Need help on weight (fat) loss / fitness regimen...

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!

The purpose of weight training during a fat-loss regimen is two-fold: first, it helps to preserve the muscle mass you already have; second, it helps raise your metabolism when you’re not lifting. Definitely take it up, just don’t expect to get hyooge.

As far as diet goes, have a look here for better advice than I can give you.

I can’t really beat the link that **Ultrafilter ** gave you, but one short thought: keeping your calories at 2000 will help you lose weight faster (that’s 1/2 pound more per week compared to 2250 calories, all things being equal). What you could do is increase the concentration of low-calorie protein (fish, poultry) and reduce the concentration of highly processed carbohydrates (e.g. the bread on that hero sandwich; try a salad with grilled chicken on it instead). Keeping plenty of protein in your diet will make sure that you don’t metabolize existing muscle tissue.

Also, you didn’t mention having a physical. Getting dizzy may be a symptom of being low in some critical nutrient (potassium springs to mind), or of something else. I recommend some time with your doc.

As for feeling good, when you’re stressing out your body (even though in a good way) you won’t always feel as good this week as last week, but next week you’ll probably snap back. This last Tuesday I had a good workout but felt like crap the rest of the day. Today I feel great but only had a so-so workout. It goes like that. I always think it’s my body’s resistance to change, a sort of Hegelian dialectic (thesis = exercise and eating less; antithesis = sometimes feeling like crap; synthesis = feeling good again, then starting it all over).

Congratulations on what sounds to me like a very sensible program, and especially on counting your calories. Good luck with the rest of your weight loss, and be sure to be planning now what you’re going to do to handle maintenance (it doesn’t end with losing weight, it will now be a lifelong life issue).



2000 calories per day is probably too low a target for someone his size. 2250 is worth a try, but even that might be low.

So what does that come out to be in pounds per week?

Thanks for the replies (and to Ultrafilter too for his link, which I am checking out forthwith). However I was concerned about the idea that too large a calorie deficit would trigger a “starvation” reaction. I’ve read that a deficit of 1000 calories should be an absolute max, or alternatively, 20% of maintenance calories required for the present weight. Given a BMI of 2200, factored by 1.2 for having a 10+ hour a day sedentary office job, plus 660 calories from my treadmill routine, gives a total calorie expenditure of about 3300 a day. This would suggest that my minimum calorie intake (over 5-6 meals a day) should be between 2300 and 2650.

As I’ve been considerably below this minimum for an extended period of time, I was afraid I’ve done something bad to myself… One source I just read (based on Tom Venuto’s writing) seemed to suggest that taking a day or two off the program and eating my maintenance calories would “snap me out” of being in starvation mode, and in fact suggested that a “zig-zag” strategy of dipping deeply below the maintenance level (with cardio training) for 3 days, broken by one or two days of eating maintenance or even slightly above maintenance level calories, was the optimally efficient way to burn fat.

Thanks. I plan on continuing to exercise regularly for the indefinite future (saying “the rest of my life” seems ominous), doing the daily or at least several-times-a-week walk if nothing else, especially during baseball season :slight_smile:

BTW, Does anybody have a comment on this aspect of my regimen? Of the “7 Habits” mentioned in the article referred to by Ultrafilter, several of them involve avoiding refined carbs, maintaining a 25-35% calories from fat ratio, and eating “lean protein” and fruits/veggies with each meal. I agree in principle and have become more conscious about avoiding refined carbs, but I don’t plan to become a “make my own food every day in advance” kind of guy, which is pretty much what it would take to completely follow this out.

For example, if I go to my brother-in-law’s cookout and there are only hot dogs and hamburgers on white bread buns, I’d like to eat some, but restrict myself to one hot dog or one hamburger. I also plan on eating white rice on a regular basis with Chinese food, for example, but limit myself to one small bowl.

This is basically taking the Weight Watchers viewpoint (and a somewhat common-sensical one) that anything is OK in the appropriately moderate amounts, as long as the overall net proportion of “sinful calories” is kept low.

To what degree would laxness in this dimension of The Plan impede my fat loss and body maintenance goals?

Dizzyness is a symptom of dehydration. Do you drink enough water?

Sorry: dizzyness *when changing position * is a symptom of orthostatic hypotension, which is commonly caused by dehydration. Really push the liquids for a couple of days, and see if that helps.


