Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Secret to Weight Loss Revealed!!!

So the triathlon thing is looking like it will be a permanent part of my adult life.  As such, I have finally, finally decided to lose the third grader I've been carrying around my waist for the past decade. In my USMC days I was considered "overweight", weighing in at around 200 pounds.  203 was the maximum weight allowed for a guy my height, and I struggled to keep my weight under that number.  For the last year I was in, the roller coaster gains and losses really started to oscillate dramatically, and every month I would gain more back and have to lose it before the next month's weigh in. This led to gaining and losing 10 to 20 pounds each month, and by the last six months I would be losing sometimes 15 pounds in a couple of days to stay under. It was a brutal, vicious cycle that only those who have been in it can really understand.

My last official weigh in for the Marines was in October of my last year in, and the NCO in charge of it was... well... there's no way to say it nicely. He was an ass. Rather than help those Marines who were over with some guidance or at the very least offer encouragement, he declared that he was happy to kick anybody out who was over by even a pound. And he seemed sadistically pleased to see people fail at their weigh ins, and taunted them with how many months they had left until he could kick them out.

By the end of my stint in the Corps, I had learned how to push the boundaries on what could and really could not be said to a superior without some serious repercussions, and I lent my considerable vocabulary to mocking and insulting this NCO for his blatant disrespect for his fellow Marines. Without going too far, of course.

He knew I was insulting him, but he wasn't sure exactly what I was saying, so he really developed a dislike of me pretty quick. The feeling was mutual. Now a few things about the weight rules for the USMC...

In those days, if you weighed over your max, you were put on "weight control" and had a few months of weigh ins to determine if this was a temporary thing or a permanent one. After a certain number of months of weighing over and getting reprimands, you could be discharged. But if you stayed under for six months, you would be taken off weight control. Unfortunately the Navy Corpsman was usually responsible for the weigh ins and such, and we switched corpsman a few times and for whatever reason the record keeping was pretty sporadic. Which at first was no big deal, because though I was near the top end of my limit, I could usually come in within a few pounds of it, at first. Then a couple of years went by with no weight control oversight at all, and I had an unfortunate knee injury, stopped running, and really ballooned up. So when it started up again in the last few years of my service, I had a real struggle getting back under and staying there.

So - I had been riding the 203 line for about nine months when Ssgt Butthead took over and made it his personal mission to kick out every fatbody from his beloved Marine Corps. (Those were his actual words to those of us who were on weight control. And one of those guys was a big Iowa farm boy with a skinny waist and a huge chest and muscular arms, but he was "overweight" so on weight control... ridiculous.) I did fine for the first four months he was in charge, but I weighed 205 one morning in September. My section chief, Ssgt Carlson, arranged for me to weigh in again before lunch for my "official" weight and sent me out to run the weight off. He was a good leader, and knew that I had been struggling with the weight since the resumption of weight control. And that I had been under for the past four months after a year and a half of starts and stops with the program. And I like to believe that he thought I was good enough at my job to keep around.  So he was willing to cut me some slack. After a five mile run I weighed in at 202.9. Ssgt Butthead was not pleased. He told me that if I was an ounce over in October he was going to get me discharged. I told him that perhaps he'd be less of a bitter little man if he could have intimate relations with something other than a bovine. Did I mention that he didn't like me much?

By this point on the monthly weight roller coaster I was usually ballooning up to around 220 - 230 for the two weeks after drill, then losing it again before the next month's drill. but it was getting harder and harder to lose the weight, and easier and easier to gain it.  For some reason that September I went up to just over of 240. A week before October's drill I was still 225. I stopped eating five days before weigh in. I drank water, but only two pints a day, because I remembered my wrestler friend Matt telling me "a pint's a pound the world around." And I had to lose the weight. I ran three miles in the morning and evening with five days to go. From four days on I went 2 miles, but I did that 4 or 5 times each day.  The last two days I wore a garbage bag suit to lose more water weight, and the night before weigh in I did four 2 mile runs in the suit, and in between was an hour spent under several heavy blankets and a sleeping bag to keep the heat up and the sweat going.

The morning of the weigh in I could barely walk, but went to formation and did all that I could to stay upright. Weigh in was about an hour after the start of drill... after breakfast. So while the rest of the battery ate what to me smelled like it had been catered by the gods, I jogged in place in a bathroom and prayed. The night before - during what I have come to know as my own private hell night - I went from 215 to 204, so there was no guarantee that I would be under this morning. I tried to remove the rest of the extra weight, but I couldn't pee, let alone have a BM. I didn't have enough moisture to even spit. In hindsight, this was not a good state to be in.

