Paleo Challenge 2012

Tomorrow I start the Lurong Living Paleo Challenge. I’ve mentioned this to plenty of people and I usually get the same question? Why am I going on a diet?

When people hear the word diet today, the first thought that pops into their mind is a weight loss diet. The truth is we are ALL on a diet. Some have good diets where they maintain weight and stay healthy. Some have bad diets full of all sorts of unhealthy food. And of course there are the ever so abundant weight loss diets. So whether we like it or not, we are all on some sort of diet.

The Lurong Living Paleo Challenge in this case isn’t necessarily about using the Paleo diet to lose weight. Instead it’s about using the diet to maintain a healthier lifestyle. Under the premise of the challenge, if I eat Paleo and give it my all in the gym, I will see improvement. Who wouldn’t want to give that a shot!?!!?

The truth is I eat a “mostly Paleo” diet already. Usually very low in grains and sugars, bad fats, etc. It has kept me in terrific shape and allowed me to continue to see progress in my weights and times. However one realization I’ve come to recently is that I need to eat more!! Due to illness a month or so ago and just regular plateauing, I’ve found that my caloric intake is much lower than what I should be taking in.

Now on my “mostly Paleo” diet, I’ve supplemented this with both more protein (good), more “good fats” (good) and more carbs (grains, sugars, etc. not so good) This has actually worked well for me. However the premise under this challenge is that I should be able to do the same thing under a Paleo diet, and this is exactly what I plan to find out. Can I gain (good) weight and see me weights and times improve over the next two months?

Tonight’s bounty at the store was mild. Chicken breast was on sale so I grabbed plenty. Almond milk and coconut milk to mix my post-workout protein shake with (the coconut milk for fat/calories). And then a ton of fruit and veggies: sweet potatoes, squash, onions, carrots, grapes, and berries.

For those unaware, Paleo is based on what Paleolithic man supposedly would have eaten. This was before farming, keeping animals, etc. So things like grains (cereal, bread, pasta), dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt), legumes (beans, peanuts, etc) were not available, and thus not at all a part of the diet. Same thing with fats and oils, which are limited to mostly nut oils, REAL vegetable oils (remember corn, soybeans, and such are not vegetables), and animal fats. This is a rather quick summary just to give you a general idea.

So that is MY challenge. If the diet is as long term as I believe, I should have no problem seeing my weight go UP over the next 8 weeks and see my times and performance improve. I know it can already maintain my weight and health. Now let’s see if it can be used for gaining.

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The Endless Journey

Two years ago I started exercising with the goal of losing weight. I lost ~18lbs due to my appendectomy, and I figured with all of the change going on in my life at the time I might as well take that “head start” and do something with it. I did what most everyone does when they want to lose weight. I started counting my calories. I started running for long periods of time every day (40-60 minutes). I got on the free weights and weight machines and lifted really heavy weights 8-10 times in a row (or until I failed), rested 60 seconds, and then repeated that two more times. On some days I worked out my arms with a bunch of different exercises. On other days it was my legs. One day would be shoulders, and let’s not forget about my chest on another day. And truthfully, I lost all of my weight doing this; to the tune of 60 total pounds in 6 months. However at that point something occurred to me. Going back to that first sentence, my goal had been met. So what do I do now?

To me this was a very unusual concept. I mean I enjoyed looking at the weights going up routinely, and I enjoyed looking at the running times coming down.. but what sort of goal was I now left with? Body fat? A certain speed or certain weight on a particular lift? It occurred to me that without a goal, without a finish line, I could (and usually do) become very disinterested to continue with things. It’s easy to lose focus or drive when you are not driving TOWARDS something.

It was around this time that I had started talking with a trainer regularly at the gym I was at. Now let me say that I typically abhor personal trainers. Your “typical” personal trainer at a big box gym is someone who usually knows how to get your heart racing, knows what machines or motions build big muscles, and if you’re lucky knows how to do all of this stuff without getting hurt. Again, if you’re lucky. However, in talking with Jeremy very early on I wasn’t entirely convinced that my broad stereotype really applied to him. I mean he wasn’t exactly “let’s do jumping jacks for 20 minutes”, nor was he “3 sets of 20, go”. He had his students using their body weight a lot. Had them doing complex motions with maybe a 5-10lb plate or a band at most. It seemed interesting, but again seemed focused on “anyone can do it” instead of “I am really going to get you in shape.” I have to admit, if you’re reading this Jeremy, that it seemed pretty lame. I mean at the time I thought “I guess they were primarily trying to lose weight, not build muscle”, but I (naively) just didn’t see how this sort of exercise was ever something that could be beneficial outside of some rudimentary weight loss clinic. (Yes I now know I was wrong :P)

