Every year, millions of Americans say sort of the same thing.  “I want to look better”.  “I want to eat healthier”.  “I want to be a better person”.

Last year at this time, I started a mostly vegan journey…and lost 40 pounds in just over 2 months.  What happened?  Towards the end of my weight loss period, I ate sweet potatoes for the first time.  I loved them!  I also don’t think I mathematically figured out the portions properly.  I did a couch to 5k.  Around mid April, I then decided to try some more non-vegan types of foods, and I completely hurled myself off the cliff in doing so.  I re-introduced pizza, which I didn’t eat for nearly 4 months.  The last month of my dieting and the like, I didn’t lose a pound…I gained 2 pounds.  Around this exact time, I had some severe stresses building up in me.  I then abandoned my relatively expensive eating plan…..and over the last 8 months or so of the year, I put the 40 pounds back on.

For me, stress is a big, big deal.  The type of person I am requires that I have a valve for such items.  Growing up, I mostly had chess, music, and athletics to fully satiate my negative energies.  I could go out on a Saturday afternoon and play 5 hours of tennis in 95 degrees.  I could go out at 8PM and go run 2-3 miles 3 to 4 times a week.  I’d play music for an hour.

Today, I’m finding writing helps with this.  A lot.

I decided I wanted to make a plan up for 2016.  Why?  Well, mostly this year will be a huge year of change for me, as my 3 year contract will be expiring and I may have to move on to another job.  Given that I will be finishing my second master’s degree just before my contract ends…and given I’m now a manager…I’m wondering if upper management could be in my immediate future.  If so, I need to then treat weight loss not as something I’d get around to…but weight loss needs to be a project.  The project must have estimates, materials, costs, and most importantly a charter.  Perhaps I can use my PMP certification to my advantage?

The plan….

One pound of fat is equal to 3500 calories (more accurately, kilocalories..but we simply call them calories).  A calorie is a unit of heat which can raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1  degree Celsius (I think – Google that shit).   Humans are more or less instructed to eat roughly 10 times their body weight in calories to maintain  their weight.   This is a rough estimate, and there are a LOT of factors which affect this.

For argument’s sake, this means a 180 pound man needs to consume 1800 calories per day to not gain or lose weight.  If this man has a ridiculous amount of muscle and exercises a lot, maybe this is supposed to be 2200 calories.  If the person is one of those “skinny fat” people, maybe he maintains his weight at 1600 calories.  So, there is a lot of variation there.

Now let’s assume a 200 pound man needs 2000 calories to maintain his weight.  What happens if he has 2500 calories for 7 straight days?  It means each day there is a 500 calorie excess and over the course of a week, this adds up to 3500 extra calories – or 1 pound.

What if this man was 300 pounds? and he wanted to lose 1 pound a week?  In theory, this means he needs to consume 2500 per day.

What’s interesting is when you add exercise in there, you then consume more calories.  What if the 300 pound man consumed 2500 per day AND exercised 500 calories worth per day?  That’s 2 pounds per week loss.  2000 calories consumed?  3 pounds per week.  The problem then is that the body plays tricks on you.  After a month or so, your body can start to adjust to the exercise/food intake as “normal” and this is invariably what happens to me a lot.  Last year, I lost 40 pounds in about maybe 12 weeks….and the last 4-6 weeks had zero loss, despite arduous dieting and ridiculous amounts of exercise.  In working out, we used to call that “hitting a plateau”.   For me, my plateau is usually directly linked to times of severe stress or negative life events which end up producing a ridiculous amount of the stress hormone cortisol.  In primitive speak – our bodies predict times of famine ahead and attempt to store all calories we can until our body is no longer stressed.

Problems occur when stress cannot be defeated…no one is there to lift the heavy piano off of your back….and no one is there to support you in times of need.  This kills just about all plans I’ve had up to now.

This year…I am mostly insulated from financial stresses.  I have found a new outlet to relieve a lot of my stress (writing), and am now armed with a shitload more culinary skills than this time last year.

So what’s the plan?

