Wednesday marked my 197th day since I decided to get in shape. On January 15, I forced myself to think to the summer, specifically August when I’d be on vacation down the shore. So many times in the past I would be uncomfortable with my lack of fitness when on vacation. I would regret not getting my act together and then try to convince myself that next time would be different.
Today, I can say it is. As we round out the month of July, I am sixty pounds lighter than I weighed on January 15. My body fat percentage is around 11 to 12%, as a reflection of waist measurement, and my BMI sits at 23.1. Coming from 194.4 lbs, an obese BMI of 33.4 and a body fat percentage of around 30%, I now am happy to weigh 134.4 lbs and be thirty percent lighter than when I original began this weight loss. More importantly, I feel healthy, energetic and fit. The best measurement of this change may not be weight, or waist size, but my heart. My resting heart rate is a constant 47 BPM, whereas in January it fluctuated wildly between the low 60’s and high 70’s.
While I initially targeted further weight loss, I am very content at 134 and I plan to moderate my intake to gradually balance out my weight around 130 – 134 lbs over the next month. I once felt the need to drop into the 120’s, but I think that mentality was more about a fixation on a number rather than a focus on how I feel.
The past month and last ten pounds have been the most challenging to accomplish, mainly as a result of a reduction in my overall calorie needs. My Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) sits just south of 1,500 calories a day. On a weekday at work, I can safely assume a day’s total around 1,700 calories burned between breaks and light walking to and from the office. Given that I was trying to lose two pounds a week, I needed to add around 850 to 900 calories of exercise in the time spent away from work, in place of just taking it easy. This was while maintaining the very minimum of calorie intake recommended for men, at 1,400 to 1,500 calories a day. It became very taxing, as I had gone from a weight where my daily metabolism would burn through 2,000 on its own, requiring only twenty minutes of running, to a weight where I would need to do over an hour and a half of intense exercise each day with the same calorie intake restrictions. Add a demanding career and business school aspirations (GMAT & applications) and you can see where things get a little difficult to balance.
Now, as I will only allow modest deficits (at maximum 300 to 400 calories during workdays, if that), I feel already much more energetic and generally more positive. It also allows for greater freedom in my schedule and less anxiety about hitting specific targets. It will take just as much diligence for this shift to maintenance to be successful. Given that I do not want to carry any higher of a weight than I currently have, I cannot discard all the calorie logging and generally positive habits of healthy eating / daily exercise. I just can ease off the gas a little in how I go about my activity or calorie restrictions.
Given the fundamental change in my daily calorie needs, I have come to the realization that much of the expectations I once had regarding eating larger breakfasts once again or getting larger portions for lunch were a little foolhardy. I will need to approach each day as I have, like a puzzle, just this time with higher limits so that I can more easily fit three courses and snacks into my schedule.
As for my physical fitness, I am riding greater distances and faster than ever before. This past Saturday I biked to Spring City and back, a roundtrip of 70 miles. It was an opportunity to scout a portion of the Schuylkill River trail that goes to Reading, PA. My goal before the summer is over is to bike to Reading for a minor league baseball game (and then return the next day). I also have been considering a ride from D.C. to Pittsburgh for October, with a targeted timing of October 16 through the 25th. Regarding running, I use it as a quick exercise to top off the day, but I have eased off the pace, which I had steadily been improving earlier this summer.
For my own wallet’s sake, I’ll be happy to level off now, as I have gone through four to five rounds of clothes purchases since beginning my weight loss. I had previously topped out at pants with a 40″ waist, and I currently sit comfortably with an inch to give in a 29″ waist. While the pants are easier to find, the shirts are harder, as I have landed on the opposite extreme from where I previously was, in that most shirts are too baggy. These are not the worst problems to have, for sure.
So how does this all feel? Well, I really have a hard time believing that I can finally ease off. I mentally had to commit to such a rigorous routine that now I almost feel like I’m “cheating” all the progress by stopping at 134. The truth is, I think stopping now and modestly managing small deficits is probably a better way to fight against a return of weight, than to go full speed to a final number and expect a 180 immediately. The last thing I want to do is gain the weight back, so it makes sense to start transitioning to where I no longer feel I’m taking on a herculean task.
My main goals over the next month are to enjoy the rest of the summer at a more manageable pace, to prepare and give my best in the business school applications while balancing work demands, and to figure out a steady routine I can start to ingrain subconsciously into my life. I have been so fixated on numbers, courtesy of my Basis watch, that I recognize there will be a learning curve to better understanding my own body’s results at this weight. The Basis really helped break down potential plateaus, as it compensated for and re-calibrated to my continuing weight loss. Without it, I would have probably not increased workouts by the degree to which I needed to continue at the two pound per week pace of weight loss I maintained until now.
I do want to publish a bit more on the blog, as there are some fun items to note around my lifestyle changes. For instance, I have logged more miles on my bike than many people log on their car, as my #1 mode of transportation from Philadelphia to the suburbs is by bike. It’s such a routine that I don’t even think of it as an exercise, but instead I see it as a regular commute. I also have realized that my time on the bike is like having a personal office to myself. I get so many things mentally accomplished or sorted out, and given the fact that my rides are at a minimum two hours, I tend to be more productive in that isolation than I ever am sitting in front of a computer.
Yes, my bike is now my office, as weird as that sounds. It’s the truth. I live in a one bedroom apartment and enjoy being right in the city, a block from my job. But I also love the outdoors, and specifically the suburban and rural landscape. To me, getting on the bike is like going on the porch of my grandfather and grandmother’s old cabin outside of Dubois to watch nature and relax. It might not sound relaxing, but there’s a cadence I’ve found that allows me to ride comfortably while fast enough to fly by the scenery. It’s serene and peaceful. It’s also where I end up passing right by a family of young deer, foxes, turtles, and other wildlife I rarely noticed before.
Getting on the bike, being outside and spending time being physically active are all things that I once did as a kid without a second thought. It’s taken six and a half months, but I’m finally back to doing the things that make me most happy. I plan to continue to do so for a long, long time.
Thanks for reading.