Still, in talking with him more and more, it became apparent that, my uninformed opinion on his program aside, this guy knew what he was talking about. Immediately he told me to start reading up on various exercise methodologies. From Russian conjugate periodization to circuit training to gymnastics style calisthenics. In my research during this time I came across and had started doing Crossfit on my own. Taking the WOD (workouts of the day) from the main site, and using another site (Crossfit Brand X) to scale them to my abilities. Again Jeremy’s knowledge came into play. Crossfit many times is about doing complex Olympic-style lifts, and frankly… me hurting myself was a matter of when, not if. You can only gain so much information from watching videos on YouTube, and it’s a miracle I didn’t manage to hurt myself during this period. He would correct my form, inform me on the purpose of the lift, where the potential to hurt myself existed, all without trying to “pitch me” on taking his group classes. I was so confident in his ability that I didn’t hesitate when my wife thought about joining his class as I knew she was in capable hands.

With his help, I found a new level of exercise and fitness. Gone are the days of spending 1 1/2 or more hours in the gym. Gone are the days of doing bicep curls and leg lifts or other isolated exercises. I discovered exactly what Jeremy was teaching his class. Full body movements are more efficient than isolated motions. Being able to move a heavy weight around in an isolated fashion means NOTHING if you can’t even move your own body weight around in a compound motion. Getting really strong using your muscles in ways you normally wouldn’t use them is pointless when compared to getting really strong using your muscles in ways that you use them every single day!

It’s now that I FINALLY understand what fitness is. Fitness is not about where you’re going but the journey in getting there. It’s not about lifting heavy weights over and over so you can move onto even heavier weights. I mean things like PRs (personal records) and six packs are nice, but I’m now finding even more impressive are the things I never thought about two years ago. Playing sports. Doing gymnastics. Being faster. Having more power and endurance. Being able to actually JUMP to get a ball or staying in a game without being winded. Not caring about how much or what I eat because I know that what I’m eating is good for me. In thinking about things I wanted to do with my daughter, recently one of the things that came to mind was rock climbing, something she enjoys doing. Of course it had been in my head for a while “I would like to do that”, but now to actually EXPECT to not only be able to do it, but to keep up with her, that’s something that never would have even been on the radar two years ago. There is no “goal” now, unless you can count wanting to do whatever it is that comes to mind as a goal and knowing that you have the ability to succeed at it. Well I guess that’s it. My new “goal” is to live life to its fullest. I’ve always been capable of doing whatever I set out for myself mentally, and now I can apply that same philosophy to intense physical activity as well.

So life is good now. But there is a frustrating part, because when people ask me “How did you do it? How did you lose the weight?” I simply can’t bring myself to lie to them. I did it by running and lifting weights. :( I spent 6 months of my life ignoring the bigger picture and looking at a scale multiple times a week to see a number get lower and lower. And as a result, for 6 months of my life I completely missed the point. Now when people ask “How did you lose the weight?” I say to them very simply: I wasted six months losing weight. I burned the calories and limited how much I ate. I lost the pounds. And I wasted six months of my time running and lifting weights, where I could have been instead focusing on getting stronger, becoming more flexible, being faster, moving better, eating the RIGHT foods, and letting my body figure out where its weight and fat percentages were supposed to be. Get off the treadmill. Get out of the weight room. Whether it’s Crossfit, calisthenics, intervals, sports like soccer or basketball, yoga, or whatever. Become a HEALTHIER FITTER person. Stop “burning the calories”. Get off of the scale. Get out there and “do it”. Take care of your body and it will take care of you back.

To that end, I just wanted to say that in the past few months I have been very fortunate to find a Crossfit gym FINALLY close to home. Badger Crossfit and Tyler specifically have carried on where my previous learning left off. Spending 10-25 minutes in a day in a high intensity workout, doing motions and exercises that will make you more fit everyday even without realizing it is always a revelation. Yes it makes you better at physically strenuous activities, but it even changes simple stuff like how you go down to sit in a chair, or squat down to pick something up. Or even just stand there relaxed. Understanding how the human body is SUPPOSED to move, and bringing yourself closer to that in how you move every day.. Eating foods that our bodies were designed to eat, and staying away from the foods that have led to over 66% of our adult population being overweight. THAT is a journey I am proud to be on and Badger Crossfit has been the perfect place to facilitate that. What’s my weight or how big is my waistline? I honestly couldn’t tell you at this moment. It’s been a while since I’ve cared. Now you’ll have to excuse me. I’m going to the dog park to tire my dogs out long before they tire me out.

