Waiting it Out; Giving it Up



207.7 pounds
28.4% body fat

1198 calories against a budget of 1751
15,582 steps

When I lost 54 pounds last year I was stuck at 207-something for over two weeks.  I increased my excercise intensity, I decreased calories, I decreased intensity and added time, I cut sugars down to 15 grams per day, I increased protein…nothing.  Stuck.  Plateau.  I was 207.7 on the 7th of May and 207.0 on the 21st.  I don’t know what finally pushed me out of it–but by June 03rd I was 199.5

In this new push to get from 218 pounds to 175 (or body fat of 12%–whichever comes first) I have stalled again at the 207 something mark.  I’ve been here since the 02nd.  I’m not going crazy with a diet and exercise shake-up this time,  I’m hoping it will just pass.  I have started the weight training so that should help, shouldn’t it?

And to confess, I had a birthday last week, too, annnnnnnd I might have had a sip or two of wine.  If sip=bottle.  If bottle=case.  Okay, I didn’t have that much.  But alcohol is both a trigger for carbs for me and I certainly don’t need the empty calories.  Today, though, is Thursday after Ash Wednesday, and though I am not a particularly religious person I have–for as long as I can remember–given up something for Lent.  This year, that something is alcohol, and I am very sure that by Easter we’ll have seen that that’s made a difference to me.

It’s been a good week so far, lifting every day then hitting the treadmill afterward for 45 minutes.  I need to figure out some ab and glute exercises to work into my days and do some research on protein amounts and timing, but I feel like I’m on the right track.  Despite the plateau.  I’ll get there.

Onward –



Back and Biceps Day



207.5 pounds
29.0% body fat

1139 calories against a budget of 1740
14,474 steps

Today was back and biceps day.  I thought it would be a quicker day, but the routine took longer than yesterday, 28 minutes. I had an appointment to get to so only followed that workout w/ 30 minutes on the treadmill at 4.0 mph.

My legs were sore walking to the bus this morning so I wasn’t sure how the treadmill would go, but I surprisingly found that after a few minutes in the old routine I actually felt less tight, less sore, and the walk did me well.  I’ll have to research why that is…must be something about acid buildup or something…

My triceps are what hurt the most today, and I have a bit of difficulty reaching for things. I can’t imagine how push-ups and triceps extensions will go tomorrow, but I’ll let you know.  I actually like the sore feeling–it makes me pleased that I’ve taken this next step, and simple acts–like reaching for my water bottle–remind me that I’ve changed things up and am further progressing toward my goal.  Onward,


February! Time for Strength Training



208.3 pounds
29.0% body fat

1271 calories against a budget of 1745
3960 steps

Today is the start of February, my birthday week, and marks one year since I started back to the gym seriously.  Today also marks the day I start incorporating strength training into my workout.

My initial plan is fairly simple:

  • Monday, Wednesday, and Friday:  legs, chest and triceps
    • 3 sets of body weight squats Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
    • 3 sets of hamstring curls (recommended by my doctor due to a pain behind my left knee)
    • 3 sets of push-ups (incline to start–I haven’t done a “real” push-up in 16 years) Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
    • 2 sets of triceps pushdowns
    • 2 sets of calf raises
  • Tuesday and Thursday:  back and biceps
    • 3 sets of seated rows
    • 3 sets of lat pulldowns
    • 2 sets of abdominal planks

I’ll start my workouts with these routines then do treadmill time afterward.  I’ll rest for a full two minutes between sets, because I read somewhere that ectomorphs like me need a lot of rest between sets.  I use the stopwatch on my iPhone to make sure I take the entire rest time as I get impatient to move on.  Today’s routine took me 24 minutes.

I’ve chosen these exercises because they target the larger muscles–legs, glutes, chest–and will add the most bulk in a shorter amount of time.  I’ve read that muscle burns more calories than fat, and every weight loss routine I read about recommends strength training as a necessary component of weight loss.  I skipped it for most of last year, because what I was doing worked for me to move the scale number lower.  But getting to that next step–12% body fat–requires me to start mixing things up, and changing my muscle-to-fat ratio.  It’s time to lift.