  1. Eat more vegan-ish again.  Like last year, I plan on a mostly vegan approach.  Does that mean I won’t eat meat?  Hell no.  Meat is required for B12, which the body cannot produce itself or find in non-meat products.  There are complete proteins with it.  Meat CAN be good for you.  Just not as much as we normally eat.  I think I’m planning on eating meat 2-3 times a week.  Meat is also nutrient-dense, and 6 ounces of meat can have a decent amount of calories with it.  I also joined a CSA to learn more about all kinds of veggies.  So – I made a LOT of good stuff on this last year, and I made a few bad things.
  2. Get back to meal planning.  The wife can’t plan her way out of a paper bag, where I could easily spend a Saturday afternoon meticulously planning every meal for the next month.  My planning would also significantly reduce waste in the process by grouping meals with fresh like ingredients together.
  3. Track my meals!   This might sound hard to do, but when you get used to it, it becomes second nature.  An app like MyFitnessPal can help.  Also, you need to be able to understand what food you are putting in your body.  Below is a nutritional table I put together of everything the body needs.V&MAdditionally, I’d also do things like “typical day” as well as track the calories for all of my favorite foods and serving sizes.  You see, when you make all of your own food, it doesn’t come with calorie labels on it, so you have to really understand what you’re putting into your body.   Take a look at some of these I created.
  4. Get back to exercise!!  Yes, stress takes a toll on me, but so does life.  I used to love to get up early and exercise every day.  In high school, I was a founder of a weight training club and I’d get there at 6:15 or so every morning to school to lift first.  I was a beast with weight lifting!  Once again…life happens.  You can’t get to the gym anymore.  You don’t want to pay $80 per month to the local gym.  You don’t have enough workout clothing.  Blah blah blah.  So…over the course of several years, I built my own home gym.  I just took some pictures so you have a pretty good idea of what I have going on, and how I dropped 40 pounds with a little sweat last year.
    1. Cardio – I have a kick ass treadmill as well as an exercise bike.  What you will notice is there is a TV there hooked up to a DVD player and Netflix.  I tend to get bored with cardio if I’m not stimulated with workout music or watching something.


    2. Resistance training – I used to be able to just eat a lot, workout a lot, run a lot…and I’d get a lot of strength.  Now, I’m confused as shit at 40 years old.  So I want to lift to build muscle…which burns more calories than fat….but if I’m starving my body of calories to lose weight…how am I building the muscle?  This is something you ask 20 different trainers and they will give you 20 different answers.  None of them have a clue, and one that seems to have all of the answers is lying to you.  So…if you have a LOT of excess fat you want to lose…you do cardio to shred extra calories – but my GUESS is weight training will attempt to KEEP existing muscle by using it, MAYBE you get small gains with lean body mass.  As you take off a LOT of weight, your core body building will then increase and give you better shape and that’s when you will see some gains.  Early on in weight loss, I treat resistance training as “I’m starving my body of calories to lose fat, but I’m going to do this exercise to keep these muscles

      Think about it.  To maintain, you need 2500 calories.  You ingest 1800 calories, you run 150 calories worth….you create a deficit of 850 calories.  You then do some working out, maybe another 150 calories worth to make it an even 1,000 deficit.  Does your body immediately burn fat?  Nope.  It burns glycogen stores, drops water, burns muscle, then fat.  Then, certain people tell you to work out before cardio, others say after.

  5. Write, write write!  I’m planning to then hold myself accountable by trying to post some updates once a week on this.  Let’s say Saturday or Sunday morning.
  6. Watch more cooking shows.  I am loving the knowledge I’m learning  with food sciences.  I just saw an Alton Brown episode about making your own home made protein bars, which you can freeze.  This is important to me, because sometimes in the morning I’m just not hungry enough to eat a big bowl of oatmeal, nor the breakfast cereal.  I’d like to take a 200 calorie or so snack with me to work and eat at 9 or 10 which gives me a lot of protein.  S0 – I have to keep up with the cooking shows as well to keep new ideas coming in.
  7. Buh bye bad food.  In a recent posting, I talked about gut flora, and how that seems to turn me into a zombie in search of a Quarter Pounder…Whatever bad gut flora I have living in there I’m going to kill it off over the next 3 weeks.  Re-calibrate my taste buds, if you’ve ever seen the movie “fat, sick, and nearly dead”.  The guy in that loses over 100 pounds with nothing but juicing, which I think he ultimately saved his life with…but possibly destroyed his body with.  There’s nothing good about doing that to your body for a year or so.  Now, he will juice for a weekend or so with a short term “juice fast” to re-calibrate his taste buds.  I get that…I did that last year and it worked well.  Feed yourself with high octane fuel, eliminate the shit foods, exercise.  Suddenly….all of your cravings disappear at once.  You find yourself sitting in your office chair one day completely at peace with the world….slow at rest heart beat, your body is humming along at the oatmeal breakfast, and you have a healthy lunch coming up with a Mean Green juice to go with it.   Below are some pics from my juicing post – enjoy!