Update: For those new to this page, here is my previous post talking about my final results, as well as pics. http://www.borgh.us/2010/08/02/finally-weight-loss-pics

Update 2: Jeremy now has his own gym where he continues his fitness boot camps. The site is Express Fitness Camps. I owe Jeremy a ton, and unquestionably without his selfless guidance I would have eventually ended up hurting myself very quickly. Thank you Jeremy and good luck!!

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Finally weight loss pics

So, I am posting pics finally.. mostly because I love this Kermit shirt!!

Before

Here is me Jan/Feb 2009. This was pretty close to my low point (heaviest). I was probably around 200-205 in this pic.

I topped the scales at 205-210 by November 2009 when I went in for my appendectomy. Basically my appendix was less than an hour from bursting according to the doctors. So my originally planned orthoscopic appendectomy turned into an open one instead. :\ Where I was looking forward to 2 or 3 pencil sized scars I now have about 3 inches across my abs and a ton of scar tissue right under the skin.. bah..

However thanks to my downtime from the open appy, I managed to lose about 10lbs. during recovery. Of course I also managed to lose my business for good. :( All of that combined really put my life into perspective and started my goal of, well, living. Getting healthy. Not dying young. That sort of thing.

After

Here is me this weekend. 157lbs.

so since the beginning of the year I have been doing heavy weight reps (10-12 x3) and moderate running (3-8 miles two to four times a week). My diet has been low fat (under 30g), high protein (1g:1lb), and moderate carbs (1200-1600 calories during weight loss, about 2200-2700 calories since I stopped working to lose weight). The past two months I have been training to put in a 3:30 or lower time in my marathon this fall, but after doing a lot of research, this may be my first and last marathon as the body and muscle structure of an elite marathon runner isn’t really what I’m going for overall. Really the marathon is more of just a “I used to look AND FEEL like the first picture, and a year later I put in a 7:40 pace in a marathon”. I sincerely felt like I was going to die before 40 in the first picture. There was more to it than just my weight that you see which I won’t go into, but needless to say I feel great now.

For some reference of scale above… the polo in the first picture is a large. The t-shirt in the second pic is a medium. my waist in the first pic was 36″. My waist in the bottom pic is 28″.

So there you finally have pictures.

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“Your body hides your weight well”

“Your body hides your weight well.” I am sure many of us have heard this saying before or even told it to ourselves. While I can honestly say I’ve never been flattered enough to have been told this, I have definitely thought this on many occasions.

“I don’t look 175.”

“I don’t look 190.”

“I’m a little overweight, but I look alright for someone who’s 200+ pounds!”

The thing about this rhetoric is that it is not based on denial or deception. On the contrary, it’s based on everyday perception and perceived norms and tolerances in society.

When people see us everyday, much like we see ourselves daily, we don’t see the small changes from day to day, and thus don’t see the larger changes over time unless we happen to see pictures from a long time ago. Thus even if we are two pounds more even just two weeks later, in our eyes we appear to be the same. When we are two pounds more two more weeks later, we are still the same.

For those of us who were fit at one time or another, these “still the same” moments end up defining our weight gain. When I was 150lbs. back in the mid-90s and ended up with my hernia operation that stopped my workouts, it wasn’t probably more than a few months before I gained around 4-5 pounds. Hey, I’m not working out, taking things a bit more relaxed.. Gaining 4-5 pounds is normal! I still look the same so it hardly seems to be a big deal. You become accustomed to it and suddenly two to three more pounds finds your reaction to it the exact same. It’s strange to say, but the human mind actually perceives your body the same at say 150 pounds as it does at 200 pounds as long as enough time passed in between the two weights.

Perceived norms is also a deciding factor in this saga. Now don’t misunderstand me. I love that healthy sized adults are today’s cultural norm, and that for the most part a little more weight is more acceptable than a little underweight. The starving model look that seemed to infest our culture from the 70s through the 90s is dead and gone, replaced by a return to curves, tone, and health. Unfortunately this does lead to what “heavy” is now. Years ago at 5′ 9″, an adult male would probably be considered fat at 175-180 pounds. Not obese but definitely be made aware that they needed to lose weight. Now at 5′ 9″, I don’t think one person would question someone weighing in at that same weight and height. When I’ve recently been at that height, clothed, people thought I was crazy for wanting to lose another 20+ pounds. Heck, for most people to consider someone obese these days it seems like you need to be looking at a BMI of at least 34-35. Now the truth is that this is both good and bad. On the one hand, people that are somewhere between 10-20 pounds overweight are not leading a dangerous lifestyle and are found to look perfectly acceptable in society. It creates more confident individuals, happier people, and less stress on a daily basis. On the downside, 10-20 pounds overweight eventually becomes normal, and 20-40 pounds overweight now turns into “I could probably stand to lose 5-10 pounds”. The scale only goes up from here, both figuratively and literally.

