Seven Days, Ten Pounds

April 15, 2010

Last Thursday, April 7th I did meet my dietitian for the first time. The first thing she did was putting me on the official 20/20 LifeStyles program scale. The result 255.8lb. Right after that we sat down and she introduced me to what was going to be my diet for the first stage of the program, which could last from one to two weeks. The summary is as basic as: protein shakes and lean protein, together with some fats, supplements, and fiber. No less, no more. The daily meals for stage one are as follows:

Breakfast

One protein shake with 1/2 cup of berries, 1 Tbsp of peanut butter, 1 Tbsp of fiber, 20/20 daily supplements. About 320 calories and 8 grams of fat.

Lunch and Dinner

Six ounces (cooked weight) of very lean (chicken white meat, turkey, tuna, cod, etc.) protein or lean (salmon, duck without the skin, chicken dark meat, etc) protein, adding one extra fat serving (1 tbsp of oil, 10 olives, 6 almonds, 10 peanuts, etc.) to when eating very lean protein only. One protein shake with 1/2 cup of berries. Total between 475 and 550 calories, 11 to 18 grams of fat.

Snacks

Twice a day one protein shake with 1/2 cup of berries. Total about 220 calories, no fat.

Total for a normal day

The day’s total would be between 1500 and 1700 calories from 130 to 150 grams of protein (35%), 30 to 45 grams of fat (25%) and between 150 and 170 grams of carbohydrates (45%).

After seeing this I can tell you I was really scared about how hungry I was going to be during the day. A whole week of hunger was in front of me, and I was not really sure about how to tackle it. Before I started this I could eat that total amount of calories for a day in each of my main meals, and to that I would eat also some not very healthy snacks and not as much exercise as I’m doing now with going to the gym five days per week. But I’m 110% committed to this program and losing weight, so there was no way I was going to get sidetracked by anything, much less hunger.

Surprisingly, after a whole week, I haven’t felt hungry except in a couple of occasions right before going to bed, and it was nothing too bad. Actually I feel like I have eaten plenty enough to maintain myself alive and kicking, have plenty of energy, and do not feel down or anything because of the lack of sugar, which is the biggest issue with most people. My philosophy is that if you are going to do something you better be happy about it, because it is a pain to be cranky, for yourself and for the rest of the world around you.

My main challenge for the week has been the shakes. I like them, nothing about its taste or texture that I hate, but having five of them a day make them the thing you eat the most for a week, and you get tired. Fortunately, the program offers substitutes for the shakes as protein bars and protein muffins, but mainly savory biscuits made with chicken stock and protein powder. This biscuits are really great, not as good as real bread, but make you feel you’re eating a real hamburger when you put 6oz of super lean ground beef in between them. It tasted like the best hamburger I’ve ever eaten, and it did not have even veggies. For those interested, here’s the recipe (two to three 6oz servings, since you weight your portions once cooked):

Ingredients

  • One pound of super lean ground beef (around 5% fat)
  • One whole egg
  • Two tsp garlic powder
  • One tsp salt
  • Fresh parsley to taste

Process

In a medium bowl mix with your hands (yes, wash them and use them, they’re there for a reason) all the ingredients until they are thoroughly combined. Split into two or three patties, depending on how many portions you want to make out of it, and grill them without any extra fat added. While the hamburger is cooking open your 20/20 Savory Biscuit and put it in the toaster to make it warmer and crunchy. When the meat is done you can put 1 tsp of mustard in your patty and biscuit, and eat.

Really simple and really delicious, mainly if you do it after 3-4 days in the diet. Total dietary values of the meal for 6oz are: 406 calories, 64g of protein, 5.7g of carbohydrates, and 12.6g of fat. Pretty much on perfect target with the diet, and really good.

During this first week my average intake per day has been 1587 calories with 193g of protein, 129g of carbohydrates, and 35g of fat. It is a little high on the protein side, but it is normal in this first stage, according to my dietitian, and there’s nothing to worry about. The important thing was to keep the carbohydrates and fats under control, which I did pretty much without issues.

Yesterday, after a whole week of stage one, and feeling great I went back to see the dietitian, to get a whole bunch of good news. First, I have lost 9.6lb in a week, according to the official 20/20 scale. Second, thanks to this great results and not having got into too much trouble during stage one, I’m now in stage two of the program. This basically means that my meals are going to be pretty much the same but with huge twist: I have to add at least four servings of non starchy vegetables to my daily intake, and I can skip the lunch shake. I have lost 10lb, I feel great, it has been easy, and I cannot tell you how looking forward I am to eating my 20/20 burger with tomatoes, onions, and lettuce.


