Plateau

I’ve always been skeptical when people have reported “plateaus”. To me it sounds like a bit of bullshit that you magically stop losing weight through no fault of your own. But it’s happening to me I swear!

I’ve just run a half marathon and put in a shit-ton of effort to get around the course – easily the most exhausted I’ve ever been. The three weeks leading up to it were all 20+ mile weeks and this week probably will be too. My diet (I think) is sound. It could always be a little tighter, but right now I feel like I’m eating well, drinking no alcohol but lots of water, sleeping 8hrs a day and doing everything right. So why does the number on the scale seems to disagree?

I know there are loads of variables, I know the scale might not be a good reflection of my progress, yet after 19 months of consistent weekly losses it’s frustrating that the game seems to have changed. I’m thinking of ditching my beloved for a month or so. If the number isn’t going to behave, then I need it out of my mind. I can deal with it so long as my expectations have been adjusted: stick to the same nutritional values, train hard, trust the “science”.

Diet is the slightly grey area. I can’t show you a food log with everything I’ve eaten, so I can’t say that it isn’t a problem. This week there would have been a few bad entries, not major things but the odd extra slice of bread here and a biscuit there. I said it before, but I need to really nail that before I worry too much.

Everything else is going great.

I need a diary

Here’s a surprising NSV: my life has got busy, so busy that I need to keep a diary. Sounds like a lame victory, but for the first time since ever, my life is buzzing with activity.

The old me didn’t do anything and had no commitments. Weeks turned into months turned into years, and time was a blur of inactivity. When friends or family asked what I’d been up to, I had no answer; I think I probably fobbed them off with stuff about work, whilst secretly I levelled my Death Knight and raided with my guild.¬†In 2009, prior to starting this journey, I took 3 months off work with the intention of sorting my life out and figuring out a plan. During this time I did precisely nothing. That’s a lie, I watched every episode of The West Wing, but in real terms, nothing. Three months! I wish I could have that time back now – I promise I’d cherish every day.

Today my life is stuffed full of stuff. The next two months feels like it’s booked solid with a mixture of leisure, training, study, work and travel. It’s amazing, I actually have a life.

2010 Review

2010 was an outstanding year. I’ve mulled this over for a while, and I’m happy to call it the best year of my life. I would say that in almost every area I’ve made improvements: physical, mental and moral wellbeing; financial; professional; relationships and family. My self-esteem has grown tremendously and it’s fuelling confidence in my beliefs and actions. This whole experience has cemented within me a growth mindset and I look forward, knowing that I can change myself.

A Mental Trick

Last year I made a list of goals – things I wanted to achieve in the year. I deliberately told no one what they were. There was one guiding resolution: “Tell people what you’ve done, not what you’re going to do“. That simple mental trick made a huge difference and I still use it today. It’s a small, subtle adjustment, but it’s the difference between “I’m going to lose weight” and “I’ve lost 193lb in the last 18 months”.

For some reason this really work for me. It’s stops me day-dreaming and focuses me on the reality of making it happen. Tell people what you’ve done, not what you’re going to do.

Resolutions/Goals in 2010

So, here’s what I’ve done (my 2010 list).

Successes:-

  • Complete C25K – done (I can run 13+ miles now)
  • Take cooking lessions – done (not life changing, but done)
  • Organise my Rugby World Cup trip – done (7 weeks in NZ here I come!)
  • Eat vegetarian 2-days/week for 6 months – done (I am now a fulltime vegetarian)
  • Play rugby again – done (although I stopped pretty quickly)
  • Lose 100-150lb by Christmas – done (120lb+ lost)

Failures (that I’m happy to fail):-

  • Write a PHP framework. Abandoned: life’s too short, I’m betting my chips on Symfony2 (this is a programming/work thing)
  • Complete Justin Sandercoe’s guitar lessons. Abandoned: I don’t want to learn guitar badly enough.
  • Eat at The Fat Duck restaurant. Abandoned: due to vegetarianism

Failures (that I really failed):-

  • Generate ¬£200/month passive income (no progress)
  • Read 5 classic novels (I read 2)

Reflection

So the stuff that I’m happy to fail are things where I deliberately abandoned the goal. There’s something positive in being able to give-up things¬† you thought you wanted to do,¬† accepting that they are not important or desirable enough in reality.

