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An update

My apologies for not updating in a while. I wish I could say that I’ve been too busy, but I haven’t. The lack of updates notwithstanding, I feel pretty good.

It has been two months since I started, though it feels quite a bit longer. Since I began I have lost 35 pounds. That feels great to say. It is Incredible progress in just two months. It sounds more impressive to say than I feel impressed to have accomplished it. I think the reason for that is that the number is abstract. Like so many other things in my life I ask myself, “Yeah, but does it mean?

The thought of losing that much in just two months is kind of surreal. People are noticing. My favorite shirt doesn’t fit me anymore, but my old favorite shirt does—despite having not fit for a very long time. Some of the clothes that I used to wear snuggly now look ridiculous on me; my PJs in particular. I’m not totally wiped out by a night of dancing, as I have been in the past. The aggregate of these small things makes me feel much better than any reading on a scale.

I didn’t start with any milestones in mind, I just started. I’m not done yet either, but it feels good to check in and reflect. I started exercising this week, I’ll update you with how it goes.

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How Not to Gain 35lbs a Year…

Part of the dieting protocol that I am following requires that I do not drink calories. This means that I cannot drink alcohol (except on my day off). This made me curious how much I was drinking in an average week. To be clear, these estimates are for what I imagine my averages were, but are likely very conservative. I found the nutrition facts online.

On an average night out I would have four drinks. My drinks of choice are Indian Pale Ales (IPAs) or Jameson and ginger ale.  One IPA has about 200 calories (depending on the brewery). Drinking four IPAs a night would net me about 800 calories. One Jameson and ginger ale has about 210 calories (2oz of Jameson and 8oz of ginger ale). Drinking four is also about 800 calories per night. 

But, here’s the thing: I tend to go out about three nights a week. Meaning three average nights a week would add to 2400 calories. What about in a year…

2400 cal/wk X 52 wk/yr = 124,800 cal/yr

Using the standard 3500 cal/lb math means that the calories from an average year of drinking equals 35 pounds! The freshman 15 becomes the freshman 35. 

After this math, I am more than happy to cut out the booze.

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My New Favorite Thing…

Have you ever had sex that was so good it made you light-headed? Neither have I, but I think my favorite way to prepare salmon comes close to the same feeling. It’s so easy too. 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pour, on a large piece of aluminum foil, just enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the salmon filet. Place the salmon, season, wrap it up. Put it in the oven for 25 minutes. That’s all. 25 minutes @ 400. 

I have played with a bunch of different temperatures and cooking times. This is perfect. I will often put the veggies that I am going to eat on top of the fish and then wrap it up and bake. Put what ever seasoning you want. One of my favorite combos is pepper and lemon zest.

You’re welcome.

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A Thousand Words…

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When I told a friend of mine that I was starting this blog she emailed this photo to me. It was taken about six or seven years ago, during my first year of college. It seems lifetimes ago. Isn’t it odd how time blends together? Time does a funny thing, it fragments our lives into periods. Sometimes those time periods are marked by a particular context—high school, college, etc—other times it is only marked by time itself—your 20s, 30s, etc. It’s very easy for time to have a splitting effect on ourselves. Very literally we refer to past Selves. We say things like “if my 8 year old self could see me now,” “my high school self,” and “if i was the person I was five years ago.”

Yet, we rarely think about the construction of new Selves. Yet we build them. We are a code-switching species, us humans. I think that this may be a good frame to think about my quest to redo myself. I want to construct a new self, from the outside in. There is much evidence to support this idea; the non-physical benefits of a healthy lifestyle are perhaps endless. Reflecting on the picture above I quickly realize that I will not forget the lessons that I have learned over the last seven years, nor the experiences had, nor the friends made and/or lost. I take them all in stride and as a result I have grown in heart, mind, spirit, and unfortunately, body.

I will keep this photo in mind throughout this process as a reminder of how much I have changed and how much changing I have left to do. You know, this is a picture of a young, naïve, idealistic, Republican Vince. Oh how time works on us!

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I Lost 12.5 Pounds in Five Days

The title really says it all. In the first five days of the quest to redo me I have lost 12.5 lbs. How did I do it? Well in the previous post I outlined my plan, and that is all that I have really done. No marathon cardio sessions, no resistance training. Just diligently watching what I eat.

Now mind you: I am not counting calories, I am just being cognizant of the food that I put in my body. For breakfast each of the previous five days I have had two eggs, a cup of black beans and a cup of spinach.

For lunch on Monday-Wednesday I had a cup of lentils (which I cooked with onions and tomatoes) and a can of tuna. On Thursday and Friday I added lettuce to my lentil tuna salad. The lettuce (about two cups) added some much needed texture and color. 

For dinner I had black beans, two cups of veggies, and seafood (Mon-Wed it was about 8-10 pieces of shrimp, on Thurs and Fri it was an approximately 8oz piece of salmon). That’s what I ate. I drank a lot of water and coffee. I had nothing else to drink all week.

