Will have to ask around on this one, methinks!

Low-carb update

OK, a little update.

If you recall, I did the Xtreme Fat Loss Diet, which I started on the 5th of May. I ended it at the end of May, with a couple of days of slippage here and there. But I did 95% of the workouts I was supposed to do, plus fast days, shake days and more, on and on.

After that ended, I ate sensibly for a few days, then last week I started a low-carb diet combined with regular exercise 5-6 days a week (weightlifting and HIIT) and 2 days of fasting per week.

Here’s the weight chart, starting from the 5th of May all the way to today:

The solid circles are actual weight checks, the empty circles are estimated weights for that day. The blue line is my weighted average weight, and when I weighed less than my average weight that shows up as green, above-average weights are red. So the more I’m in the green, the better. It looks more complicated than it is!

As you can see, at the beginning of the Xtreme Fat Loss Diet (XFLD from now on) I was about 98.7, and at the end of the month I was about 97.3. I lost about two and a half pounds or just over a kilogram.

Since the end of the XFLD and starting a low-carb diet, I’ve gone from 97.5 down to 94.5 or so…I don’t know about you, but that’s more weight lost in a week than I lost in the previous month.

This is the longest I’ve been under 210 lbs for years, probably since I was actually gaining weight from 200 to 220. When I moved to the UK I was 225 lbs, or 102.3kg, so I’ve lost over 15 lbs in 6.5 years. Not too shabby, but I want to lose more.

One thing I’ll have to change is fasting on days I’m set to go mountain biking, or maybe taking in a protein/carb shake before setting off – yesterday I was really really tired for the second half of the ride, but part of that was my ride partners not stopping to rest very often. That’s OK since I have to be pushed a bit, but I was getting pretty damn tired in places I hadn’t been tired before! I’ll have to try biking with something in my stomach first, if that doesn’t work I’ll move my fasting day.

Continuing…

I’m kind of on my second or third day of it, and it’s going alright.

Sunday was Cheat Day, which coincided nicely with a christening I attended and some nice dessert.

At about 7 or 8 PM I stopped eating and didn’t eat or drink anything with calories until about 8 PM Monday, making the first 24-hour Fast Day of the week. In case anyone thinks this fasting thing is dangerous, my own personal example was that I basically drank plain or slightly flavored water all day long, then went mountain biking for a couple of hours in the evening. I didn’t feel any better or worse than when I would ride on a normal (eating) day, but with all the extra body water I was sweating puddles the entire time.

After the bike ride I stopped in with my ride partner at Burger King and wolfed down a Triple Whopper Meal (with Diet Coke). I was going to get just the burger and leave out the fries, but the full meal was a little over £1 more, so I decided to have it.

Today I had a breakfast of scrambled eggs with salsa and cheese, and for lunch I had a big lettuce salad and half a roast chicken – I should have prepared the chicken at home but I didn’t have salad anyway.

I’m going to try to stay with a full-on low-carb diet, meaning less than 50 grams of carbs on most days (which is surprisingly easy if you stay away from breads and cereals) and about 145g of protein per day (based on 1.5g per kilo of body weight) because I’m exercising – this protein suggestion comes from the latest Atkins diet book.

I’ll have to avoid having potatoes and bread and all that  stuff, for the most part, which shouldn’t be too hard, but I can have a small amount for lunch or for an early dinner (up to about 6 or 7 PM)…and of course on cheat day!

I think the key for me to remember is that if I can’t follow THE DIET 100% that’s OK, as long as I follow it most of the time – this is what many people (trainers, health practitioners and even life coaches call the 80/20 rule: follow the plan 80% of the time…the rest, well, whatever. Some trainers suggest a stricter 90/10 split, but the idea is to stick to your plan most of the time. The ‘cheat’ time helps psychologically and if you have actual food cravings.

Anyway, like I mentioned before in previous posts with this ‘Xtreme’ diet out of the way, I am now used to doing regular exercise, sticking to meal plans, tracking my food, etc. This makes this next sort of ‘phase’ of dieting easier for me to follow, because I’ve done the crazy hard bit and hopefully I can lose weight steadily – and if I don’t lose actual body mass I’ll be losing fat and gaining muscle, which is fine by me.

Diet, next step

The next ‘phase’ of the diet (actually just another diet, but much less intense than the last one) will probably be an amalgamation of the Eat Stop Eat diet, but with cheat days, similar to the program I just finished.

