New Year’s Resolutions and how I kept mine, part 1 of 2

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This is me in the evening of December 31st 2012 on Jomtien beach with my gorgeous  wife, who clearly looks far too good for me (the truth is, she is!). 

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When I got back home after this really enjoyable trip, I weighed 103 Kgs. I used to tell myself “that isn’t too bad after all I am 191 cm’s tall”.

But the weight was not exactly evenly distributed. I had grown a beard to hide my growing double chin, but nothing, not even my ‘Jungle Birds’ Hawaiian shirt, could hide my bulging waistline.

When I arrived in Thailand, way back in 1997, I weighed just 78 Kgs. But that number crept up over the years. Mostly due to that amber nectar I am holding in the picture…

But as years went on I drifted away from the party scene and settled down (ish), and so a part of me wanted to blame the fact that I had become overweight on the after effects of quitting smoking, but the stark ugly truth is I got fat because I ate too much, drank too much and didn’t move enough.

[Boy that feels good to write, and its even more cathartic to say it out loud!]

I determined that day on the scales, after our New Year’s trip, that 2013 was going to be year that I was going to lose weight, after all I had given up smoking, so surely I could do this, right?

But I had tried before, many times in fact. I had followed the Atkins diet, I had cut back on portion sizes to little effect, I tried a juice fast, but gave up as it was far too inconvenient, and I didnt want to give up eating ‘real’ food. I also have a small young family so it was important to me that I didnt disrupt their lives too much either. 

I couldnt see myself living with any those options permanently. The options out there like paleo diet and plant based diets whilst very good for you, just didnt seem like something I could stick with.

So in other words I wanted a diet, that

  1. wasnt a super duper Paleo / Veggie diet
  2. was sustainable
  3. would help me lose weight
  4. would be healthy
  5. and would be sustainable (Twice because its so important!)

Not much to ask right? I wasn’t optimistic, and then I recalled that I had recently watched a documentary that at the time seemed too good to be true, but it was from a television series that i had grown to love and respect over the years, it was a BBC Horizon documentary by Dr. Michael Mosley, called “Eat, fast and live longer”.

If you are still reading this you may be thinking about how to lose weight too, if so, make this your very first action point, after reading my blog, or better still go Google that right this very second, watch it, and come back here.

I have seen several of his documentaries, he is not some two bit shyster, he is a Doctor / Journalist  who produces excellent programs on a wide variety of medical subjects, more information on him here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_J._Mosley and of course the BBC’s Horizon which has been running since the 1960’s is sheer class, the only criticism of it on Wikipedia is that it has been dumbed down recently http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_Horizon#Criticism

So when I saw this episode that promised that I could lose weight and still eat pizza, ice cream, chocolate and cheeseburgers I started to think that I should probably look into a bit more.

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I went back and watched it again, and started Googling and the feedback I saw was good, really good.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one embarking on this path, this year the 5:2 diet as it has become known has been THE fad diet of 2013, and with good reason. It works.

You dont need to buy a book or special ingredients. Its dead easy to follow. This is ALL you need to know

“The diet specifies a low calorie consumption (sometimes described as “fasting“) for two days a week, which should not be consecutive, but allows normal eating for the other five days.[5][6] Men may eat 600 calories on fasting days, and women 500.[7] A typical fasting day may include a breakfast of 300 calories, such as two scrambled eggs with ham, water, green tea, or black coffee, and a lunch or dinner of grilled fish or meat with vegetables, amounting to 300 calories.[6] The daily 500 or 600 calorie limit requires small portions.” Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5:2_diet

For me, my breakfast was (and indeed still is) oatmeal, prepared with water, and frozen fruit. I sometimes add a scoop of vanilla protein powder to it too. Then during the day I drink water / green tea / black coffee (all of course without any sweetener)  and for dinner I have a tin of sardines in tomato sauce mixed with lemon grass, chillies, shallots, spring onions on a bed of lettuce. That’s it. I do this on Tuesdays and Thursdays

Seems meager right?

Well it is, and yes you get hungry, but you get to learn what being hungry is. Hunger doesn’t build and build, it comes in waves, just like that urge to smoke did when I gave up. But you can counter it by drinking water. one glass and it subsides, and you really don’t have to wait that long to the next meal. Keeping busy at works helps too.

People ask me if I over compensate the following day, and to be frank I thought I would. But after a good breakfast, perhaps throw a banana and two scoops of protein powder and some toast. I’m good, and then at lunch I eat a normal lunch and have a normal dinner.