Following today’s strength work I took to the treadmill for a full hour, albeit at 3.8 mph rather than my normal 4.0 mph.  That felt much more doable following the hesitant start of a legs workout.  It was a long time at the gym, but Tuesdays and Thursdays will go quicker and once I get below 205 pounds–hopefully within two weeks–I will again be at a BMI of 24.9%, which according to the World Health Organization (WHO) is the point at which I am no longer overweight.  Once I hit that number I’ll reduce the walking time to 45 minutes, which will make gym time more manageable.

I admit this feels a bit haphazard, so I’d appreciate input from any of you on any refinements or flat out changes I should make as I start this next phase of my journey.

Happy February –





Week in Review: Week Four

209.0 pounds
28.4% body fat

1792 calories against a budget of 1756
12,452 steps

Since I was on holiday in San Francisco last Sunday I didn’t post a week three review, so this one will cover progress from the end of week two.  As the week ends, I am pretty much where I was at last review.  Weight then was 209.9, a reduction of .1 pounds.  Body fat was 28.4%, which means I’ve had a slight reduction of .3%.

Not much progress, but I confess to some–okay, quite a few–indiscretions while I was away.  Yes, we walked almost everywhere, and those of you familiar w/ San Francisco know that often means either going up hill or down.  I definitely felt the long weekend in my glutes and calves.  But lunches and brunches and dinners and drinks (yes, drinks, plural) with long-time friends meant less attention to calories than I’d hoped.  Yes, I eyeballed portions and tried to choose lighter options, but I admit to splitting a plate of pasta one night and sharing an oh-so-rich piece of chocolate cake another.  One glass of wine became another which became a shared bottle and an after-dinner drink.  Not only does such a diet pack on totally worthless calories, I’ve mentioned before that alcohol is a terrible trigger for me–it kicks in my carb craving (pasta, anyone?) and while drinking is the only time I crave chocolate (hence the cake).

So…yeah…it was pretty much a diet derailment.  Could’ve been worse, for sure, and I am not at all regretting the wonderful time spent with friends–laughter is so good for the soul.  But my hangover Tuesday morning reminded me of the task at hand and I got right back on the wagon.  No workout Wednesday due to our late return to Chicago Tuesday night, but I got right back to the gym Thursday and Friday, and took a nice long walk Saturday:

IMG_1142 As I’ve mentioned, one of the delights of living in an urban area is the ability to get on mass transit whenever one feels like it.  In this case I decided to walk south along the bike and running path through the park along the lake, turned into the streets at Belmont and took the El back toward home.

It was a beautiful day, too warm for my heavy coat but too cold to forego gloves.  In a normal year here the ice in the lake would be thick enough to walk on, this year it’s been mild, which I haven’t objected to at all–it’s nice to have the option of getting out on the trails instead of walking on the treadmill every day.

Having gotten back into the routine after my return, today I am lying low again, fighting the urge to take a walk as I believe the body needs rest sometimes, too.  Starting tomorrow–the first of February–I’m going to incorporate strength training into my workouts.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’ll leave you with this, a view this afternoon of Belmont Harbor.  Happy Sunday, everyone.



On Holiday 


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I have no idea, ’cause the Hilton doesnt have a scale

    Ummm…I didn’t keep track but ate consciously and leanly
    14,338 steps

    My other half and I are on a long weekend in San Francisco, visiting freinds and family and soaking up the relative warmth of near-60 degree days…and I’m taking a bit of a break from my rigid dietary tracking.  