The two proper failures hurt. They were things I really did want. The passive income is a part of my plans for the future. I want to create income streams that earn me money without being directly related to my time; the sort of thing where you could be sitting on a beach for a month, yet still earn money. £200/month was the starting point, this goal had tranches up to £1,000/month for 2010, so I failed big time.

Failing to read 5 classic novels annoys me, because that really shouldn’t have been hard – I was just lazy.

The successes are profound. Losing that much weight, becoming a vegetarian and being able to run a half-marathon are pretty awesome things. Playing rugby again was a great milestone, but my body just didn’t react well to it ;). Organising my trip to NZ is another big deal: I haven’t been abroad in the last 10 years* and now I’m going on an absolute dream trip. (* until I went snowboarding).

Overall I’m pleased.

2011

So if 2010 was the best year of my life, can I make 2011 better? Yes :). Or at least, I can put in equal or more effort in improving myself and my life, and see where that takes me (as I whisper a prayer to Lady Luck).

What goals have I set myself? Well, that would be telling ;).

Weigh-in #66: Sex, Gigs and Snowboarding

Peak: 435lb
Previous: 255.0lb
Current: 252.0lb
Loss this week: 3lb
Total Loss: 183lb

New low weight :). Last week was another tough one, I think I managed one run, a weights session and a bike ride. Food wasn’t tracked. I’m still feeling in a bit of a funk.

It was a pretty amazing week though, full of NSV. We had our office’s Christmas party on thursday night, which was a messy affair. Towards the end of the night we hit a club, which was perhaps only the 2nd time I’ve hit the dancefloor in anger since starting this journey. The difference between a 435lb guy trying to bust a move and a 250lb is pretty dramatic ;). I had a blast.

Friday was spent recovering from a hangover from hell. In the evening I headed over to Manchester to watch a Tim Minchin gig (best Christmas song ever). Anywhere where I’d have to be cramped into a seat used to be a huge issue for me. Theatres, lecture halls, cinemas, restaurants, trains, planes, buses were all sources of stress and for the most part I avoided them. It sounds like such a trivial thing, but to be able to sit in a seat and feel comfortable is something I will never take for granted again.

During the gig about 4 inches of snow dropped, so it was chaos afterwards. That made for some really spirited bar-hopping though, with adhoc snowball fights taking place in the streets. After one of these battles we retreated to warm up with some liquor and I spent the night partying with random group of people. One thing lead to another, and I ended up scoring with a gorgeous girl that is so out of my league now, let alone a year ago.

I haven’t yet blogged about my sex life, yet I think “looking better to the opposite sex” is a pretty huge source of motivation for anyone who wants to lose weight. It is for me at least. So here goes. At 435lb I didn’t have a sex life and I’ve been single for eons. Over the last year one of the things I’ve loosely been keeping a tab on is the interest women take in me, and thankfully that NSV has steadily been improving. It’s difficult to explain the changes, but it’s definitely not just a physical thing; the increase in my self-esteem has had a huge effect on my “game”. I’d argue that side of things has increased my attractiveness much more than the physical change, which is a fun bit of irony. I’m not going to blog about this much, but Friday night was a bunch of fun with a stranger in a hotel room. Yea! High-five!

On Saturday I had a whole day of snowboarding lessons on an indoor slope (“real snow”). This was an NSV at every turn. When I picked up my rental gear, the girl asked what size I wanted. Naturally I asked for the largest (XXL) which was met with a scrunched up face and “Whaaat? I don’t think so”. It’s these sort of unexpected, genuine, indirect compliments that are the best. I picked up a pair of XL pants which were too big on the waist, but the L were too small on the legs. Sweet! Next, I went snowboarding; I physically could not have done this a year ago. We spent 7hrs on the slope and I’m now a (really bad) snowboarder.