But what is a “normal” balanced meal? To determine that I knew that the “normal’ diet consisted of approx 2000 calories a day, but what does that even mean? How many calories are there in a beer, or a plate of khao man gai? So to educate myself I started using a calorie counter / food logging app called http://www.myfitnesspal.com/ which seemed the most comprehensive with lots of Thai dishes, whereas others are very Western focused. This process made me more aware of what I eat when I wasn’t fasting which I am sure helped a lot too.

By March I had dropped from 103 to 97 kg without doing any exercise whatsoever. RESULT! But I still had a gut, and logging food was becoming a chore. So I decided to get more active, I still wasnt ready for actual, you know, exercise, so I bought a Fitbit and started monitoring my general levels of activity.

fitbit.tracker.blue

The WHO recommend that people should take about 10,000 steps a day.  I thought I was active, walking around properties etc. but it turned out I was averaging 1,200 steps a day!

I was shocked, and started working to get more active. Taking the lift to two floors below and then the stairs to the office, walking to restaurants that are further away I was loving it, right up until I lost the Fitbit.. its so small, and it seems many people have this problem with them.

But none the less my discovery of the Fitbit had led me into the world of health monitoring which in turn lead me to my next and perhaps.. No. Scratch that, THE most important health monitoring gadget purchase that I made the; Withings Wifi scale:

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http://www.withings.com/

What is it? Well in its simplest description is a set of bathroom scales that is connected to the internet where it logs your weight on a private website.

But it can also estimate the amount of body fat that you have (arguably a more important measure) by sending an electric signal through your body and measuring the resistance as it comes back to the sensor (fat & muscle do not conduct electricity at the same rate)

Now, there is some criticism of this method of body fat measurement but so long as you do it at the same time under the same conditions the record will be good enough, but really what you are most probably looking for is an overall trend down wards! Their latest ones even record air quality in your home!

I had heard talk that you shouldn’t measure yourself too frequently, so why on earth would I want a gadget that encourages that and costs 7000 Baht for a bathroom scale??

Well in fact for precisely that. For me the record of my activity has been a powerful motivational tool. Its taught me to understand how my behaviour affects my body. Now, of course I know academically in an almost abstract way what drinking a pint of beer means (200 calories or so,  or approx 10% of a daily recommended amount of intake), but to see the effects of a big weekend right there in hard data and a line on a graph, spoke to me in a language that was undeniable, the bare naked truth.

I say go weigh yourself often. I did, because it taught me the most important lesson. To be responsible with food and drink consumption. I can not overstate this.

I’ve lectured enough, time to put it out there, here are my weight and body fat loss charts for 2013, but before I do see if you can spot the following:

  1. when I started the Zero to 5 K running plan with runkeeper in May (great app BTW)
  2. my summer holiday to the UK

Weight loss in KGs (the straightline from January because it allowed me to record my weight from a previous date. You’ll see that I have lost 15 kgs in 2013, and in November it was even more

Weight_-_December_27_2013

Body fat mass in KG

Body_Composition_-_December_27_2013

Now the keen eyed amongst you will see that this year’s silly season has already taken it’s toll, but I haven’t been running or fasting, I have been enjoying my holiday season secure that I know now how to deal with that, and so this year in 2014 my resolution is not to lose weight because I know I will do that, but to get fit which is something else altogether.

I am doing 5 km runs now, but I hope to build on that substantially this year.. let’s see how I do!

(Ps I eventually found my Fitbit ultra, which had been washed and no longer worked. I got in touch with Fitbit to see if there was anything i could do to get it working, here’s what they said

Hello Marcus,We are happy to know that you were able to find your Ultra tracker, but first your Ultra tracker did not work and then gave it signs of life. But when you remove it from the base station no longer works.Since we’re no longer providing Fitbit Ultras as replacements, we can offer you our upgraded Ultra product, the Fitbit One.You can learn more about the Fitbit One here: http://www.fitbit.com/one. Please provide the following information so that we may process a complimentary replacement for you:- Your first and last name
– Your purchase receipt
– Your shipping address
– Your phone number
– Your preferred tracker color (Black or Burgundy)We are looking forward for your response in order to proceed accordingly.

Sincerely,

Maria Ra and the Fitbit Team

I dont think I have ever experienced better customer service, so go get one. I dont get anything if you do other than the satisfaction that a good company is getting more business.

The next part will be on how I started running after decades of lethargy and hedonism and not much else!

I sincerely hope this post helps someone, if its helped you please let me know in the comments below.

Best of luck with your NY resolutions whatever they are

 

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