The Gadgets of Weight Loss

April 7, 2010

I am a gadget man. I love buying gadgets, using gadgets, showing off gadgets… I have bought and tried all kind of gadgets all my life. I probably could have made a living out of it, but it was not something I thought much about until there were already too many gadget reviewing sites on the internet. Because of how much I like gadgets, I thought about talking about some from time to time when planning to start writing this blog. And here goes the first post about it.

I started my adventure in the 20/20 LifeStyles program a few days ago, and since then I have got a few new gadgets to help me with it. Some are important to have, others I have got simply because I love gadgets. But all of them have a purpose and are worth a comment.

Blood Pressure Monitor: if you need to monitor your blood pressure and you hate having to go to the pharmacy to do it, this is a must. I bought some time ago the Omron HEM-790IT Automatic Blood Pressure Monitor with Advanced Omron Health Management Software, mainly because it connects to your computer where you can keep the history of your blood pressure readings. Later I discovered that it also uploads the data to Microsoft HealthVault, which is really convenient for me since I can share it through it with the people at the 20/20 LifeStyles program, my family doctor, etc.

Pedometer: I got one from the people at the 20/20 LifeStyles program the day of my physical assessment. Besides tracking your meals and your “formal” exercise, it is important to know how active your life is out of the gym. The pedometer they give you is really cool, the Omron HJ-720ITC Pocket Pedometer with Advanced Omron Health Management Software. Not only it counts all your steps, but you can also set your weight and step length, it resets automatically at midnight so you do not inadvertently over count your steps, and most importantly it connects to your computer and uploads your data to your Microsoft HealthVault account if you have one. A great gadget with a lot of functionality! So much that right after getting mine I bought one for my girlfriend so we can do some healthy competition about who walks more every day. Starting today, the loser of the day will have to throw $1 into a jar. Great way to save $365 over a year!

Heart Rate Monitor: as I’ve said already in a previous post, I believe wearing a heart rate monitor while exercising is really important to keep track of your progress and to accurately know how hard you’re working out. I personally like Polar since they’re not only really good, but compatible with most of the machines you can find at your local gym. Their biggest, maybe their only, disadvantage is how bad their software is. I own the S725X which supposedly should connect with HealthVault in the same way as my Omron pedometer does, but the Polar driver does not work for versions of Windows other than XP. I’ll set up a virtual machine with XP only for this, but that’s not a real possibility for everybody. Polar ProTrainer will run in Vista or Windows 7 only if you run it as Administrator. If you’re a Mac user you’re out of luck too, since Polar does not support it. You might be lucky and make it work if running Windows in your Mac. It is a shame that the company that makes the best heart rates monitors makes such a bad software. Maybe they use electrical engineers for making their software, rather than developers, who knows. In any case, and even with the software problems, I really believe Polar is the way to go.

Food scale: obviously you not only have to know what you eat, but how much of it you eat. Although we have a food scale at home, I bought one to get to the office where I will use it to measure my snacks and some other stuff when I prepare my lunch at work. I went for the EatSmart™ Precision Pro – Multifunction Digital Kitchen Scale because of the great reviews and price at Amazon.com. The Calorie-Factor Food Booklet it comes with is a nice to have too.

Bathroom scale: you need to keep track of your own weight, so having a bathroom scale is a must. I already had one, but starting with the 20/20 LifeStyles program served me as the perfect excuse to get the perfect geek bathroom scale: Withings WiFi Body Scale. Yes, you have read it correctly, WiFi. This scale does not only measure your fat mass, weight and BMI, but also sends the information via WiFi to the Withings website and your Microsoft HealthVault account. I hope I intend to write a full review of this scale pretty soon, and I hope it works up to my expectations.

Blender: this is not specifically for weight loss, but I have bought a blender because of it. The 20/20 LifeStyles program removes all the food from your diet and integrates it back in stages in order to find out the effects of each type of food in your body chemistry (more about this in future posts, after meeting my dietitian later today and learning more about it myself). In Stage 1 I will be eating only protein shakes with berries (thankfully I already drink these things after workouts, and I know I do not dislike them) and lean protein (chicken, turkey, fish, tofu, etc.). Making the shakes at home and taking them to the office where I spent most of my time is not an option, so having a blender at the office to mix them is the way to go according to most people I’ve talked to about this. Although my original plan was to get a personal blender, the amount of leaking problems reported in the reviews for all of them made me change my mind. I ended up getting an Oster 8 Speed Blender, because we have other Oster blender that has been working fine for years, and also because Oster offers the Blend-N-Go Cups which make their compatible blenders work exactly as the small blenders, and without the leaking issues the small blenders seem to have. If you do not plan to put berries in your protein shakes and you do not mind not being able to crush the ice if you use it, a very practical and economical solution is a blender bottle. That’s how I used to prepare my protein shakes in the office.