The Eat Stop Eat ‘plan’ is basically eating what normal healthy food you eat, but you  fast for 1 or 2 24-hr periods during the week – there’s an e-book you can buy that explains the science behind it, but that is literally the whole plan. It’s called ‘Intermittent Fasting’, or ‘IF’ to abbreviate.

Each week I’ll weigh myself, figure out my calorie needs to maintain my weight, then eat what I need on non-fasting days, and on the days I fast I just won’t have anything but non-calorie drinks, so I’ll be operating at a slight calorie deficit over the course of the week.

I’ve read through some other diet programs, ideas and sites (the ones without loads of salesy marketing garbage), and many of these advocate intermittent fasting (shortened to IF) as well as occasional cheat days – usually once a week. The cheat days, as I think I’ve explained before, boost various hormone levels and ‘trick’ your body into raising the levels of these hormones (insulin and leptin), which make your body burn off calories (if I’m remembering the literature right, I’m no expert).

In addition, now that I’m used to fasting for a day or two at a time on this ‘xtreme’ diet I can do it once or twice a week easily, and the IF folks say there’s a definite advantage to working out while fasted. I think I could do it from Sunday 8 PM to Monday 8 PM easily, since that is when I usually say bye to my GF, and then from Thursday 8 PM to Friday 8 PM, since Friday is usually when I next see my GF, so it works out socially and all, as well. The cheat day could be Sundays (Sunday roast and junk food during the Grand Prix) or Wednesdays when I do my D&D gaming and there’s usually lots of crisps and wine gums.

(By the way, another intermittent fasting plan is the Warrior Diet, which consists of snacking on fruit and veg during the day but having nothing else but water, then at night, have a massive meal of anything healthy that you want until you’re comfortably full. Combine this with heavy workouts and you’re doing the Warrior Diet. But some people have trouble with the Warrior Diet and think it can lead to eating junk to fill you up, when you’re supposed to eat healthy stuff, but still carbs. The same problem can happen with Eat Stop Eat, where you might trick yourself into eating a big meal at the end of your 24-hr fast – you’re just supposed to eat a normal-size dinner of 600-1000 calories.)

So the idea is that if you follow up a high-carb cheat day with a hard workout and a short fasting period you burn off lots of calories – and hopefully fat as well.

Hopefully I’ll lose half a kilo to a kilo per week by simply eating normal healthy food, fasting once or twice a week, and working out 3 times a week.

Finally, now that I ‘know’ I can wake up early and work out, then shower and go to work (just like how I’ve cycle commuted 16mi to work twice in a row so I ‘know’ it can be done – basically just confidence I can do it), I should be able to do this once or twice a week as needed, when I don’t have time in the evenings. That was I can get in 3 workouts a weeks and have proper rest days between them and everything.

Diet, the wrap-up

So the big ‘xtreme’ diet is over, and the first thing that will be asked is: Did the damn thing work? Did all the fasting, pills, protein powders and working out help?

Well, overall, I feel better, and some of my ‘dimensions’ have improved: my waist has gone down by almost 1.5 inches (bringing my Waist-to-Height Ratio down quite a bit, from 60.5 to 58.7, very close to the merely ‘overweight’ range) and my bicep measurement has gone up almost one and a half inches. My weight has stayed about the same, but I’ve put on more muscle (evidenced by my arm measurement), which weighs more than fat, so overall I’m fitter. I sit up straighter in my chair at work, like I usually do when I’m exercising regularly, and of course I’m more conscious of things such as the starchy carb content in my meals, calories in my drinks, etc. I’m not nutty about it (I think – but if I mention this to anyone they’re like ‘HURF HURF you’re all mentalist crazy dieter now!’) but I’m aware of these things.

So – did I get the results promised in the ‘Xtreme Fat Loss Diet‘? Well, the diet promises that you can lose up to 20-25 pounds – like I said above I didn’t lose any, but I wasn’t expecting to drop below 200 lbs doing this diet. I was hoping to lose 10-15 pounds, which I didn’t, but I have added muscle while losing a little weight, which means I have lost fat, which is good.

I suppose the next question would be what went ‘wrong’, why didn’t I lose loads of weight? There’s actually a few things here and there. The first thing is that the diet wasn’t a failure – I’m well on the road to regular, consistent exercise and eating healthily, kind of like a 4-week health bootcamp. But there were hiccups, for sure. On at least a couple of the Moderate Carb days, I had a fast food meal (leaving out the fries) and for one of those meals I had a full-fat Coke due to an ordering mix-up (not mine). I also went on a weekend holiday, so had to improvise on food due to eating out and camping, plus I missed a couple of workouts that weekend. Then the following weekend I went on a heaving drinking night, (for a friend’s bachelor party) and didn’t do anything the following day.