The next day I went into the ski shops to buy the gear I needed for the holiday. Dread descended over me as I looked at the tags of 36″ waists and XL being the biggest size. Even though I’d just been using “smaller clothes” the day before, I was still expecting that horrible feeling of not being able to fit into anything. I had a really cute sales assistant assigned to me which put the pressure on even more, “please fit, please fit, please fit”. The first pair of pants we tried… fitted. Whaaaaat?! The rest of the shopping trip pretty much went the same way, everything I went for fitted, including dropped down to a L for some bits. I got a bit excited and spent too much money, but so what! I can buy off the shelf, branded snowboard gear. I’m going snowboarding in 7 days. Awesome.

I’m not sure if I’m going to blog much before the new year, so Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. 2010 has been the best year of my life for so many reasons, thanks for sharing it with me. My mission now is to make 2011 kick it’s ass :).

Harry x

The Beginning Of The End

I’ve been struggling to write a follow-up to my sidebar-series of posts that summarise my journey so far. There has been a beginning and a middle, but since then my progress hasn’t felt as profound and it’s been hard to sum up my experiences. Yep – I’ve lost more weight and I’m going in the right direction, but where are all the fireworks? I’ve been in the doldrums, just ticking along and crossing the pounds off – there’s been no real noticeable change in my life.

Maybe things have been changing and I haven’t noticed until now, or perhaps the little things are all starting to clump together, but I can feel something is starting to happen; it’s almost imperceptible, I can’t put my finger on one single thing, but it’s definitely there.

Breaking the 280lb milestone

Boom! This one wasn’t subtle at all, this was a huge milestone: in my mind this is the line between obese and overweight. If someone stopped me on the street and asked me my weight, I’d happily tell them “19st-something”; they’d get a dirty look if I was 280lb+.

It is only a number, but this one mattered.

Playing rugby again

Hmn, maybe these changes aren’t so small after all! I’ve been looking forward to this since Christmas last year, when I placed it on my 2011 life-list.

Since drafting this post I’ve stopped playing (it’s too rough for me and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would).

It’s been a nice reality check to be exercising with “normal” guys, being able to gauge my fitness against them. This fits with the theme of no longer being “obese”: I’m comparing my size and ability with the general population and not some special edge-case; this is the same feeling as running 10K – it’s something most people can’t do, regardless of their weight. The way I see it, I’ve completed Level-1 and progressed to Level-2, where I’m on the bottom rung of the ladder; I’m a small fish in a big pond once more.

There are also two guys at the club who are bigger than me! There have been some conversations, where I would expect to be grouped with these guys, but instead it feels like I’ve been classified differently. It’s hard to explain, it’s almost like the conversation wouldn’t “previously” have taken place in front of me – for example talking about how one of the bigger guys was bursting out of his jersey, or how we lost the game because the opposition had “a couple of really big fat blokes”; hang on a sec, isn’t that me? Apparently not. Talking about weight, fatness and obesity is no longer a taboo subject around me.

Clothes

Big-man shops are too big for me! I’m now in a frustrating limbo though – normal shops are generally too small for me. Not that I’m moaning, gimme another 6 months and this won’t be a problem. It makes me smile, knowing that once I hit a certain size there will be an inevitable fashion binge; I can’t wait to choose what I wear without size restrictions.

Girls, Girls, Girls

In my experience, a 435lb guy has zero chance of picking up women. The odds are much better for a 270lb guy ;-).

I’m not sure where the tipping point was, but the combination of looking better and feeling better is making it much easier to flirt. I’m more confident with my self, my body and my lifestyle, and just chatting with people is coming more naturally. Hopefully it will just snowball from here.

My self-esteem has taken a huge leap forward. At the risk of sounding like Narcissus, I fancy myself! This might sound strange, but I’d go out with me. I feel that I have value and worth, something to offer someone else. If I like me, then I can see how someone else might, which makes all the difference.

