I saw the doc for the first time since Covid-19 disrupted our very existence. He gave me the long face, but I was thrilled that I only gained nine pounds since last year’s physical. Unfortunately, that nine pounds had a surprisingly negative affect on my internal plumbing and lab results. BP was slightly higher, clothes were fitting more snugly, Cholesterol markers were up, Uric Acid jumped, and worst of all blood sugar was elevated. I am not a fan of taking prescription meds, primarily because I am cheap. Just because I own Merck stock doesn’t mean I want to pay their retail pharmacy prices. And no way am I capable of injecting myself with insulin each daily.
When I was younger, losing nine pounds was nothing. I could cut out the beer, burgers, and wings, crank up my gym time and voilà! These days, not so much. Now I just think about drinking a beer and I have to loosen up my belt.
So, what to do?
Being a zealot pour la cause du jour with an eternal quest for knowledge, I turned the idea of slenderizing into a research project. I amused myself with illusions of writing the next great get-fit treatise. But not just a diet book, a change your life book for quinquagenarians and older. Something Richard Simmonsesque like “Don’t Be 50 and Fat!” A plan for those of us whose bones creak like a hundred-year-old wooden floor and whose metabolism rate has fallen like the anvil Wiley Coyote dropped trying to get the Roadrunner. A guide for those who think a triathlon is a 6-pack, pizza, and football game.
If Family Feud asked the secret to losing weight the number one answer would be, “Eat fewer calories than you burn.” Right? While that may be true, calculating individual’s base calorie rate is scientific and unique to that person. It is fact that 3,500 calories equal one pound. To apply this weight loss, our daily calorie deficit (calories needed minus calories consumed) must be 500 calories to lose one pound in a week. Doable if you know what your true calorie burn rate is…otherwise it’s a guess.
Here are a couple of other significant considerations at my ripe old age. In addition to pure weight loss, I have to consider my health conditions. I have osteoarthritis so I need foods to help reduce my joint inflammation. Most importantly, I am too cantankerous to just give up foods I like; restrictive diets are the proverbial dawg that don’t hunt. Besides, no one wants to be around me when I’m hangry.
With writing as my avocation, I started my Top Five list of must dos for losing the Quarantine 15. It can certainly be accomplished, and without as much sacrifice as I imagined. I am down 13 pounds for September, but these were the easy pounds to lose. Since retiring from my sports career several years back following my last knee surgery, I have been packing on pounds at a rate of 10 pounds per year. My target is losing 50 pounds, by April 17, 2021. (Remember: Goals must be measurable and committed to writing).
- To begin, I estimated my daily calorie burn rate on several online calculators – just Google it. The calculations consider age, height, current weight, and lifestyle. As your weight drops, your burn rate also reduces. That’s right, the less you weigh, less calories you can consume. Activity must increase to offset the difference if you want to stay at the same calorie intake level. My estimated daily calorie burn rate is 2,930 (+/- 5%) which includes moderate activity. At 1,800 calories per day, I should lose 2 pounds per week. This amount is pretty easily attained, but alcohol and bored eating must be severely restricted. I am actually able to average closer to 1,400 per day, so I grant myself rewards once or twice per week like a glass of Chardonnay with a nice meal.
Alcohol is a triple whammy. First, your body metabolizes booze first – before fat calories are burned. Next, it’s hard to measure alcohol intake (How much you actually quaffed is tough to measure when your favorite bartender gives you the “big tipper” pour!). Lastly, those generous pours give me the munchies which are all bad calories! Avoid the Goldfish and pretzels!
- Next, I studied the right types of foods I can enjoy for my new lifestyle. I made a list of foods I enjoy, those with antioxidants (which includes dark chocolate!), foods that lessen joint inflammation (try Turmeric), and food prep is also essential. There are days when I can spend hours in the kitchen. Other days, I am traveling and have to eat on the road. A pre-prescribed, pre-packaged box lunch will not feed my cravings. It is crucial that it is food you love for this lifestyle change to last. This must be an adventure, not something you dread.