    One of the great things about San Francisco is that the food here is really really good. It’s a foodie town. And I delight in foodie towns. That doesn’t mean I’m not eating right, though, and there are plenty of ways to still eat Mediterranean and be careful about portion sizes. The hotel breakfast has both yogurt options and steel cut oatmeal so I can start my day right, and there are lean and light option everywhere we want to dine so I can make good choices even if I’m not keeping count. This is a vacation from tracking; not an excuse to eat whatever I want. I suspect the scale will be unkind when I weigh myself at home Wednesday morning, but I don’t want to undo all the progress I’ve made the last three weeks. 

    The other thing I’m working in on this trip is exercise. We went on a long walk yesterday and will again today. Walking is a fantastic way to see a city, even one so familiar to me as San Francisco, and we make a point to allow walking time to get to a destination rather than bussing or cabbing. The exercise will help counteract any over-large portions I may inadvertently consume these few days. 

    I love to travel, love to explore, and love to eat. But holidays don’t have to be paid for in increased poundage. As with being at home it requires dedication to a cause. And I’m dedicated to not backsliding too much. We’ll see how successful I am on Wednesday.  

    Happy Sunday from San Francisco –





    208.8 pounds
    27.7% body fat

    1,450 calories against a budget of 1,757
    13,765 steps

    As you’ve guessed by now, I am not a believer of any quick-and-easy way to weight loss and fitness. I can’t help but believe that success comes only through  hard work, dedication to details, and perseverance. For me, that means counting calories, eating lean proteins, no white flour, and lots of vegetables, along with  putting in my time on the treadmill or trail.

    But there is one unproven thing I add to all this:  Garcinia Cambogia.   I swear it curbs my appetite and carb cravings; my doctor just smiles and shakes his head. But he hasn’t told me not to use it, so I do.

    In the morning, the first thing I do after rising is weigh myself.  The second thing I do is pop Garcinia Cambogia, washing it down with whatever I have left in my glass of bedside water. Then, after getting ready for the office, I drink another full glass of water and sip a cup of coffee while reading email. Then I’m off to the gym.

    I eat breakfast at the office, after the gym, sometime after 9:00. Then I have a snack around 11:00, usually a cup of grapes these days, or a satsuma. At noon I pop another Garcinia capsule. Lunchtime for me is around 1:00, but with Garcinia in me I am not ravenous and have to make a point to eat.

    I have another snack around 4:00–usually 1/2 cup of cottage cheese and some fruit–then take another dose of Garcinia around 5:30 or 6 before leaving the office. I find that that last dose (and that last snack, probably) gets me to dinner without feeling hungry and I’m able to make better portion choices.

    That’s my experience. After losing my initial 50 pounds I gave up the Garcinia to give my body a break, but since the first of the year I’ve started back up. Here’s the label of the kind I take: 

    I’m interested in other’s experiences with Garcinia Cambogia–and other supplements. Let me know your thoughts?  Helpful dietary aids or a waste of money?


    There’s More to Life Than Olive Oil


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    209.4 pounds
    28.9% body fat

    1,701 calories against a budget of 1,752
    I left my Fitbit on the charger when I left the house yesterday morning but I logged an hour on the treadmill at 4 mph so…

    In my quest to eat healthily I have all but eliminated saturated fats from my diet. Being a child in the 60’s, I ate my fair share of margarine and loved the convenience of the tub in the fridge, easily spreadable. When raising children of my own my wife prudently banished margarine from the house and insisted on butter. That was a good step forward, health wise, but now butter is only an occasional treat and our fats of choice are extra-virgin olive oil and avocado oil.

    Everyone seems to be familiar with olive oil, and I am certainly a proponent of it. In fact, we spend a good amount of time in Tuscany and always bring home as much fresh-pressed oil from a neighboring farm as we can manage. Avocado oil, though, seems to be unfamiliar to many people and I hope that will change.

    Like olive oil, avocado oil is a “good” oil, low in saturated fat. It also has a much higher smoke point that olive oil, making it a good choice for cooking. We use it for searing fish and mix it half-and-half with coconut oil when popping corn for an evening snack.

