I’m sure there have been (and are) several weight and fitness related threads, so forgive me for putting the focus on myself here, and feel free to reply with links to earlier ones… But I’d like some help working through some confusion I have regarding setting a good workout/fitness regimen for myself.
First, here’s the (not-so-)skinny on my past and present condition.
I’m 6’ 2" tall, 35 years old, and overweight. I’ve been at least somewhat overweight since college. When I finished school I was around 195 lbs.; over the next 3 years or so I got up to around 225.
Then I began playing a lot of basketball, 2 or 3 times a week, full and half court, and within 4-6 months I was down to 205. I got as low as 200 lbs. before I severely sprained my ankle, then (in an unrelated incident) moved to another state for two years, got married, and had my first child (OK, my wife helped me on this one). And needless to say, stopped playing ball.
I moved back to NYC right around when I turned 29, took up a job with long hours in front of a computer and lots of free food, bought a house incurring about an hour-long commute, had some more kids, and by the time I was 35, I was up to 240 lbs. From my low-water mark at age 26, my pants size had gone from 34 to 36 to 38 and straining. My shirt collar size had gone from 16 (when I was at my lowest weight) to 16-1/2 to 17, then 17-1/2, and now those shirts were pinching my neck. It wasn’t pretty.
Then right around mid-May, something inside me snapped, and I just had to do something about it. I was lying on the couch watching a baseball game on TV, and it occured to me that baseball is beautfully easy to follow on the radio, and the weather was nice… Let me go take a walk and listen to the game on the radio.
I started walking about an hour a day. I’m a pretty fast walker by nature, about 4 mph is my normal pace. After two weeks of this I had lost about 5 lbs.
Encouraged, I took this to the next level. I set a goal for myself – to reach 185 pounds by the end of this year – and started counting my calories. I had easily been eating 3000 to 3500 a day. I rationed myself down to about 1850-2000 a day. I managed to do this without much effort, simply by eating breakfast (which I generally used to skip), and eating half my lunch (usually some kind of hero sandwich) at 12:30 or 1pm and the other half at 4pm. This way I was still somewhat full at dinnertime and would avoid gorging. I also added some running time to my hour-long walk, and doing push-ups every morning, as many as I could comfortably do in one session. Four weeks ago it was a strain to do 10; now I can do 25 and I plan on increasing it by 2 or 3 every week (25-27-30-32, etc.). Same for abdominal crunches.
A few times in this period I’ve eaten as much as 2200-2400 calories in a day (going out to dinner for my anniversary, or for my father’s birthday) but my daily average over this time is probably right around 2000 calories.
After three weeks of this I was down to 227 lbs. The weather started getting hotter and more humid, and a few days of thunderstorms had rained out several of my daily walks. I found out my company has a 100% reimbursement program for joining a gym if I go a minimum of 76 times in a 365 day period, and signed up.
Since then (for the past 1-1/2 weeks), I’ve replaced my daily stroll with an hour-long treadmill workout about 5 days a week, where I walk for 10 minutes at 3.5 mph, 30 minutes at 4.0 mph and jog/run for 20 minutes at 6.0 mph (at intervals).
This morning I was down to 222 lbs. I can fit my old size 36 pants again, and my size 17 collar shirts. All since mid-May!
Sounds like I’m doing good, right? Why am I looking for help/advice?
Well, I’ve been feeling kind of lightheaded lately. As in, I occasionally get dizzy getting up even from sitting in a chair, not even from lying down. And despite losing nearly 3 pounds since just last week, I don’t feel as good as I did the previous week.
I did a bit of Googling two nights ago, and it seems I’ve created too large a calorie deficit, that going down to 2000 calories a day while adding an hour’s worth of cardio (according to this online calculator, 660 calories’ worth) to my day would soon put my body into “starvation mode”, where I would start breaking down muscle in ever-greater proportions to meet demand as my body tries desperately to hold on to the fuel-efficient fat cells for an assumed prolonged famine scenario.
Yikes! This alarmed me. So yesterday I took care to get myself up to 2250 calories by eating an extra peanut-butter sandwich on whole wheat after my workout (about 2-1/2 hours after dinner). What’s the right mix of exercising and calories to go for here?
Numerous online guides, mostly bodybuilding sites, promulgate weight training in addition to cardio for burning fat, since increasing lean mass also increases the base metabolic rate. However they also say that it is not possible to simulataneously lose fat (burning it in a calorie deficit) while gaining muscle (gaining mass in a calorie surplus). So shouldn’t I wait until reaching my target weight (about 185-190) to begin weight training? Does doing push-ups alone count?
Finally, my “calorie counting” diet has been largely an effort of eating less of what I normally would eat anyway, but cutting out or replacing obviously unnecessary calories such as refined sugar in my coffee (with Splenda), light mayo/mustard for regular mayonnaise, substituting whole grain wheat bread for white bread. I’ve had bacon… hot dogs… hamburgers… even fried pork chops in my “diet”, but just one instead of 2 or 3 at a sitting. This is similar to the “Weight Watchers” credo that a calorie is a calorie, more or less, and the important element to learn is portion control through self-control. I’ve done this… but is right? How valid is this, in other people’s experience?
My main goal is not to get “ripped”, though getting more toned would be nice; for now I just want to shed fat and fit into size 34 (or even 32) pants and my old 16-size collar shirts.
Sorry for the saga, if you’ve read this far, thanks for bearing with me!