- Developing a meal plan is complicated. First, you must target the time of day you can devour your carefully chosen calories. If you’re like me, I can’t stand to be hungry, so I am a “snacker.” I have divided my calories into four buckets – breakfast (25% of daily calories), lunch (35%), dinner (25%) and snacks (15%).
I research intermittent fasting and how it is effective for burning fat. I adopted the 14/10 method which has been easy for me. I start my timer following my dinner which is usually around 6:00PM, and don’t eat breakfast until 8:00AM the next morning. I confine my eating to a 10-hour period each day. I have coffee with cream when I get up – but nothing sugary to spike blood insulin!
And finally, my calories are spread 50% good fats / 30% proteins / 20% carbs. Keeping this ratio can be challenging. A good steak will explode the fat grams count, and fruits and vegetables contain healthy carbs (gone are the scorned bread, potatoes, rice, and sugar!) Chicken breasts and fish help keep things in check. There are myriad of spices and healthy sauces, so you never run out of variety!
- Nothing improves your metabolism rate like building muscle. It is good for both your physical and sexual health – and if those two are good your mental health should improve also! (Remember: Babes prefer biceps over beer bellies!) If you have achieved Professional Couch Potato status, getting back in the gym may be a challenge. Don’t worry about being bored with workout routines of yore, things have changed. There is CrossFit and check out kettlebell or battle rope routines on YouTube. These are part of the newish High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) regimens which can be adapted to any fitness level. In 20 – 30 minutes each day, HIIT gets your heart pumping and builds muscle. There are so many HIIT varieties available that you will long for the boredom of the elliptical and LifeFitness circuit. Go easy and don’t overdo it – this is about changing your life, not seeing how quickly you can pull a hammy. Be certain to include rest days.
If you don’t have a current gym membership, shop around. There are lots of free trials. Find the one that matches your schedule and vibe. I don’t like the gyms with muscle-bound-steroid-dudes that smell like a two-day old fart, nor do I like the ones with hard bodied ladies wearing painted-on leotards – I am too easily distracted. I am willing to pay ten bucks extra per month for a gym that is sanitized and not crowded. And by the way, I am too damn old to care how much I can lift…I just want a good clean workout and not hurt myself.
- The lack of accountability that will doom success. If you ain’t counting, you don’t know. There are dozens of phone apps to help measure everything; today’s steps, heart rate, how long you slept, calories consumed, calories burned, and the list goes on. And if you haven’t bought a new scale recently, it’s time to upgrade – my new scale syncs to my phone. You must count, measure, and plan – absolutely no guessing allowed.
The fun part of this has been rediscovery. When I was young, ten-foot-tall and bulletproof I didn’t worry. Now, I am being re-educated on things I long ago forgot. Also, I am finding great recipes with all the foods I enjoy. Alfredo sauce (a.k.a., heart attack on a plate) is wonderful, but salsa is a better choice. Mix up an avocado with salsa and you have a healthy snack! Mediterranean foods contain lots of veggies outside the usual broccoli and spinach; e.g., parsley, olives, artichokes, cheeses. These are very healthy, and you can include a warm piece of pita bread. I still eat lots of popcorn (which is high in fiber)…now I just skip the half of stick of salted real butter.
I reward myself when I hit my interim goals, like when my weight hits a number ending in 4 or 9. If I stay at my daily 1,800 calories and add in a couple glasses of wine or few Tito’s and tonics, I should still be under my 2,900-daily limit. My neighbor’s homemade chocolate chip cookies are #1 on my rewards list…just above Wavy potato chips!
So, join me! Let’s shed the Quarantine 15, get healthier and develop a new life plan. Between the stresses of the November election and the state of FSU football I really need distractions in my daily routine, so I research new recipes and hit the gym. And remember, Christmas is just around the corner, so then it will be back to my 2,900 calories per day…at least for a few weeks!
The Village Idiot