I’m not a make-my-lunch ahead of time type girl either. I’ve solved that by drinking Slimfast protein high shakes for lunch, drinking a juicebox carton of soy for snack and eating a light dinner. I probably average from about 900-1200* calories per day. I know I should make an effort to hit 1200 every day but I don’t like feeling stuffed-because once I get to that point I’ll overeat. Part of what I like about those damn shakes and soy milk is that they’re fortified with lots of vitamins and minerals-I am calcium deficient and anemic and drinking the soy and protein shakes has really helped me get my 100% daily required dosage of both.

I had the dizziness stuff when I first started working out seriously to lose my grad school weight last year. I solved it by making sure I got enough proteins, never letting myself feel “starved” and being smart about taking all of my vitamins.

As to the weight training stuff-I got a personal trainer last year when I hit my super-svelte weight (I put about 5 lbs of it back on due to being lazy and having lots of work obligations but I’m melting it back off again) and she had me do strength training with all the free weights, elastic and cords and balls rather than the weight machines. This really sped up my weight loss but I had done intensive cardio for about 2 months and lost at least 15 to 20 lbs prior to starting up my personal training regimen. At the end of grad school I was a bloaty size 10 or something, my own cardio efforts got me down to a 6 and the personal trainer got me down to a size 4. Right now I’m hovering around a 5/6 so I sucked it up and started going back to the gym at 5 in the morn to get me back down to my happy size. I have no idea if the fact that I waited 2 months to start the strength training stuff helped or didn’t help with my weight loss seeing as it was purely by accident.

Best of luck to you.

*I am female, and a little over 5 feet. Hobbits like me do not need 2000 calories a day to function.

You’ll get more expert advice from others, but here are my thoughts. Take them for what they’re worth.

You are doing all the right things as evidenced by the fact you are losing weight. An extra hot dog every now and again won’t even register if the other 99% of the time you keep up the proper eating and exercise.

If you are really concerned about food that will be available at any function, I’d suggest you either eat before you go or bring your own.

Mostly I’d advice you to just relax. If counting every calorie you eat and calculating every calorie you burn will help, by all means go for it. But whatever you do, make sure you find a system (both diet and exercise) that you’ll stick with. It is far better to go with a less than optimal diet and exercise program that you’ll do rather than the perfect regiment you won’t.

I think so… I drink 2 large bottles of Perrier (25 fl. oz. each) every day, plus two tall (12 oz.) glasses of water at work, plus two cans (12 oz.) of diet soda and a couple of 8 oz. cups of coffee.

That’s about 122 fl. oz. of water (if you count diet soda and coffee as water equivalent for hydration purposes… not sure if that’s right), seems like a lot, it works out to over 15 8 oz. glasses of water a day.

After reading the article linked about the 7 habits, I have a few questions,

2. Eat complete (containing all the essential amino acids), lean protein with each meal.
What does this mean? What are the essential amino acids or more importantly what types of food would one need to eat?

5. Ensure that 25-35% of your energy intake comes from fat, with your fat intake split equally between saturates (e.g. animal fat), monounsaturates (e.g., olive oil), and polyunsaturates (e.g. flax oil, salmon oil).
Ahh, same questions as above. What does this mean? What types of food would one need to eat?

Please excuse my ignorance.

If you’re asking about my weight loss, it’s been about 5-1/2 weeks (37 days) since my first walk, and I’ve lost about 20 lbs. Even if I write off some of those pounds to changing scales, time of day weighing in and weighing with clothes/shoes on versus nekkid, to bring it down to a 17.5 pound loss, that’s still well over 3 lbs. a week lost, about 3-1/3. The usually cited max figure for fat loss is 2 lbs. a week.

I understand that this is more common (losing more than 2 lbs./week) with “very overweight” people (cough), or very big people (not sure if 6’ 2" counts), in the initial stages of weight loss (since I am burning so very many calories just to move my fat ass at 4.0 mph for even 5 minutes), but I was starting to get nervous about it, which is why I posted here…

The closer you are, the happier you’ll be. If you can stick with it 80-90% of the time, you should be fine.

Meat, cheese and egg whites are good for those.

I get my fat from cheese, nuts, seeds, eggs and bit of less-lean meat. Olive oil is also good, but don’t overdo it.