Project 2 Handicap

Online log of a quest to drop my golf handicap from a nine to a two within sixty months. Sink or swim, I'll give it my best shot. Advice is not only appreciated, it's encouraged!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mini Me

In my last post I talked about the Big Belly Challenge (BBC), the weight loss contest that helped me lose 26 pounds. Since the end of that contest on Labor Day I've lost an additional 24 pounds, putting me down 50 pounds from my starting weight of 230.

So I've managed to go from an obese Body Mass Index (BMI=31) right through the overweight category and all the way to a normal weight (BMI = 24) in a little less than four months!

It hasn't been easy.

When we started the contest on July 24 I immediately began an intensive exercise program. Inspired by the "two a days" that the NFL players were going through at the time, I pursued an exercise program that, looking back on it now, was extreme.

A typical day for me went like this:

  • Upon waking, a brisk walk around a 2 mile route in the neighborhood.
  • Breakfast, followed by a 30 minute "program" on the treadmill.
  • Off to work, and if the weather and my schedule allowed it, lunch followed by a 2 mile walk.
  • Upon returning home, dinner, followed by walking the dog with my wife (1.2 mile route), followed by another 30 minute program on the treadmill, followed by another "cool down" 2 mile walk around the neighborhood.
Yea, okay, kinda crazy. But I was determined to win the BBC. I paid for it though - with blisters that turned to nasty calluses on my feet.

I also changed my diet somewhat during this time. First I bought Nutrition for Dummies and started looking for ways to cut down on my food intake. After dinner snacks were the first to go - and this change was actually fairly easy since I was so busy exercising after dinner. By the end of the final walk each day I was just bushed. I'd typically just take a shower, lay down to read, and fall asleep. So I had little time to stuff my face with unhealthy snacks.

I also changed my normal lunch routine - which had been a trip to the food court in the mall for Chinese, or Cajun, or Italian fast food. Instead, I started eating a salad from the lunch room at work before setting off on my lunchtime walks.

So, by the end of the BBC I had lost 26 pounds, or over 4 pounds per week! While I lost the contest, I was thrilled with my progress, and in no mood to stop there.

So the BBC2 was born.

Over the next several weeks I continued to exercise, but not at quite the same pace. I stopped the early morning 2 mile walk, increased the treadmill work to 40 minutes and started interval training, and kept the lunchtime walk and the nightly dog walk.

I also starting making more changes in my diet. After Nutrition for Dummies, I picked up another diet book - The China Study - which turned out to be much more than a diet book and which has changed my eating habits in dramatic fashion. If you haven't read the book, well, just do. The author, nutritionist and researcher T. Colin Campbell, makes a fairly convincing case for a strict vegetarian diet.

Now I'm a skeptical guy, and I've been eating meat for 51 years, so Campbell's recommendations called for further study. I followed up on some of the studies that he referenced in his book, and then read two other books by fellow veggie travelers, MDs and authors Fuhrman (Eat to Live) and McDougall (The McDougall Program). I also read two other more mainstream nutrition books - The Realage Diet, and Eat, Drink and be Healthy, by highly regarded Harvard nutritionist, Walter Willett.

By the end of all of this reading I became convinced to make big changes in my diet. While these nutritionist quarreled about a few things, there was amazing consensus on a number of major dietary recommendations. Namely;

  • Plant based whole foods should be the foundation upon which our diets are built.
  • We should consume much more; vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and whole grains than we do now in the typical American diet.
  • The consumption of animal flesh and fish should be minimized, if not altogether dropped from the diet.
  • Trans fats should be avoided by all humans.
  • Plant fats, which tend to be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, are more healthy than the saturated fats found largely in animal flesh and dairy products.
So my diet changed. So much so, in fact, that in the last week of September I asked my wife to participate in an experiment with me. I made her the following offer, which she quickly accepted. If she'd go completely vegetarian with me for the month of October, I'd do the grocery shopping and cooking for the month.

For the record, we didn't go completely veggie - we did still have fish once or twice a week and she ate chicken or beef sometimes when we went out - but otherwise we cut out all meat in our in home eating, and we dropped all dairy from our diets.

I was surprised at how easy this change was. I've found that I actually enjoy replacing the skim milk on my morning cereal with soy milk. The soy milk actually tastes better and it doesn't spoil. I also switched from cold "bran flakes" to hot oatmeal or other whole grain cereal. I very much look forward to this for breakfast now, along with a couple of servings of fresh fruit; bananas, grapes, apples, pears, or berries of some type.

Also, I've seen that the vegetable and fruit based diet is far more filling that the meat-centric diet that I had followed my entire life. I find that I can eat as much food as I want, and snack whenever I'm hungry, so long as I eat healthy.

Surprisingly, I have continued to lose weight at a clip of over 2 pounds per week, even though with the weather change I've had to cut back on the outdoor walks. On most days now I exercise for 60 minutes just prior to work, alternating between a 5 mile run/walk on the treadmill and a weight lifting program. Lately, I've been working in a pilates program during the evenings - building strength in my "core" and increasing flexibility.

And today was a special day. I stepped on the scale this morning and it read 179.6. Fifty pounds down and only a few more to go!

I haven't seen this territory since, well maybe my college days!