Journal Entry

Okay, here’s the deal with Lost. About a year ago, the writers and producers worked out a deal which gave the series three more seasons (4, 5, and 6, and we’re currently late in season 4), of 16 episodes each.

Because of the writer’s strike, season 4 is only going to be 14 episodes long, missing 2 of the promised 16. Yesterday it was announced that seasons 5 and 6 will both be extended by one episode, bringing the total of all three seasons back in line with initial expectations.

As for the end of season 4, I’ve heard that the writers were granted an extra hour for the season finale (making it 2 hours instead of 1, naturally). I don’t know if that extra hour counts as one of the fourteen episodes in season 4, or if it’s like getting an extra hour. Finding that out would take some minor research, and I’m not going to do that.

Now, as far as journaling goes, yesterday I got home from work, went to the gym, and then came home and spent most of the evening burning DVDs and getting my computer ready for an OS rebuild. Nothing very interesting.

I did nearly weep in frustration when I was at the gym. K– and N–, if you’re reading this, you can probably just skip the rest of the post. Everybody else, too. I’m going to whine about my weight loss problems.

Here’s the story. Several years ago (summer of 2003, I think it was), I got severely sick late in July — lots of nausea, for weeks at a time — and I lost ten or fifteen pounds from not eating at all. Even when I got better, I basically starved myself for a couple months. I was in a depressive funk, and not taking care of myself. It had nothing to do with trying to lose weight, but I dropped twenty or thirty pounds over that time.

Then, noticing that, I decided to start taking some metabolism pills daily, and that really got things going. I walked a lot of mornings, working on my writing projects, but I wasn’t too consistent and I never walked at anything above a stroll. Still, before the end of the year, I was down to 190 pounds — the lowest I’d been since early in high school. At my build, 180 pounds is just about perfect (assuming a little bit of muscle tone).

Anyway, obviously, I didn’t keep that up. I put all the pounds back on gradually, and by 2005 I was my same old self — hovering around 240.

Last year, starting late in June, I decided to get in shape again. Remembering how much success I’d had in 2003 (and wrongly attributing it to the very light exercise), I decided to start walking. I didn’t really change my diet at all, but I went walking most evenings (which is well chronicled on my old Xanga blog), and in three weeks I dropped twelve pounds (from 248 to 236). After that, I pretty much stopped losing weight. I didn’t do anything to improve my regimen, and bounced around between 235 and 240 until the holidays, when I slid back up to 244 and stayed right there.

Okay, so this year I decided to do things right. In January, I joined a gym that had shown some amazing results for K– and N–. I got two free trainer sessions with a year’s membership, and K– had gone through two years of regular (almost monthly) trainer sessions, so he was in a position to help me out with lots of information.

I started out going three days a week, focusing on strength training (because dense muscle mass greatly boosts resting metabolism) and cardio in equal parts. My first few weeks, I’d get on the elliptical machine for a thirty minute workout and have to stop seven minutes in, lungs aching, heart pounding, and generally feeling like I was about to die.

I learned how to push through that, and kept at it, and within about four weeks I was able to go a full thirty minutes on the elliptical. That, essentially, is the only real progress I’ve seen. I can lift a little more weight than I could in January, but I started at such pathetically small amounts that I’m not ready to brag about it.

Anyway, I’ve since moved to five and then six days a week working out, because I wasn’t seeing the weight loss I expected. I still stick with only three days a week of weight training, with at least a day of rest in between, but I generally spend an hour of intensive cardio on those off days, running on the treadmill and then sprinting on the elliptical, hitting about 5-6 miles in an hour (according to the machines’ calculations).

I weigh myself on the gym’s scale every time I show up. I’ve heard to only weigh weekly, and keep averages, but the numbers are so consistent and even tracking just one of those measurements a week would yield the same results.

It’s this: the lowest I’ve weighed (and I only hit that weight once) was a week and a half ago on Saturday, when I weighed in at 232. In January, when I started, I was consistently weighing 244. That’s a twelve pound loss over the course of five months — the same thing I managed last year with some leisurely walking around the neighborhood, and then it only took me three weeks.

Actually, it’s worse than that, because I’ve never weighed in at 232 since then. My average for the last 10 days is about 237.

Now, as I said, this is the same gym K– and N– go to, and they’ve seen just how hard I’ve been working at it. Every time I complain to them at my lack of results (because it’s damned unmotivating), they both have the same answer (and it makes sense from their perspectives). They say, “Look, it’s obviously not a problem with the number of calories you’re burning, so it can only be one thing. It has to be your diet.”

I understand exactly why they feel that way, because they can see one aspect of my work and not the other, but I’ve changed my diet at least as much as I’ve changed my level of activity.

Before January, I typically ate somewhere around 2,400 calories a day. That’s not absurdly high, but it’s higher than recommended (1,800-2,000). The big problem was that about a third of that 2,400 calories was essentially sugar — sweet desserts, mainly — that had almost no nutritive value and converted easily to fats. I did a lot of snacking during the day at work (sweets and junk food), and I liked to have some kind of dessert after every lunch or dinner. I was also awful about having something to eat (usually something sweet) late in the evening, about an hour before bed.

The first thing I did was cut that late-night snack. For a New Year’s Resolution, I decided not to have anything with any significant amount of calories after eight o’clock. No desserts, no snacks (even healthier ones), and no drinks. That was even before I started at the gym. It just seemed like a good idea. And, with the exception of a few nights out drinking with D–, I’ve completely maintained that resolution. Actually, with far greater success than I ever expected. The first couple weeks were hard, but it became habit really quickly.