To top it off, I was using a cheap, crappy body fat measuring thing to figure out my body fat percentage (I was getting regular readings of just over 30% every time) and I forgot my digital scale at my girlfriend’s a couple of weeks ago, so I haven’t been able to get scale readings when I should. I am able to hop on the shipping scale at work, but if I do that it’s not at a consistent time (I like to weigh myself after waking, after the toilet and before the shower, consistently) and I’m wearing clothes so I have to fudge off some imagined weight for my clothes. I just today received a good body monitor scale (Tanita brand, recommended by pro trainers) and the body fat measurement came to 22.4% – and there’s no way I could have lost 8% body fat from yesterday (when I measured with the cheap handheld thing) to today. No way in hell. So – forgetfulness and equipment failures prevent me from providing a full and accurate way to track my progress, and for now I have to rely on guesstimates from the measurements I can get.

Will I try the Xtreme Fat Loss Diet again? Not sure yet, but I might. I believe in the science of it, with the carb-loading on cheat days, the fasting and shake days, plus the targeted workouts depending on what day of the cycle you’re on. If you try to explain it to anyone you sound like a raving crazy person, but people expect that of me anyway 🙂

Now for the money question, literally: Will I ask for a refund of my $67? To be honest, I’m not sure yet. I could, the program allows a 60-day no-questions-asked returns policy, but I don’t know yet. I didn’t see the weight drop off like I thought I would could, but then again I wasn’t able to follow the program to a ‘T’. I’ll have to think about it.

Diet, day 26

Well, I’m nearing the end of the diet, I’m on the last 5-day cycle (there are five 5-day cycles to go through).

Technically I should have finished yesterday, but I took a few days off here and there because of a weekend holiday trip and a lad’s night out for a friend who’s getting married soon. I ate sensibly on the holiday trip and even worked out on one of the days I was out of town, and the stag night turned out to be on the final cheat day, so that was alright – except for the copious amount of drinking I did, which was mostly low-calorie drinks except for bottle of cider, a bottle of wine and a white Russian. The day after the night out was meant to be a fast day but I was far too tired to care, but I didn’t gorge myself and ate a mostly-protein breakfast and ate a bit during the day.

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to get on a proper scale for a week or so, but I was able to get on the big postal box scale at work and at the start of cycle 4 I was about the same weight as at the start of cycle 3. I’m hoping I will have lost another kilo or so by the end of cycle 5, but I think I’m a ways off losing the 4-7kg I was hoping to drop at the start of the diet. The thing is, I don’t really know, but basically I’ll have to see where I am at the finish. I didn’t think I’d get the ‘up to 20-25 pounds’ promised in the diet literature, so I was hoping to be realistic with 10-15 pounds! 🙂

Another thing to consider, though, is that I’m probably putting on a nice amount of muscle, which weighs more than fat. I can almost certainly feel more muscle in my biceps, although my chest looks about the same. My legs have always been fairly muscular, if I can admit/brag about that, so no big changes there, but my arms definitely feel stronger. I haven’t measured my waist in a while either, but I’m hoping to be down another 1 to 1.5 inches for a total of 3 inches dropped in my waist by the end.

Is it a bit too early to be thinking and talking about what I’m expecting by Thursday? I don’t know, it’s just a couple of days to go and I’m looking forward to shifting to a different diet and a new workout routine. More on that later…

Diet, day 12

Fast Day again, uggghh. Not fun.

Have felt pretty weak and even light-headed, so much so that for lunch I had to have a flapjack (baked oat/sugar cake popular with backpackers and trekkers in the UK) in addition to the 8 massive tablets of BCAA protein for the 1 PM meal.

To give an idea of the pills, here’s a picture of an entire day’s ‘meals’ of protein tablets:

I did okay last Wednesday with the fast day, and at the end of the day I had a table full of chips/crisps (excuse the American/British terminology duplication), plus wine gums, Maltesers and assorted other candies in front of me, but a friend of mine was giving me moral support and not imbibing either. I suppose today the flapjacks were just conveniently right next to me and I’m freaking STARVING.

Some diet pros might say ‘well you were listening to your body’, which makes you feel fine about cheating, but then again I was cheating all day yesterday and today’s plan is to fast…oh well. I’m not kicking myself about it too hard, but last week I was able to make it and this time I wasn’t. One flapjack won’t throw me off too much.