The question is, should we change this and how do we go about it. While I do promote healthy living and being at a healthy weight, as I said earlier I love that it is ok in society to have a little bit of weight on you. It is certainly much less pressure on our kids and in our schools, and one would hope in the long run leads to lower incidents of eating disorders or incidents of “corrective surgery” at younger ages. However, with that being said, you definitely should know what your “ideal” weight is, and if you choose to keep a few pounds on your body make sure you are still maintaining a healthy weight within a reasonable range of that “ideal” weight. 10-20 pounds over your ideal weight isn’t even worth giving thought to in my opinion. However, 10-20 pounds over “10-20 pounds over” your ideal weight is mist definitely something you may want to reconsider.

With all of this being said, the number one most important aspect of any of this is for you to be happy with yourself and your body. Being unhappy with how you look or your weight can very easily lead to stress, depression, or bad choices. Whether you are losing weight or decidedly not, you need to be happy with yourself and with your current condition. If you’re not, then look at changing it, more than likely at that point in baby steps. Try to start being happy with the little progress you make and it will be easier to be happy with your self at all of the remaining steps along the way.

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Current fitness status Week 13

Weighed in on Monday at a lean 169lbs. This is the least I’ve weighed since probably around 1999 to early 2000. From here the years effectively keep rolling back until my goal weight which I can now reveal is 155lbs. It may seem smallish, but for those who don’t know me I’m only 5′ 9″ tall which lends itself to a pretty nice weight and frame. Strength is through the roof as well, or at least better than it’s been for the past 14 years. Very close on most weights to beating my peak fitness levels from around 1995-1996. Running is coming along great with my current pace at around 8:53 and incline work going well. Current goal is still to finish the Lakefront Marathon at a pace under 9:00 which means finishing under 3:45. This would be a pretty substantial accomplishment I feel for someone who was around 50 pounds overweight just five months ago.

I’ve decided pictures will be coming, but not for a few more weeks yet. I want to be within mere pounds of my target weight before posting all of the pics (I think around three or four different weeks so far).

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30 Pounds Down

When you step on the scale and see the dial ring up at 205lbs, especially at only 5’9″ tall, you realize you need to take steps to fix things. I couldn’t walk from my car to my cubicle without being winded (maybe about a two or three block walk). I was not sleeping well and according to my wife snoring frequently. I was eating as much as 2500-3000 calories per day of food, something I wasn’t aware of until a bit later. All of this combined with a desk job and life of high stress over the past many years have combined to put on about 60 pounds of weight over the past 15 years.

You put it off because maybe you aren’t as distinguishably obese as many other people out there. You justify it to yourself as “Yeah, I have a little weight I could stand to lose..”. But at the end of the day whether you have 10 pounds or 110 pounds to lose, it all has to start the same way and all follows the same path.

I have to confess, my path to the loss didn’t start that way though. Every great once in a while something comes along that gives you that added push needed. In my case it was coming down with appendicitis in mid-November. The surgery was fairly routine, though open and not laproscopic. The recovery afterward was fairly heavy on pain killers and I definitely needed them as my stomach felt like someone sliced across my stomach with a 5 inch incision all the way through to my insides. Oh wait, they did! Between all of this my appetite dropped and over the course of the next six weeks I lost approximately 15 pounds. With those 15 pounds behind me I decided it was time to lose the rest of the weight I had made excuses for over the year.

The first necessary thing is to start exercising. I am currently signed up at Snap Fitness, and while the free weight area is a bit small and there are relatively few machines, it is very convenient in terms of location and hours, and does have a few facilities like tanning and personal trainers if desired. Outside of a few days of waiting for a station or free weight area here and there I really have very little to complain about.

