Friday, August 21, 2009

+1.8 (∆ +0.4)

Well, the day is finally here—the end of my seven month plan to lose weight—and I can unequivocally say it's been a success. Not only am I celebrating my birthday, but I'm literally lighter than I've been in years. Huzzah!

If you've been with me since the beginning, then you already know I was over 30 pounds overweight at the beginning of this year. With a BMI of 30.1, I was technically obese... and that was, pardon the pun, the straw that broke the camel's back. It was time to take back ownership over my weight. I had allowed things to get out of control. Me. Nobody else. No more excuses.

Admittedly, it was a difficult road to take, especially in the beginning. I had to stare down my late night hunger pangs, finally face the stress and dormant feelings I'd been sedating with food, get a realistic grip on just how caloric fast food is, and accept the disappointment from not getting results fast enough. There were ample opportunities to quit. But I stayed on it. I'd been trying for over a decade to get to a slimmer and healthier version of myself and after years of knowing (and even advocating) the simple math behind losing weight—eating less food and working out more—I decided to take my own advice. Maybe I just needed time to let go of the delusion that eating recklessly would let me remain happy. Who knows? What I do know is that my original plan has worked.

So how did I do it?

I used a lot of aides to track my progress: a scale, my blog, spreadsheets, a thorough understanding of nutrition labels, but above all were a few crucial applications on my iPhone. I used three apps in particular every day—Weightbot, VitalsView, and Lose It!. (I'll post reviews and screencaps of VitalsView and Lose It! later.)

Of the three, my favorite app has been Weightbot, which you can buy at the Apple's iTunes for only $1.99. Given how often I've used it, and how much value I've gotten out of it, it has surely paid for itself a thousand times over.

Weightbot is simply designed, easy and fun to use, and delivers all the essential stats to track weight in both numeric and graphic formats. The first thing I've done every morning since January is make a trip to the bathroom, step on the scale and input my data into Weightbot.

Below is a slideshow of actual screencaps from my iPhone:

Note how Weightbot automatically updates the graph's top weight number—at first this seems to skew the results from month to month but (I think) it also gives you more motivation because each month illustrates an increasingly drastic weight loss as the weight comes closer to the goal line.

As you look over each month, you'll also see how my weight drops slowly. As I said on Tuesday, it's far more inspirational to visually see a month's worth of data because it shows how the weight is slowly sliding off. The ideal goal should always be to lose weight and keep it off, although this is a common trap many fall into: everyone wants to lose as much weight as possible, so they'll go with some random diet and then a few months later, go off the diet again... and usually back into their old eating habits. That kind of see-saw dieting is a horrible way to have long-term weight loss—instead, it's way better to shoot for only 1 pound of weight loss per week. That's a small change, but a feasible one. It might take some perseverance and resolve, but if you really want to lose weight permanently, then you should be prepared to accept that the process will not be a series of quick sprints, but one long marathon of small steps. Which is better, really, since it's more realistic to go from 3 doughnuts a week to 2, than from 3 doughnuts to none at all.

If there were one key to this entire program, it was not thinking too much about the end goal. I've changed my eating habits so drastically since January that if you had told me in January I'd be eating mostly produce for lunch now, I'd have flat out rejected it as a lie. More importantly, it could have completely demoralized me—I might have told myself that I wasn't ready to give up my guilty pleasures like beer, butter, sour cream, and cheese, and abandoned the program before I even started it. But I still have beer, butter, sour cream, and cheese. I still eat doughnuts and Chipotle burritos. Last night, I even had ice cream. So my eating hasn't changed from January—I still eat all the things I used to, just in more appropriate portion sizes.

Here, for the record, are the final statistics. I'm sure this is what you've all been waiting for:
Time Span: January 19, 2009–August 21, 2009
Total time: 7 months (214 days)
Starting Weight: 192.5 lbs
Goal Weight: 159 lbs
End Weight: 160.8 lbs
Total Weight Loss: 31.7 lbs
Difference between Goal Weight and End Weight: +1.8 lbs
Average Weight Loss per Week: -1.0 lb
Average Weight Loss per Month: -4.4 lbs

And finally:
+1.8 (∆ -31.7 lbs)

It's not magic. There is no One True Diet. There is no wunder-pill to make the fat melt off. I can say from personal experience that the key to losing weight and living a healthy life is simple math:
Eat Less. Work Out.

The hard part is 1) accepting that axiom as true, and 2) be willing to figure out how much you really do eat.