My Identity

I caught my mum staring at me the other day, she had a look in her eye that suggested “Who is that guy and what has he done with my son?”. It was a look of disbelief.

Who I am, and who other people think I am, has fundamentally changed. I’m no longer a depressed obese guy who’s just getting by: I’m nutrition conscious, fitness junkie, who has grabbed life by the scruff of the neck and is kicking its ass. Oh, and I just happen to be overweight at the moment.

People seem to be taking me more seriously, including myself! My achievements in the last year have boosted my credibility: who wants to bet against the man who has just done this “impossible” thing?

Inside, I’m the same person I’ve known for 28yrs, but the external manifestation of “me” has changed. All the things I’ve dreamed about doing, being and saying are gradually being released. This is the real me, the one that I’ve always known I could be, free from the restrictions of my weight and mind.

I’m happy

I don’t dance around shooting sunshine from my eyes, but I am happy. It’s a deep contentedness, that I only notice when I quietly reflect on life. I have the usual daily ups and downs, but when it comes to the crunch, I’m deeply happy with all the big stuff.

In fact, just thinking about this stuff… I am now dancing around the kitchen, with my happiness lazer beams on full power.

Happy
Happy

This is the beginning of the end of my weight-loss.

Happiness is…

I think I’ve just had an epiphany, whilst writing the following comment to my previous post:-

I’m so excited about the next 6-12 months. I used to want an immediate cure, to be instantly at my goal weight – what I’d have paid for that superpower! But now, I’m just enjoying the whole process.

Honestly, if a genie offered to transport me 12 months into the future, putting me at my goal weight, I’d turn him down: I’m enjoying my now too much.

There are many things I’d like to change in my life, but they’re all in the process of being changed. What more could I ask for?

More Posing (pics!)

About every 6 months I go to a geek conference in the UK. A friend of mine is a decent photographer and he often takes some nice shots at these events, including some cracking portraits. A couple of years ago he snapped me and I was mortified when it appeared in his Flickr stream:-

Holy Crap
Holy Crap

Last weekend we met at another event and he snapped this:-

Nice!
Nice!

I love this photo! Perhaps my favourite picture of myself ever.

Here’s another quick before/after, using a before from 1st Nov 2009. (I’ll post a proper “+1yr” version of the before in a couple of weeks).

Same guy?
Same guy?

Not bad eh?

And So It Starts!

Man, I’m so excited – my new trainer (Marchy) is a professional strength & conditioning coach, who currently works with Bath Rugby, which is a premiership team (highest standard of the game in this country). His day-job is working with elite, international rugby players to improve their strength/fitness/speed; on the side, he has setup a business offering his services online/remotely, which means I’m going to get some of the best advice possible. I’m not sure I can overstate how cool this: I’m being trained by a guy who trains the people I watch on TV.

It starts tomorrow. I’ve got a weights testing session in the morning in which I need to determine how much I can lift for various movements, so that he can tailor the regular workouts around my current ability. In the evening I have regular club-training, but also have some “extras” to do, depending on how hard we’re pushed; I’ve got a feeling that the normal rugby training offered by the club is going to be more about organising the team/skills/moves, rather than fitness and conditioning, so the extras will be a way to tag on some fitness work. The preliminary schedule looks something like this:-

Mon: fitness drills (various HIIT).
Tue: AM – weights; PM – club training + extras.
Wed: fitness drills (various HIIT).
Thu: AM – weights; PM – club training + extras.
Fri: Rest
Sat: Game Day!
Sun: Active recovery (swim)

So 4 days of workouts followed by a game, with some rest days in between. I’m going to hit this new regime so hard, I’m so up for it! This is the start of taking my journey to another level, it’s no longer just about “not being obese” it’s about being an athlete. But best of all, it’s going to be centered around playing rugby. My usual running schedule has been scrapped for the moment. Every now and again, probably when there is no match at the weekend, I will put in a long run to test my endurance, but being able to run a half marathon has dropped down my priorities a little. Maybe nearer the race we’ll switch things up a bit, but I’m sure it’s not going to be an issue – if I’m fit for rugby I will be able to run the distance. One thing really stuck in my head when I spoke to Marchy is the following: “If you’re working with me, I’ll be very surprised if you’re not the fittest player on your club team”. Fuck yea, that’s what it’s about! When I look at the players on my team there are some reasonably fit guys, and even though he knows this and he knows my current size and background, he’s expecting make me fitter than that.