Then, a couple weeks into my gym membership when I hadn’t seen any progress on the scales, I was discussing things with K–, and he recommended switching to a five-meals-a-day diet — smaller meals spread throughout the day, to keep the metabolism going. Specifically, I picked up some protein shakes to fill in as snacks between meals. I have one with breakfast, one for a mid-morning snack, and one mid-afternoon. The protein is supposed to help with my strength training, the shake is surprisingly filling, and the calorie count is extremely low.

And it worked. Really, from the very start, it worked. I cut all snacks from my diet, except for the shakes as I described above. Sometimes, on strength training days, I’ll have one extra small meal in the afternoon (because I have a very early lunch, and a late dinner), but even that is scheduled. I’m not grabbing junk food just for something to munch on. I know exactly how much I’m eating every day.

Since I started on the shakes, I not only cut snacks, but I mostly stopped eating sides with my meals. I am satisfied with much smaller portions and — whether from feeling fuller or just general self-control developed through all of this — it’s gotten a lot easier for me to stop eating at “satisfied” instead of going on to “stuffed.”

Basically, within a few weeks of starting at the gym, I went from an average 2,400 calorie day to about a 1,900 calorie day. T– and I hit up the website of all our favorite restaurants (fast food included), and got the nutrition facts for pretty much everything I eat. Now that I’ve limited how many impulsive snacks I eat, it’s relatively easy to keep track of everything I have in a day, and 1,900 calories wasn’t too hard to manage.

But, even with the elimination of evening snacks, desserts were still making way too high a percentage of those calories empty sugar calories. And I still wasn’t losing weight, so sometime in March (I think), I got really frustrated and decided to cut sugar altogether. For three weeks, I didn’t eat anything sweet. Again, it was tough at first, but got a lot easier.

Still, I didn’t jump-start any big weight loss. By the end of that time (and the three months of workout leading up to it), I was looking at a total of about 7 pounds lost (the same thing I have now). When the three weeks expired without seeing any major changes, I decided to let myself have a little bit more reasonable restriction, and limited myself to two treats a week. To make up for the lost sugar calories, I’ve been working on incorporating a few healthier sides in with my meals. It hasn’t been too tough.

So, now, I’m consistently at around 1,800-2,000 calories a day (the recommended amount). Days that I’m really bad (going out drinking, or having a frozen custard for dessert), I still tend to come in under 2,200, and those are relatively rare.

In the last five months, I’ve radically altered both my diet and my level of activity — I’m living a healthier lifestyle than I ever have, at any point in my twenty-eight years — and, basically, I haven’t seen any more change in my body than I would expect on any given summer, with just a little light walking.

It’s been pointed out far too often that muscle weighs more than fat, but if I’d been burning fat at a rate reasonable for the work I’ve been doing (say, 1-2 pounds a week), and just maintaining weight through strength training, I’d be looking at about 30 pounds of new muscle now (and 30 pounds of lost fat). When I started, I was about 60 pounds overweight, so at this point half of my superfluous weight should be replaced with strong, toned muscles.

It’s just not there. I’ve been told I look a little better, from all the work, but it’s about what you’d expect if, say, I dropped seven pounds. I’ve got plenty of pictures from late last year, and it’s easy enough to compare. There’s just no way that’s the answer to the issue.

Honestly, I don’t know what to do now. I could try a severely restrictive diet, in the expectation that all the sacrifice will be worth it once I get in shape, but (as I’ve shown) I’ve already massively changed the way I lived — on a truly dramatic scale — and seen virtually no results from it. It’s terribly hard to find the motivation to invest the time and money into eating healthy (and accept all the sacrifices that go with it) when, at this point, I have seen no real reason to expect any change whatsoever.

Then again, I’ve invested so much already, I can’t just give up. As much as I hate sinking more time and money into something that’s about as effective as going for an evening stroll…what if I am on the verge of “really ramping up my metabolism”? I’ve dropped about $420 in gym membership so far (and I’m on the hook for another six months no matter what I decide), and about $120 in gas just for trips to the gym, and easily 160 hours over about 20 weeks, and I’ve got seven pounds of weight loss to show for it.

It drives me mad. It really does. No matter what else is going on in my life, as soon as I start thinking about this, it just makes me angry and disappointed and frustrated…. And then at the end of the day I have to find the energy to go put in another two hours, somehow, in spite of a scale that reads the same thing.

You know, I believed in the simplicity of the system. Work more, eat less. That should be all there is to it. I don’t have any good reasons to believe that I have gland problems or anything of that sort, but this is just ridiculous. I’ve worked more in the last five months than I ever have in my life. I’ve eaten more healthfully than I ever have in my life. I just don’t understand the results I’m seeing.

Anyway, I wanted to put it all down in one place — a snapshot of the whole story, in terms of what I’ve seen in the past, everything I’ve tried and everything I’ve been doing, and a thorough description of what the last five months have shown me. I’m not going to repeat this rant every time I see 237 on that scale. I just wanted to get it all down.

So, there you go. That’s how it’s been.

Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.

2 Replies to “Journal Entry”

  1. I am so sorry that you’re feeling that way. You’ve been through a lot and it really sucks that you’re not seeing any progress for all the work you’ve done. I don’t know what to say except I’m sorry and I hope you find a way to feel better about yourself real soon. It’s not fair that this should be so hard for you. Hang in there. Or not, and go have lots of drinks and fill up your 2000 calories a day with martinis or something. We love you VERY much and pray that things work for you.

  2. Thanks for the sympathy, Em. Although, it’s a little weird having baby Maddy tell me to slam martinis. You’ve got to do what the baby says, though, don’t you?

    I just realized that I described in detail the extraordinarily unhealthy manner in which I lost weight back in 2003, and the amazing success I saw from it, but forgot to actually point out that it was extraordinarily unhealthy.

    Just, y’know, something that probably ought to be said out loud. If I tried going on Metabolife now, with my blood pressure, it would probably drop me dead.

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