I weighed myself Monday morning and again on Saturday morning, the difference was exactly 12.6 pounds (the average of three weighings). I have also been measuring my waist, hips, thighs and arms. The difference of the sum of these measurements was 7.5 inches. In less than one week I lost over 12.5 pounds and 7.5 total inches. 

While this is great news, it should be kept in perspective: I still have a long way to go. Hopefully this will be the first in a series of awesome weigh ins. 

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My Plan

A friend once dared me to quit smoking. I quit cold-turkey for over a year. I can be pretty disciplined when I give a shit. The trick is maintaining the “give a shit” attitude. Any one can go on a diet for a day, millions have. A week is harder. A month is challenging. A year is no longer “going on a diet”, it is a permanent change.  

Simplicity, by definition, makes things easier. To meet my goals I will follow a simple diet for 4-6 weeks, after which (depending on progress) I will add resistance training. The diet will change slightly after that to adjust to the new nutritional needs that the training will require, but will largely stay the same. The point of the resistance training will be to accelerate my body composition goals, which is predominantly fat loss. 

I will follow a slow-carb diet. While these diets seem to be popular nowadays, I see them more as the result of iteration of dieting advice over the last fifteen years or so. There are many different takes on the rules, but they are mostly the same. I will be following the protocol advanced by Tim Ferriss. He has reduced the diet to these five rules: 

  • Avoid “white” carbs (aka simple or high GI carbs, but a rose by any other name…)
  • Repeat the same few meals
  • Don’t eat fruit (except tomatoes and avocados)
  • Don’t drink carbs
  • Take a day off per week

If you care to read the particulars you can on his blog or in his book. Sometimes he can come off as charlatan-esque, but if it produces results I’ll forgive it. I also plan on adding some minor supplementation. There are other habits that during the first few weeks I’ll be trying to develop: smaller portions, eating slower, drinking more water, eating breakfast, etc. 

I’ve not given much thought the role that I want this blog to play in my quest to redo me. Every post has comments enabled, feel free to post one. The blog can be “followed” in Tumblr, or it can be subscribed to by clicking the RSS link at the top of the page. If you’d like to keep on top of it (which I would encourage you to) you can choose either of those.

At the bottom of the page is an “about this blog” blurb. Included in it is a Google Voice number that people can call to leave a message of encouragement, a story/anecdote, or ironic musing. This number is not my personal GV number, but has been setup for this blog. I will never answer this phone (as it doesn’t forward to any phone), but I will check the voicemail from time to time. I am really interested to see if people will use this option, and if so, how they will.

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Weighing In…

I weighed myself today. Weighing yourself is always an uneasy experience: Take a breath, step on the scale, and wait for it to scream the truth at you. The scale is a hard-hearted, callous judge of character. The verdict:

277.8 lbs.

Exhale. Get off the scale … get back on: 273.2 lbs. This is the heaviest that I have ever been.  I have decided to do something about it.

Some history. When I was a kid I was rail-thin. I was the skinny kid running around playing sports: basketball, football, soccer, whatevs. I was also a little stud-muffin. I know exactly when things changed (I mean my weight, I still think I’m a stud-muffin—just a bigger one). The summer before fifth grade I spent two months in Mexico with my late grandfather. I didn’t know anyone there, so there wasn’t anyone to play with. Add that to the fact that my grandpa (as grandpas are wont to do) fed me. A lot. Anything I wanted. For two months I ate like a Mayan prince, and did nothing by way of physical activity. After those two months I probably gained close to 15 or 20 lbs, which is quite a bit for the child that I was.

More important than the weight that I gained was what I lost. I lost my enthusiasm for being active, and in the process gained bad health habits. It couldn’t have come at a worst time. I was about to enter puberty and would need to feed a growing body. I gained more and more and more. I grew both wide and tall. It has been a slow, exhausting march toward obesity.

So here I am in the autumn of my twenties. I still love sports, but I find myself watching more than playing. I love to dance, but doing so is traumatic to my body. I am aware of how much space I take up, and the awareness is haunting. Most of the time I don’t care, but when I do it’s painful. When I close my eyes my image of self is not obese; it’s youthful, carefree and, yes, thin. That image of self has been trapped in a prison of its own making. An imprisonment so total and unyielding that it seems inescapable.

On the day after Christmas I made a bet with my father: $100 to whoever loses 45 pounds first. There is so much more to be gained. I want to feel like myself again: youthful, carefree, and thin. If it has been a slow, exhausting march toward obesity; then the march away from it will be equally grueling. This world around me will not discourage me from failing. A careless, sedentary lifestyle is not only common, but it has much to recommend it. Modern society sells desire and its pitch, persuasive; and its payoff, gluttonous. My having decided to do something about my weight is about so much more than 45, 60, or 75 pounds; it is about reconnecting with the youthful exuberance that—until now—I had written off as fantasy, nostalgia. It’s about me doing me, again. Success will be impossibly hard, yet unimaginably rewarding.

I hope that this blog will be a strong component of this process, a place where I can share my thoughts, challenges, and insights. Hopefully a small community of support and encouragement will sprout up: a selfish wish. I will share some specifics of what I plan on doing shortly.