I remember vividly the look on Ssgt Buttheads face as I approached the scale in my boxers. I remember the smirk and the hatred beaming from his eyes. I remember his words as I stepped up on the scale.

"I am going to love throwing your fat ass out of my Marine Corps."

My max weight was 203 pounds.
I was 202.8.

He frowned and had me step off. He re-zeroed the scale (many others were present, including an officer, so he couldn't fudge it.) and weighed someone else. Then I stepped up again. I think if he could have stabbed me in the face right there with a Ka-Bar, he would not have hesitated. Again the weights on the scale slid around.


The officer read out the number to another NCO who recorded it. The smirk left Ssgt Buttheads face, replaced with pure hatred. I will never forget my parting words to him, either.

"It's MY Marine Corps, too. Now go frak a squirrel, you arrogant little ass."

Of course I said something a bit more salty than "frak". Did I mention I didn't like him much, either.

The officer told me to watch my mouth, and I promptly apologized to said officer for my offensive language. I did not apologize to Ssgt Butthead. Then the officer congratulated me and said I was no longer on weight control. I was too dizzy and nauseous to even smile.

Then I went and ate breakfast, which I promptly threw up because I had not eaten anything for five days. Interestingly I never saw Ssgt Butthead again. He developed testicular cancer and left the unit before November's drill.

In those days I thought nothing of losing 5, 10 or 15 pounds in a week. Knowing what I know now, I shudder to think of what might have happened had I continued in that cycle.

I tell you all of that to tell you this. I'm tired of hauling around this extra fifty pound tire. And I've discovered a magical secret to losing weight!  Wanna know what it is? It really is profound!!!

Lean in close, I'm going to whisper it because it is so revolutionary!

Here it is... eat fewer calories than you expend each day!

Mind blowing, isn't it! My friend Matt - mentioned above and in many other posts - has been telling me since I started doing tri's that this was the big secret of weight loss. Heck, I've known that secret for a dozen years myself.

Wanna know another big secret to losing weight and getting fit?

Regular exercise.

That's right. Calories and exercise. Common sense that everybody knows and denies.

So I stopped the little voice in my head that kept saying "It is so hard to count calories. Why bother? Just try and eat right."

Did you read that? "Hard, why, try." And it is so easy to listen to that voice.  But I am making different choices now. The first day of this month I ate and snacked as I normally do, and found a nifty website called Calorie Count where I could plug in foods and see how many calories I was eating. I could also plug in activities, and see how the calorie to activity balance was.

It was shocking. SHOCKING, I tell you.

I discovered that I was happily eating about 1000 calories more each day than my body needed just to maintain my weight. No wonder it has been so "hard" to shed pounds! So I set some goals and crunched some numbers on the site, and committed to a plan that would cut my daily caloric intake almost in half.

At first I was very concerned that I would be hungry all of the time. Less food means more hungry, right? But you know what? This week I have not been hungry at all. I've been within a hundred calories of my target each day, and a couple of days were even well under, and I have not been hungry. I have also not been denying myself foods that I like. I've just been controlling the portions quite a bit more. Tomorrow will be day six of this new project, and I'm somewhat surprised to say that in the first five days I lost 11 pounds.

You read that right, eleven pounds.

Now, I realize this is VERY fast weight loss, and that proper weight loss is two to three pounds a week. I promised myself that if I felt too hungry, I would increase the daily caloric intake. But I have not been hungry, and I've lost 11 pounds!

I've also not been exercising like I want. Mostly due to getting over pneumonia, which really drained my energy. This week I'm following the Wife's example and joining her gym, which has a bazillion very cool programs to help me on this journey, and a really nice pool to swim in, and a hot tub to soak in, and massage spa to relax in, etc. etc. etc.

So the tri training will begin again this week, along with continued calorie counting, with the goal of dropping 50 pounds before my first tri next season, which will probably be the Pigman again in early June. If that goes well I'll aim to see that 203 line again by tri season of 2013. Wish me luck!

This is a very long post. If you've read this far, thanks for sticking with me. If you are trying to lose weight, there is no big secret. Proper eating and exercise. Insert fewer calories into your system. Go for a walk. Be the Captain of your own life. If I can do it, anybody can.

More Later

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