My work hours are down to 20hrs/week now and this is now turning into my first experiment in lifestyle design: I am working enough hours to pay my bills, and freeing up the rest of the time to pursue whatever my heart desires. Today I also enrolled in the Open University to take the first course that will eventually lead to a degree in Philosophy/Psychology (just for fun). My life over the next year will be a mixture of work, study and training; perfect.

Unscientific report on fat/muscle loss

My scales have bio-impedance built in, which means in addition to my weight, they give me my “muscle”, “fat” and “water” percentage breakdowns – ie my body composition. The technology isn’t great yet and I don’t have much faith in the numbers they report, however it is a measurement that can be compared over time.

I could only find 1 recorded measurement of the muscle-mass number and that was for week 18 (28.2%). I hopped on the scale this morning to get something to compare it with (32.2%).

Week 18: 365.2lb @ 28.2% = 103lb
Week 49: 287.4 @ 32.2% = 92.5lb
Difference = 10.5lb

So in 78lb of total weight lost, 10.5lb (13.5%) of that was muscle. That seems like a pretty fair deal to me, even if the numbers are make-believe.

The reason I mention this is because I think my progress over the next 6 months is going to be less about the scale and more about other numbers. In my “3 Chapters” plan Chapter 2, which I’m about to start, is about going from “normal fat person” down to “normal person”, ie continuing my weight loss for another 6-9 months and getting down to my goal of 217lb. Chapter 3 was about then going from “normal person” into “cor blimey, you’re fit!”, where the focus was on body composition and bulging muscles. The reason this might change is the rugby 🙂

Having had a taster of what I was missing, I’m now feeling very motivated to get back into it. I had planned to have a PT re-evaluate my weight-lifting anyway, but with the addition of rugby training, games and my running, I’m getting a little overwhelmed as to what I should be doing. So instead of having a generic PT look at my weights, I’m going to have a rugby strength/conditioning specialist look at the overall picture. Right now I’m not sure what such a program would look like, but I imagine it’ll be more calories and more hardcore training :). That might mean my weight loss slows down, or goes up as I put on extra muscle, so I’m going to need to look at other measurements to track my progress (in addition to the trusty scale of course).

I’m really excited. With my drop to part time work I’m going to have loads of time to dedicate to training, how good is that? :D.

First 10K, on 10/10/10 at 10am

http://www.sheffield10k.com

I’m a huge geek and I just couldn’t say no to running a 10K on 10/10/10 at 10am :D.

It’ll be my first proper race and I’m excited. Coincidentally, the route is exactly the same as my new long route; I was a little apprehensive about signing up, until I realised that I’ll be running at least the same 10K every weekend anyway. Because that’s what I do! During the week I knock out a couple of 5Ks, then I’ll do a 10K at the weekend for a laugh. WHAT!?! So. Fucking. Surreal. I’m sitting here with a big WTF grin on my face :). Most of time I down-play the last year, but right now the difference feels unbelievable.

I am almost convinced that I am the fittest I’ve ever been, the lingering doubt is how I’ll perform playing rugby. The more I think about it the more I’m calling bullshit on this doubt though: even when I was playing regularly I couldn’t run like I do now. Perhaps it’s a different type of fitness, strength and burst rather than endurance, but still, my long runs are at an average of 80% max HR for 60 minutes – that’s gotta be way fitter than I’ve ever been. I’m nervous about tomorrow, my first rugby session, but so excited too. Bring it.

Sidenote – I have a stinking cold: my nose is bunged up and I’m coughing and spluttering. Sounds like a perfect excuse not exercise – “I’m sick” – but that thought never crossed my mind. Get the fuck out of my way Mr Rhinovirus!