    My favorite use for avocado oil, though, is on fresh steamed or roasted vegetables. In the past, we’d slap on a pat of butter; now it’s a teaspoon or two of avocado oil. I find the flavor is amazing!  Avocado oil is said to have a buttery taste; I think it has a meaty taste. Drizzled on steamed broccoli it has–to me–a taste like fried chicken skin. It’s rich and full and soooo delightful. Forget butter–avocado oil is so much better.

    We now use avocado oil in our homemade hummus as well, where it lends some depth, and I love to toss whole wheat pasta in it, along with some sage. The classic Italian dish is pasta con salvia e burro (sage and butter); our twist is sage and avocado oil. Try it.

    Discovering avocado oil is one of the many things I like about eating Mediterranean.  There is an entire world of healthy eating choices out there, and branching out from what we grew up with can be both uncomfortable and amazing.  I encourage you all to take a chance on the unknown and try different things. Avocado oil is a painless way to branch out. I’d love to know what you think about it.


    Counting Isn’t Everything (for PK) 

    210.1 pounds
    28.6% body fat

    1,608 calories against a budget of 1,751
    4,138 steps

    I totally understand the aversion that some people have to counting calories and tracking activity and fussing about with their diets when so many other aspects of our lives are more demanding. For me, micro-managing the details keeps me focused on the task at hand and it works for me–but I certainly don’t think less of anyone who chooses not to weigh and measure and log everything that enters their mouth.

    I believe anyone can be successful with weight loss without all the fuss, but calories out have to be more than calories in. It’s that simple. Food choice is key.

    I suggest that no one ever got fat by eating too many vegetables, so start incorporating more of those in your diet. And don’t slather them in butter or dressings. Steamed vegetables tossed with just a teaspoon of avocado oil are decadent. Carrot and celery sticks and slices of red bell pepper are fantastic in homemade hummus (I’ll post the recipe some day soon–easy to make and good for you).  A nightly salad of baby greens and spinach with a couple of teaspoons of low-fat vinaigrette is very filling and provides roughage.  Eat as many vegetables as you’d like and don’t worry about keeping track.

    Fruits require a bit more thought as some (e.g. bananas and dates) are high in sugar so they’re closer to candy than they are vegetables. But low glycemic choices like red grapes and citrus aren’t bad for you and are great for satisfying a sweet tooth. You can’t go wrong with berries of any sort–blackberries and blueberries especially liven up Greek yogurt (my breakfast mainstay) and provide fiber and anti-oxidants. Loading up on fruits, while not as filling or healthy as vegetables, is another smart choices that would let you forego keeping count.

    For anything else, smart choices and portion control is the key to success. Steer clear of refined anything and choose brown rice and whole grain pastas and breads.  Not because whole grains or brown rice have less calories but because they have more fiber which helps counteract the sugar spike of refined white flours. You may have heard the phrase “no white at night,” I suggest replacing that with “no white ever.”  You may find that you actually prefer whole wheat pastas due to their nuttier flavor. Ditto brown rice. And experiment with farro, quinoa, and bulghur.  You’ll be eating things that actually taste like something.Because of the higher calories in grains and pastas keep your potions on the smaller side. Start with a half cup of farro cooked in chicken broth and see how that satisfies. You can always have more.

    Keep your dairy choices lean. I use 1% milk in my lattes and eat non-fat Greek yogurt and fat free cottage cheese. Full fat versions may keep you fuller longer, but the calories add up. Stick to low- and non fat versions and snack on veggies if hunger strikes.

    Meats, particularly red meats, are where one needs to be especially careful and re-think “serving size.”  I limit myself to 3 ounces of red meat, which doesn’t look like much. Savor the taste but fill up on veggies. You can be more generous with lean chicken, and even more so with fish. If you want a big meat serving fish is the way to go.  Stick to grilled preparations or lightly seared in avocado oil.  Poach fish in broth. Avoid sauces and you should be fine.

