Thursday, July 29, 2010

10 Rules of the Pete Diet

Yes, I will call it a diet. If you want to get in my face about it being a life change or whatever, go right ahead. It's a diet, I'm old school, and that's what I'm calling it. With that said, I thought it would be nice to explain some of the rules I have about how I'm going about my whole weight loss experience.

Some of these rules come from the books I've been reading, as mentioned in the previous post. Some rules come from common sense, friends' suggestions, or just about anything else that's popped into my head.

1. Exercise every day
Bare minimum, I have to walk 30 minutes a day. It's preferable to do it all in one shot, but it's totally cool to do 3 walks of 10 minutes each. That's simple enough -- take 10 minutes out of the lunch break to walk 5 minutes up the road, and 5 back. Two more just like that, and bada bing. In March 2010, I started from sedentary and have been building up. My first couple of walks were slow, like 2-2.5 miles an hour. I've built up to a little over 4.0 miles an hour on the walks now, and that's brisk. I took the 30 minutes to the next level and now try to get in 10,000 steps a day. That comes out to about an hour a day of walking, and while time consuming, it gets the trick done without destroying my knees. I've also added a workout routine of 20 minutes strength and muscle training three times a week. On top of all that, I do try to get at least one decent bike ride in a week too. Beyond that, I purposely do things like park farther away from work, print to the printer that's on the other side of the office, and generally find any excuse I can to be active and less sedentary. I still watch a ton of movies though, so nothing to be done there.

2. No eating after 8:30PM
That's my cut-off, and I've been fairly good about it. A couple times I've been to friend's houses and food wasn't ready until after 9PM, so I just waived my hands "no." I will consume beverages after 8:30, but that's it. There's some metabolic reasoning behind this, like my motor has basically slowed so far down that late at night that processing any food just takes longer and stores it in all the wrong places. Plus, I hardly ever get any exercise that late at night, so what's the point of putting energy in my body if I have no chance of expending any of it?

3. Keep the metabolic motor going all day
Instead of the strict 3-meals-a-day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I try as much as possible to have 5-7 smaller meals a day. It doesn't always work out, but the bottom line is, I am listening more to the demands of my stomach and trying not to overdue it any meal. I eat when I'm hungry and only to the point of satiation. If that means I need a snack at 10:30AM or 3 o'clock on the afternoon, so be it. My understanding is that keeping that metabolic motor running all day long is the best for it. There is something about not eating for too many hours that puts your metabolism into starvation mode. When that happens, I'm less hungry, food gets processed slower, and you use the wrong kind of energy to keep the body moving. Dr. Oz explains it well in his book, but here's some of the science on it.

4. Fruits and vegetables as much as possible
Sugar and glucose are good for you, but granulated sugar, fructose corn syrup and stuff like that I try to avoid. Besides, fruits and veggies have lots of fiber that's good for me, and they digest slowly in my body which is better for regulated energy dispersal. Eat your veggies, how many times have I been told that growing up? Well, now I'm finally listening.

5. As little white foods as possible
No white rice, no white bread, and no white potatoes. It takes longer to cook brown rice, but I'll have that instead. It's not that carbs are the forbidden food it's made out to be, it has to do with the speed by which this food digests and turns into sugar. With all the white stuff it happens too fast, which means I constantly want to eat more of it. With some 100% whole what bread, it just moves slower through the body, and like the fruits and veggies above, that's just better to keep my full longer throughout the day. I do eat rice & bread, I'm just making different choices about what kinds I eat. Anything that says "bleached" or "enriched" on the label, I also try to avoid. Unfortunately, those foods are cheap, so that means a few more visits to places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's to get the higher-quality food. It also means a little steeper hit to the pocketbook.

6. Never skip breakfast
Starvation mode is not good for me. If I starve myself in the morning, I will pig out for lunch and probably eat way too much around dinner time. I want to have a good steady satiation most of the day, otherwise I feel the inconsistency of my metabolism.

7. Water instead of soda or juice
I try to drink water all day long and at almost every meal. It's just good for you. It lubes your insides so all the digestion works right, but it also helps with just about everything else. I was a fiend for energy drinks over the past few years, and last summer when I took a hike with my brother near Happy Camp, CA I practically fainted from all those crazy cooked-up chemicals swimming around in my body. I vowed to never have any more of that stuff, and now I'm even trying to stay off all the rest of the wacky beverages. Those drinks are pretty much all sugar anyway, so if I was worried in any way about diabetes, nixing those from the diet was definitely a good choice.

8. Hardly ever eat red meat
The cholesterol clogs my arteries, the protein I get from it I could get from other sources, and on the modified food pyramid chart from the Eat, Drink book, it describes red meat as "eat sparingly." So, I do. Instead, I try to eat more turkey and chicken, and occasionally things like tofu.

9. Stay motivated and connected
Inspiration and motivation to keep going has to come from somewhere, and keeping the emotional wagon on the right track is needed as well as all the body dynamics. So, I talk to my family and friends about my diet and exercise. I post info on a couple of different websites, and I use services like Friendfeed, Twitter, and Facebook to keep it social.

10. Limit the diversity of tastes in a single meal
Diversity is good, but there is something to be said about trying to keep the amount of different kinds of food you eat limited, especially in a single meal. When I eat too many different flavors, I don't feel satiated enough. I notice this especially with Chinese food. There's so much going in a single dish that I just never really feel full enough, even though I know that I am. So, if I go out for Chinese, I try to get the simplest dishes, otherwise I'll just want to eat and eat and eat.