So, if you're feeling inspired and want to lose some weight yourself, I offer you a simple challenge to make a step in the right direction.
  1. Don't change your eating habits for 1 week. Don't do any exercise or activity you wouldn't normally do.
  2. Record everything you eat—everything. Record the portion size (buy a measuring cup if you don't have one), and record the calories per portion size from the respective nutrition label (go here to find a good online calorie counting site). If you're feeling extra diligent, maybe record when you eat, too. Don't change what you eat because you're measuring it... that will change your results; your job at this point is to just sit back and observe your eating habits with a detached scientific eye.
  3. Don't feel guilty about anything—this is a crucial point. It's easy to get depressed when you're faced with how many calories you actually eat (and depression tends to make us to eat more), so stay cool. Knowledge is power, and you should feel satisfied that you're gaining new knowledge about yourself, no matter what that knowledge is.
  4. Go here to find out your BMR, or Basal Metabolic Rate). Your BMR calculates how much energy you expend by doing nothing at all.
  5. Go here to calculate how many calories you should be eating daily to maintain your current weight (this is called your TDEE, or Total Daily Energy Expenditure. If you're eating more calories than your TDEE, you'll gain weight. If you eat less, you'll lose weight. If your goal is to lose 1 pound a week, and 1 pound is equal to 3500 calories, the end goal is to reduce your TDEE by 500 calories (i.e., 500 calories X 7 days = 3500 calories / week).
  6. Choose on your own what can be nixed from your food that will get you closer to that daily calorie intake. You don't want to go cold turkey just yet (although if that's more to your temperament, go for it)—just make small steps. Above all, keep educating yourself about what kinds of food are overly caloric and gradually weed them out. If you're going back for thirds, can you go back for only seconds? Once you're used to only going back for seconds, can you not go back for seconds at all? It's a gradual shift. Don't try to run the whole race in one day.
  7. Over time, aim to get your calorie intake closer to that TDEE. Once your calories dip below that TDEE, you'll start to lose weight. If you can get your TDEE reduced by 500 calories per day (on average), then you will lose a pound a week.
  8. Remember that weight fluctuates by as much as 4 pounds in a day. You will only see measurable results over time, and the longer the time period, the better.
  9. Find a gym that you really like. Choose a simple workout—5 or 10 minutes at first. Go once a week, then twice, then three times, etc. Go just to get in the habit of going. Reward yourself by sitting in the spa for 30 minutes. Once you're ready to do more challenging workouts, you will; your body will know when it wants to do more. The important thing is to go slow enough that you aren't disappointed if you stop. Can you walk for 10 minutes at a snail's pace? If not, how about 5?

If this has been useful to you in any way, please let me know by shooting me an email to ross AT rosspruden DOT com. And, you know, pass it on to others, too. :)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

+1.4 (∆ -4)

I've lost four pounds in 24 hours. I wish that were a joke, but it's not.

Oddly, those four pounds weren't my body's actual weight, but that excess slough which fluctuates one's weight from day to day. This sort of sudden ebb and flow ought to perfectly illustrate the insanity of putting too much importance on your weight from one day to the next. If you're trying to lose only 5 pounds, an error margin of +/- 4 pounds yields unpredictable and unsatisfying results.

Today's quote goes to Renée, whom I caught complaining about her weight on Facebook: "Now, how does this work? I decrease food & alcohol intake, exercise regularly, eat LOTS of fruits & veggies...and still hover around 135lbs. Gaack! WTH? And don't say it's because I'm getting older!" When I asked her if she'd been counting her calories, she said, "I will NOT count calories! That would take the fun right out of eating and drinking."

Well, I dunno... this weekend, I had at least four beers, 3 chocolate chip cookies, an ice cream scoop, and some of the best dining I've had in months. Okay, maybe I wasn't bingeing as much asdaisy, but it was still fun.

Despite all that, I can relate to Renée's plight: we all secretly know what our problems are, we simply choose not to face them because our newfound knowledge would logically dictate we change. Change is painful, change sucks. The old way is more comfortable—we purposefully choose ignorance because we like having fun. I know. I've been there.

But, Renée—don't be so brazen to complain about trashing your car when you won't even look at a map.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

+5.4 (∆ +3.4)

Got back from Waterford Watsonville last night. Walks on the beach, kite-flying, Pixar flicks (Cars, Monsters Inc.) whilst cooking, delicious dinners, cold beers, 2 hour naps, and about 90 minutes a day of kid-free time. Sadly, our vacation highlight was going to bed at 9:30 every night.

I also have three days before this weight loss challenge comes to a close. I have to laugh when I see a 3.4 pound weight gain since my last missive, but I attribute almost all of that to being "topheavy"; a second measurement later in the day read +2.8, (instead of +5.4). One satisfaction of faithfully tracking weight over so many months is knowing that when weight wildly ascends, you can sense it's probably a temporary thing—tracking an overall weight trend over a week or month is far more important than any day's weight in particular. All you really need to know is if the weight at the end of the month is lower than the beginning, you're making progress. In all seven months but one, my weight has always been lower at the end of that month. In that other month, it was only higher at the end because I'd had several cumulative setbacks (a three week out-of-town visitor an opportunity to have tons of bad food, the worst flu I've had in years, and a long stretch without getting to the gym).