    I treat desserts much like I do alcohol–I’m just not partaking right now. Doesn’t mean I’ve quit for ever, it’s just that now isn’t the  time. I have a weakness for donuts and as I pass the pastry case at my local market I always tell myself the same thing:  maybe in May I’ll have a donut. And I keep on moving. If, after a dinner of lean meat, steamed or roasted veggies, and a large salad I still feel hungry then sometimes I’ll snack on popcorn. We pop our own, in a 50/50 mix of coconut and avocado oil. Tossed with a little butter and salt, a cup only has 52 calories so a couple cups while watching television is a filling alternative to sugary desserts.

    You don’t have to count and tally and track  your days away.  Switching to vegetable-centric meals, choosing lean proteins, limiting sugars and avoiding processed foods are a great way to start becoming the weight you want to be. Increasing your activity during the day helps both with calories and a sense of well-being.  Whatever you decide to do, just do it. Start.  As you have success you’ll gain strength and courage to keep up the fight. And in time you’ll be the person you want to be.  Whether you count or not.


    Goals, Objectives, and Strategies, Oh My!


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    209.9 pounds
    29.7% body fat

    1,325 calories against a budget of 1,751
    9, 592 steps

    Saturday’s post promised an entry on goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics.  This is that write-up.  I’ve found that achieving any goal requires more than just saying “I’m going to dominate this!”  I actually have to map out how I’m going to get there.  This is especially true for my weight loss and fitness ambitions; here’s what I’ve laid out.

    Goals:  A goal is a broad statement of what one wants to accomplish.  Goals indicate a direction or overall aim; they usually don’t have specific numbers or measurements.   The goal is the goal, it doesn’t change whether I’m moving toward it or away from it.  It’s a static something to aim for and work toward.

    My goal, simply stated:  eliminate the excess flab on my body

    Objectives: These should be measurable.  Objectives usually contain numbers and have action words in them:  “manage,” “reach,” “create,” “start.”  For those of us with weight loss and fitness goals, our action word is most often “lose.”  Objectives should be clear, measurable, achievable, and they usually contain a time element as well.

    Here are my objectives:  attain 12% body fat or reach 175 pounds by June 30th

    Okay, okay, I realize it’s a bit muddy to have “or” in my stated objectives, but realizing either of these will satisfy my larger goal of losing my excess flab.  If I embark on a good weight routine I might hit 12% body fat and be 190 pounds of muscle; muscle weighs more than fat.  Or if I don’t add muscle to my body I might hit 175 pounds and still have 15% body fat.  For me, either outcome is acceptable this year.  Let’s just do one or the other and I can redefine my goal then.

    Strategies:  These are the things we will do to meet objectives.  What steps will we take?  If I want to get to 175 pounds by the end of June I have to do so incrementally.  I can’t just state that I want to be at that weight then wake up the end of may and try to lose 35 pounds.  I have to have a plan, a strategy.

    My strategy:  lose 2 pounds a week.  

    Tactics:  Here’s what it all comes down to.  Here are the specific things we do to fulfill the strategy, satisfy the objective, and eventually attain the goal.  These are the details,  the nitty gritty, the things we pay attention to.  So what do I have to do to lose 2 pounds a week so that I can reach 175 pounds and be rid of this excess flab?  My tactics:

    • Count my calories and stay below my allotted number as determined by my Lose it! app
    • Walk in excess of 12,000 steps a day on weekdays; 6,000 steps a day on weekends

    By counting calories and increasing my activity–tactics–I can lose two pounds a week.  By losing two pounds a week–my strategy–I can achieve a weight of 175 pounds by the end of June (Lose it! tells me I’ll meet my objective by Friday, May 20th).  By reaching my objective of a body weight of 175 I will have eliminated the excess flab, which is my ultimate goal.

    For, me breaking it down like this gives me clarity.  It helps me to understand specifically what it is I am trying to achieve and gives me clear direction.  Plenty of people can just embark on a weight loss or fitness plan and be successful without this detail, but for me, laying it out is what works.

    Best of luck on whatever method you have–its getting there that matters, not the path we take.