Of course there are other rules I have, but this is a good start if you wanted an idea of what kinds of things I'm doing to keep myself on the right track.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Chair That Broke The Camel's Back

My coworker challenged me back in late 2009 in a weight loss contest. I like challenges. She had just had her baby and wanted to lose that weight. Me, I had topped the scales at the highest weight I'd ever been, 330 pounds. She wanted to lose 15-20 pounds, something like that. My goal was much, much loftier. I figured 100 pounds to lose should do the trick.

Only, the thing is, I can be really lazy when it comes to stuff like this. I've been on and off many regimens in the past, and I wasn't about to start some bigger-than-life program. So, what did I do? Basically, I kept pretty much every habit I had and just made slightly different choices. For instance, fast food is a staple for me. So, instead of a Big Mac and fries, I'd get a grilled chicken sandwich with no mayo and a side salad. Same habit of grabbing food on the way home at the drive-thru, but with a somewhat healthier decision.

No changes were made to really anything else. The sedentary lifestyle continued, and over the course of three months, I managed to drop about 20 pounds. Come New Year's 2010 I make a natural resolution to keep it going, but totally failed. I fluctuated from January to March, but basically started March the same place I entered January, about 306.

So, somewhere around the second week of March, something happened. To me, it was the straw that broke the camel's back. Pathetically, it's the second time it happened too. The cheapo desk chair from Office Depot broke. Here's a picture.

It's 10 months later, and no replacement chair has been bought yet. Instead of running out to the office supply store the next day, this busted chair cycle had to be broken. It dawned on me that my bookshelf had a couple of diet books collecting dust I bought a few years back with every intention of making a go of a real life change, as they say. So, the dust was blown off two books.

Both books were bought from some distant health kick. I don't remember what inspired that buying spree, but this I know -- most everything was stuffed on a shelf, hidden in a corner of a room, or thrown into a drawer of gadgets. The purchase included a pedometer, one of those blow-up Swedish exercise balls, You: On a Diet (The Owner's Manual for Waist Management), and Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy. Why these books? I want to say it's because my intent was to get the Swedish ball and Amazon suggested these because they were best sellers. Honestly, I have no recollection of why they were chosen. As an aside, I haven't had a television or cable for going on five plus years now, so my familiarity with this Dr. Oz was nonexistent. Apparently he's on TV. In fact, I don't think I realized until just this past weekend that Waist Management book was written by him, go figure.

So after the dust settled, I cracked the cover on the You: On a Diet book. What I saw on the cover was that it was written by two doctors, so I figured it couldn't be all bad. Doctors are smart people, right? I spent the next couple days devouring the diet book, gobbling up every piece of advice I could find, and setting myself up with a new outlook on life. Yeah, this book was that good. There's good sound doctor advice, paired with incredibly down-to-earth explanations of incredibly complicated biology, simple cartoons to bring it all home, and just to top it off some recipes thrown in for good measure. It didn't hurt that I was totally inspired to action by my busted chair, which I refused to remove from my home until I was sure I was on the right path.

The other book is good too, and eventually I read it too. Eat, Drink is much denser though and intricately complex with little to no layman's explanations. In other words, this book sucks to read with a glass of wine. You need note cards and a highlighter, and I just wasn't that into studying.

So, I read a couple of diet books, so what? Well, like I said I was inspired. That weekend, I started taking some of the advice of the Dr. Oz book immediately. I started walking. This was a pretty big deal for me. I'd more-or-less been sedentary for the past five years or so (marginally related to the lack of cable TV, by the way). Also that weekend my dad and step-mom visited my brother and his family from out of state. I packed the books with me, and headed up to Windsor. I explained nothing about the chair, but that I had recently decided to get back on my horse.

My dad, brother, nephew, and sister-in-law all went for a walk that weekend, and on this walk even though the camel's back had already been broken, something else happened. The walk was simple enough, as we took a very level stroll around a lake in Sonoma County. As the walk neared it's end and we headed back to the car, there was a fork in the road. We could continue to walk the no-elevation path back or take a little hike up a hill that meandered back to the parking lot. I looked at the hill with dread in my eyes knowing my much more active family members were going to do it. Except that as we were making the decision to take the more strenuous climb, my nephew said to my brother, "But dad, I thought you said Pete can't do it." He shushed the 7-year-old quickly, but the cat was out of the bag. My pride was shattered, and I definitely couldn't go on having my nephew think that way about his Uncle Pete. We took the hard route back to the car, and while I won't say it killed me or anything, after five years of no exercise I was certainly a sweaty pig by the end of the hike.

With a busted chair and a shattered pride, I guess you could say I had a new outlook on life. It's been about five months since then, and I've already dropped another 40 pounds. The goals now are:
1) walk 10,000 steps a day
2) get myself down to my "fighting weight" as Dr. Oz puts it
3) prove my brother and my nephew wrong
4) buy a new chair when I reach my goal weight

There's more to how I've been doing it for the last 1/2 year or so, all the specifics about dietary changes, exercise routines, and ups and downs. Some of that will have to wait until another post though. Until then, I hope this gives some explanation as to the impetus for this whole life change thing.