Despite all my overt claims, my goal has never really been to just lose +33.5 pounds. More important than that was to nestle into a sane way of living so I could 1) stop gaining more weight, 2) lose some weight (10-15 pounds), 3) live more healthfully, and 4) feel better about my mind and body. If I weighed +33.5 pounds and could still run up stairs without losing my breath or worrying if I'm going to have a heart attack or get diabetes before I hit 50, then I wouldn't have anything to worry about. Sadly, +33.5 was not a safe lifestyle, so I'm thankful that the journey has given me the itch to learn more about nutrition and fitness. Slow and steady, slow and steady...

And so, even if I don't hit my exact mark of +0 by this Friday, I'll still have scored an enormous win because the real measure of my victory is in learning how much food I eat in one sitting, and how my body works to burn fat and build muscle. Once you learn how it all works, it gets a lot easier to nurture the kinds of results you want to see.

Make sure you read Friday's post. I'll be posting tons of screenshots of all the spreadsheets and iPhone apps I've been using to track my progress.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

+2.0 (∆ -0.2)

on holiday. typing from computer that has no double-u key, shift key, or the at symbol. makes surfing kind of hard.

despite being surrounded by opportunities to binge, happily i have friends that eat sensibly. 2 beers max are feasible under the calories i'm consuming.

hoping to still hit my goal by my birthday...

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Saturday, August 08, 2009


Today we shot the second webisode—W102—for a series I developed. I'm very happy to say that everything went extremely smoothly. We had a late start from miscellaneous technical issues and had to improvise by striking a few shots from the shot list, but once we rolled camera, the team snapped into one cohesive whole. We got some great shots, and as a bonus, we were all clearly enjoying ourselves. What a great crew!!

For me personally, the shoot was an odd (but pleasant) experience: I wasn't directing this episode, but I ended up doing two jobs at once—showrunner and script supervisor. At first, I thought I'd want to foist all the scripty work onto another capable soul so I could concentrate on my supervising duties as showrunner. (As a creator of a series, it falls on the showrunner to offer creative guidance if an episode falls outside the vision of the series) I had thought taking copious scripty notes would detract from my role as showrunner, but as a scripty—i.e., being at the Director's side to assess each shot for continuity gaffes—gave me the perfect excuse to also offer any showrunner feedback to the director (of which there was almost none, I might add!). Naturally, there were a few times I was taking notes when I'd have preferred just watching the monitor, but overall, it was a very good fit.

Day two for this shoot is coming up fast. Although the pilot I directed two weeks ago was dialog-heavy for exposition, this second webisode is far more intense, and better drama overall. Can't wait to get W103 and W104 in the can, too!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

+3.2 (∆ -0.4)

And dropping...

As I creep closer to my goal weight, every drop in weight is another record. Based on what I ate yesterday, I'm not surprised that I've lost some poundage:


  • 1 small bowl of grape nuts with soy milk—375 calories
  • 1 (leftover) serving of pasta with seafood, broccoli, zucchini and Parmesan cheese—500 calories
  • 1 diet A&W Root Beer—0 calories
  • 1 large bowl of gazpacho with shellfish toppings—300 calories
  • 2 slices of sourdough bread—300 calories
Late night Netflix accompaniment:
  • 1 Newcastle beer—250 calories
= 1725 calories total

I'm sure I had a few snacks in there, but they wouldn't amount to more than 100-200 calories. Oddly, the gazpacho's bowl was so large that, combined with absorbant sourdough slices, I was completely stuffed... on only 600 calories. Wow.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

+3.6 (∆ -1.6)

Well, I'm officially my lowest weight in a decade. I couldn't possible say how happy that makes me. Accomplishing something as... well, something as "simple" as losing weight fills me with a renewed sense of self in everything I do. Based on how many years I've been trying to lose weight, it's obviously not simple, so approaching the finish line with a smile on my face is gratifying, to say the least.

Truthfully, my weight has not steadily been inching downwards—quite the contrary, my weight has bounced up and down like a Happy Fun Ball. I weighed more at the end of June than at the beginning. (Looking over the year's data, I can see I weigh less at the end of every month, so I am making steady progress overall; thus, in the grand scheme of things, June's discouraging data is really not so discouraging after all.) One thing that finally forced me to get back on track is knowing that my birthday isn't that far away. At a rate of 1 pound per week, I have about 24 days to go before I should have reached my goal weight... and only 18 days to do it. Focus, dude.

What's so weird is that I'm starting to get a perverse thrill from the faint hunger in my belly. I'm not inching towards anorexia by any measure, but when you're eating only 1800 calories a day, you're bound to have a perpetual appetite. It's only through months of eating less food that I've developed a habit of living with less food. In January, I'd never have been able to withstand this faint hunger, but now my brain interprets it as a tangible reminder that I'm back in control of my waistline.

As Sara put it, "I plan on getting fitter as I get older."

(Bonus: Today, I register only 22.8% body fat. That's down from 28.9% on January 31. My end goal is under 20%.)