Office Fridge: this is something I’ve always wanted to bring to my office, although not precisely to store frozen berries and healthy food, but rather beer (I’m lucky I can have beer at work, and even drink it) and margarita mix, but hey… at some point in the future it might store beer. By now, it’ll have to do with frozen berries and healthy stuff. Anyways, I am buying a small Sanyo fridge from my local Costco. I hope it does not make my office temperature unbearable during the summer working together with the 7 computers I have there. Yes, I know… but didn’t I tell you I like gadgets. I’m a little geeky too.


First Day, Officially

April 6, 2010

Today has officially been my first day in the 20/20 LifeStyles program. It has been the day in which I have met my Personal Trainer, Dustin, and that’s the reason it counts as the first day. I did the physical assessment last Thursday and met my doctor yesterday. The toughest part, the diet, will start on Thursday right after I meet my dietitian tomorrow evening.

While waiting for Dustin at the program desk in the gym, I have seen a guy with who I play poker from time to time. A few months ago I saw him at a poker tournament at work and couldn’t help asking him about his weight loss. He told me he had joined the program and felt it was one of the best decisions he had ever made. I remembered him 300lb+ (just a guess, but I’m sure not far from reality) and that day he looked like he had lost most of what he needed to lose. Today he looked like he had lost even more, probably weighting around 180lb. It’s been great to see how it has worked for him. Great encouragement!

With Dustin it has been more than anything an introduction and expectations setup. I will be meeting him three days a week for one hour and we will do both aerobic and strength training. By now, and until my blood pressure gets to normal levels, I will be getting blood pressure reads both before and after every exercise session. Since you lose most of your calories during aerobic training, and since losing weight is “simply” unbalancing the calories you use and the calories you take in favor of the ones you use, I’m expected to get five or six forty five minutes sessions of aerobic workout per week. Dustin gave me the option of getting most of the aerobic workout by myself before meeting him so we can do longer strength workouts. I will do that every time I can get to the gym early for our meetings. No matter what, I’ll get the forty five minutes aerobic, and the more time we have for the rest, the better. I am totally committed to get the most out of this program.

The two most calorie burning exercises in a gym seem to be running in the treadmill and the step climbing machine. Because of my weight and join problems I decided to pass on the treadmill by now, until I lose a few pounds. To begin the workout we’ve done twenty minutes in the step climbing machine. This is basically a going downstairs escalator with four or five steps. You have to keep climbing steps so you do not fall to the floor. Trying to set the level at which I should workout, we have started in level three. We went to level five after about four minutes, and to level seven after another five. After the twenty minutes I was dripping sweat and my heart rate was 154bpm and climbing, which is close to my max during indoor cycling classes. Speaking about heart rate, I believe wearing a heart rate monitor is really important to keep track of your progress and to accurately know how hard you’re working out. I personally like Polar since they’re not only really good, but compatible with most of the machines you can find at your local gym. I own the S725X that I used to use for biking outside too. It is a little bit outdated, but still works perfect after more than three years. If you’re planning to get serious about your exercise routine, get one that fits you and put it to work.

Since I was not going to be able to survive much more of the step torture, we moved to a Precor AMT100i Experience Series Adaptive Motion Trainer.  This is basically an elliptical machine in which you can set the length of your strides in order to simulate running, regular elliptical, or step climbing. Level 7, strides as long as possible to simulate running, and after another ten minutes we were almost done with the aerobic for the day. After the aerobic Dustin showed me some floor exercises I have to do after every training session in order to strengthen my legs muscles to better support knees and ankles and reduce join pain. Then, ten more minutes of recumbent bike while watching the first of the 20/20 LifeStyles videos and our work together was done for the day. Stretching, sauna, and the day at the gym was over.


New Birthday Resolutions

March 31, 2010

I became 40 a few days ago. It’s been about the best 40 years I can think of for anybody, I haven’t had a bad life. Great family, no financial problems, happy childhood, great college times, great friends, lots of fun, crappy jobs, good jobs, great jobs, lots of fun, the best girlfriend/partner ever, more great friends, more fun. Absolutely nothing to complain about…

There have been very few things I’ve not been able to control through my life. I was able to quit smoking over one pack of Marlboro reds a day (after a few tries, but I got it) with the help of what I think is an excellent book: The Easy Way to Stop Smoking by Allen Carr. If you’re thinking about quiting and haven’t read it go for it, nothing to lose except the $10 it costs at Amazon.com. But I have never been able to control my weight.