Now here’s the thing about exercising. You need to sweat. You need to push yourself further than you want to be pushed. I think as humans we have a tendency to set very modest goals for ourselves. I could probably get by on seven hours of sleep so I’ll get eight. I could probably run around the block in two minutes but three minutes is still good. Internally and subconsciously I feel we know exactly where our capabilities lie, while externally and consciously we set our expectations just a bit under that. While exercising, specifically weight lifting, I’ve learned to throw that ideology out the window. You almost have to get rid of that line of thinking and I believe that’s why at the gyms you don’t see a lot of people getting serious on weight training and instead congregate in the cardio area. There’s probably a higher sense of reward saying you walked your 3 miles today compared to only lifting a 10lb. dumbbell ten times for two sets.

For my weight training I am following Doug’s Mega Cutting Routine. While a cutting routine is typically used to shave off a few pounds from an already fit frame, I figured in my case it would be a great way to both lose fat and build muscle at the same time, a guess that has so far proven correct. I did have to modify it slightly though. I can’t do tri-sets due to not being able to set aside 3 stations for rapid rotations. I changed the two light cardios per day to one heavy cardio 4 times a week to match the weight lifting. I’ve also had to modify one or two exercises to compensate for the equipment I have to work with at the gym. But outside of that I would say 99% of that routine is intact.

Over the first week or so I noticed that I actually put on five or six pounds. This is when I realized the next part was absolutely critical, a diet. Losing weight, aka burning fat, is a two step process. The first is keeping track of how many calories you are putting into your body and the second is making sure over the course of a day you are burning more calories than you put in. Where most weight loss diets fail is that they require minimal exercise and act on the basis of starving yourself. Unfortunately our bodies know when we are starving, especially if we are not feeling satiated. This leads to feelings of hunger which in turn leads to feeling distracted, anxious, and stressed. This is why it’s a two step process. This first step is eating so your body feels satiated. You should find out your caloric maintenance levels, include your level of exercise, and then subtract a modest amount of calories from that. Here is a pretty decent caloric calculator I found on the web. Using such a calculator you can figure out your daily needs with exercise, and then subtract 20% from that. Doing this what you will usually find is that you are eating and feeling good about it, not at all starving, yet still losing weight at the same time. But again, if you don’t have a good exercise regimen in there you will more than likely just feel hungry all of the time by just cutting calories.

As for quality of food, to my belief, your quality of food can be anything as it’s the calories that count. if you want to get your calories from chcolate cake get it from chocolate cake. Things I have found though:

  • Garbage in garbage out. If you take in high quality carbohydrates and protein your body will perform better. If you take in fats and sugars your body will behave worse.
  • Healthy foods leave you feeling better and more “good full” than bad foods. Eat a half loaf of whole grain bread and then eat a dozen chocolate cookies and see which one you have more energy after.
  • It’s not only important to get your calories in, but to get them in at the right time. Get carbs in before you are going to expend energy (workout). Get protein in before and after you work on building muscles.
  • No matter what you would like to drink during the day, nothing is better than water and milk. Pretty much all I’ve relegated myself to drinking and I couldn’t feel better about it.

So that’s my plan that started back in January. Next few posts I’ll catch you up to date to see exactly where I’m at now. I decided not to do a lot of pictures during this whole process but do have a few to share. We’ll see what else comes as time goes on.

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Tomorrow I Start My Weight Loss

So tomorrow is the day I start working on losing this weight.

Believe it or not, it’s not about looks, or how long I want to live, or anything like that. My life is VERY busy. So busy that over the past few years I haven’t had any time whatsoever to even look at working out, jogging, or anything related to fitness. The result is that I end up in poor shape, working harder because of it, more tired because of working harder and not being in good shape, and start the cycle even further along.

My goal to start with is simple. 10 lbs. in 3 weeks. That is 3.33lbs. a week and will put me at the lowest I’ve been in probably a couple of years. My goal after that? Well to be honest we’ll see how well the first 10lbs. goes and then we’ll work with it from there.

My schedule isn’t lightening up anytime soon. If anything it is only going to continue to become busier and busier. I pretty much need to give myself every advantage I can get to meet it head on, and improving my fitness is a good push in the right direction. So here goes 10lbs.

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1/3 of the way down

Also for a quick update, I am currently 1/2 of the way towards my goal. I am now down 10lbs., or to put a bit more perspective on it the lowest I’ve weighed in around 2-3 years.

20lbs. more to go. On track to lose it by the end of June.

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Rode my bike to work today

Not horrible at all… 15 miles. an hour and twenty minutes. Though it is supposed to rain this afternoon. If only their was a place to find out what the weather was supposed to be in advance. It would make our lives so much easier.

As long as it’s not raining the ride home should be a bit easier. I am simply floored by the amount of time I spent going uphill. :(

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