I’ve been overweight most of my life. It has not been a big issue, really. I’ve had some minor problems but it has not been as bad as many might think. I’ve been active most of my life and in decent shape besides the extra weight. I’m sure the activity has been great for my overall health, but not so much for my joints.

I am 5’11″ high. I did top the scale around 20 years ago at 275lb. Since then I have got down to about 200lb six times, and back to over 240 the same six times. No matter how slow or how fast I lost the weight, I have always managed to get back to square one. After the success of quitting smoking with Allen Carr’s book, I even tried another one he published about losing weight: Allen Carr’s easyweight to Lose Weight. Contrary to the one about how to quit smoking this one is, in my opinion, not worth the paper it’s written on. It tries to convince you that the natural way of living is not being omnivorous, but vegan. He even makes that point that lions and tigers would love to be vegan but they eat meat because it’s the only thing they can find. Total nonsense. Anyway, it did not work for me, and I still could not controlling my weight. At all.

I am 253lb now and starting to feel some of the overweight problems. Join pain does not allow me to stay as active as I’ve been. Although I still hit the gym about 2-4 times a week, I miss it many weeks due to knee pain, ankle pain, feet pain, and sometimes back pain too. Reducing my exercise without reducing my food intake has made me gain about 20lb in the last year, which does not help to solve my joint issues. And even worse, it has brought high blood pressure and high cholesterol too. Although these are not big issues yet, they increase the risks of really big issues, so if to keep a life as good as possible for another 40 years I better do something, and do it fast. The faster, the better.

Drugs are not an option, at least not for me. I will not take drugs to solve a problem that can be solved any other way. I do not even take pain killers most of the time. I’m convinced that drugs are not good for you, and I’m talking about the legal ones here. The ones that your doctor prescribes to solve all your problems. Those that when you read their fine print the first time you wish you had not read it because now you know there’s a chance that you die of internal bleeding because you’re taking pills to ___________ (fill in your own problem here).

Since drugs are not an option and I haven’t been able to make diet and exercise work for 40 years by myself, it’s about time to get thinking about some other solutions. If I think about dieting for the rest of my life, I know I will fail miserably. There has to be a better way, and there is: changing my habits. I need to get “brainwashed” (big quotes here, this is good brainwashing) to change my habits. My brain has to get rewired so I am able to make, for the rest of my life, conscious decisions about what I eat, and chose the right things to eat. And I also need to change my habits to get back in track with my exercise and keep it that way.

Luckily enough there is a program which can help me achieve this. And even luckier, they offer it really close to where I live. And on top of all this, the company I work for is willing to pay for most of the cost of it. The program is called 20/20 LifeStyles and is designed to change your lifestyle into a healthier one.

As one of the big “mid-life crisis” changes, I have joined the 20/20 LifeStyles program a week ago, and I plan to use this blog as a journal of my trip through it. From today being 253lb, to whatever the next few weeks will take me, I plan to write about it here. I’m going to be writing for myself, but also for many people who might get inspired by my trip and by knowing about an option for them to get healthier too. I would be happy if someone finds this and gets a positive influence out of it.

I’ve enrolled in the 20/20 Lifestyles program for sixteen weeks. According to my BMI I should do twenty weeks, but we’re starting at sixteen and going from there. I’ve already met my Intake Advisor once, done my blood work, and scheduled the rest of appointments for the next few weeks. Tomorrow I will do my fitness assessment to see how ready I am for the exercise training. I will meet my doctor next Monday. I will start my exercise program on Tuesday. And I will meet my dietician on Wednesday, which means I will start my diet on Thursday.

I will begin every post about my experience with the 20/20 LifeStyles program after this one with my weight and BMI. I hope I see both of them drop soon and for good. As of now, March 31st 2010, my weight is 253lb and my BMI is 35.28, which according to http://www.bmi-calculator.net means Obese class 2. Their advice for me is: “If you have a BMI of 35-39.99 your risk of weight-related health problems and even death, is severe. See your doctor and reduce your weight to a lower BMI”. Out of curiosity I have tried their calculator to get a value over 39.99 for BMI, and the advice is as follows: “BMI is over 40 (Obese Class 3 : Morbid Obesity) – With a BMI of 40+ you have an extremely high risk of weight-related disease and premature death. Indeed, you may have already been suffering from a weight-related condition. For the sake of your health it is very important to see your doctor and get specialists help for your condition”. Although I have not got the point of being really worried about my short term health, all this sounds like my chances of having a not so nice rest of my life are getting bigger by the minute. The positive is that it makes me feel really good about my decision. I’m changing my life style for good.

I’ll be back soon to talk about how all the rest of the 20/20 meetings go and add more details about the program as I learn about them. Stay tuned!!


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