Friday, April 30, 2010

Three Month Circus - A Retrospective

Welcome back to the center ring.  On January 30th I weighed in for the first time.  On that day I weighed a touch over 440 pounds.  I had decided on a whim, if a whim can last two weeks, to finally get serious about my weight and as a carrot towards my success I would publicly post my weight and my struggles.  Today, three months later, my success has pleasantly surprised me.  Not that I did not hope for the kind of results I have achieved, but that I always doubted that I could get them.  Past experience has shown me to be a bit lazy and prone to self-sabotage.  Part of the reason I started the blog was to counterbalance those tendencies.  I am much more reluctant to let my friends down than myself, and I was banking on my self importance to outweigh the rest.  Whatever psychological motivations I can ascribe to the process it has worked.  As of today I am down a touch over 65 pounds, sitting exactly at 375.  I am as light, or close to as light, as I have been since high school.  In January I was wearing size 58 pants and 4XL shirts, which were a bit snug.  In the picture you will see from today I am wearing a well fitting 3XL shirt and slacks at a 54 waist, although they are already a touch roomy and my jeans are 52s.

Beyond the physical results I have made some really positive discoveries and changes in my everyday life.  I always knew that I enjoyed cooking, but being forced to cook more to achieve the weight loss results I want has allowed me to really expand my kitchen skills (and selection of tools).  Though I have not exercised as much as I think I should, and it still proves to be the hardest part of my overall health life, what I have done has shown me that with a little imagination it does not have to be unbearable.  I have decorated my apartment with some of the gorgeous lake vistas I have seen while out on my walks and each time I see one of the photos it is a pleasant reminder of the need to get out of my apartment and take a walk.  Taking control of one section of my life has pushed me to be proactive in many more aspects of my life.  I have been much more proactive in sending out headshots and searching for auditions.  I have kept my living space cleaner (for the most part, I am still a messy guy).

I still have a long way to go, and in truth this is a lifelong journey, and likely struggle, that I will have with my weight and health, but it has been a truly excellent beginning.  My thanks go to every single person who has read this blog, and especially to those of you who have left words of encouragement.  This weekend I will be searching for a couple more recipes in the recipe book I received from some of my friends, so tune back in to see whose gets chosen and how they turn out.

Here is a look back in pictures at how my weight loss has gone:

 Directing in August '09.  I was a bit lighter then than in January, but not much.

My siblings and me at Christmas '09.

Cooking in late March.  This one has been posted previously.

Today.  Sorry for the large section of wall, but I have few flat surfaces in my apartment high enough to get a good picture.  This is on top of my bookcase.

It is a good start. Onward.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Get Back In The Kitchen

I haven't posted many pictures lately, so today you will probably get your fill and then some.  Friday is three months of weight loss and healthy eating, so pictures of me will wait until then so I can do a bit of a before and after and update everyone on my goals.  I think I mentioned last post about craving certain foods and experiencing more hunger than I had for a while.  The hunger has subsided a bit as I maintain discipline in my diet and make sure not to overeat.  I haven't been perfect, but my stomach is adapting.  The cravings are still pretty strong.  I have really wanted middle eastern food this week and I have been living off Hummus and chicken Kebabs/Shawirma for a week.  Not bad choices all things considered, although most falafil shops or kebab places do not carry whole wheat pita, so I have been eating some processed white pitas.  The other cravings have been for sweets.  I have a heck of a sweet tooth and think I am still genuinely addicted to sugar.  I don't have much anymore, but today was pretty bad.  I usually have a piece or two of dark chocolate, and of all of the options for sweets it is pretty good.  I also have coffee.  I like coffee light and sweet, though not as light or sweet as in the past.  I have taken to mixing a little sugar with a packet each of splenda and sweet 'n low.  The combination disguises any after tastes of the artificial sweeteners which I am very sensitive to without too many calories.

Wok This Way

I couldn't resist that one.  A while back I picked up a non-stick steel wok (surprisingly inexpensive.  I've been told cheap is good with woks, and this one was 12 bucks).  I had yet to cook with it, but with some fresh veggies in the fridge and a bit of chicken I needed to cook I decided to throw something together.  I basically put in a little oil and fried some garlic and red pepper flake until they smelled good and then added the other ingredients from longest cooking to shortest.  I knocked together a glaze from some pantry items (sesame oil, soy, chicken stock, cornstarch, and various seasonings) and threw it in and in about 15 minutes I had dinner and lunch for the next day.  Here is the process of cooking:

I started with a quick stir fry of the veggies.  I then pushed them up the side and quickly cooked the chicken.  The third shot is when I added the glaze just before the chicken was done.  I served it in the fourth picture over a bit of leftover brown rice for a balanced meal in less than 20 minutes.  This dish also gave me an opportunity to use my new knives, which you can see in the fourth picture.  You may ask "more new knives, didn't you just get one?"  The answer to that is yes, but I have a very good reason.  The knife I got a month or so ago is nice and works great when breaking down protein, but it is too clumsy for veggies, and lets be honest, I need all the help with veggies I can get.  The blade angle is very obtuse and the knife slips.

I also like the santoku shape a lot less than I thought I would for continuous work, it is just too tiring.  I went into the store just looking for a good paring knife.  What I got instead were an 8" chef's knife (something I really needed but had been trying to do without) and something called a utility knife, which does all the stuff a paring knife does, but also works well for chopping garlic or smaller prep work.  The store (The Chopping Block in Lincoln Square) was having a sale on knives and I fell in love with the knives there, where they let me try them out, and after using them to make that meal I am sold 100%.  They are made by Global and they are the lightest, fastest knives I have ever used and they have incredible balance.  How light?  The chef's knife is 6 ounces (yes, I did weigh it on my food scale).
How incredible is the balance you might ask (you would if you were me)?  This incredible:

I love these knives. I told my step-mom they were "the ones", which cracked her up.  Each knife is one piece of steel.  The handle is hollowed out and filled with just enough ballast to get the balance perfect.  The holes are filled and become the grip. It is amazing how easy and fun cooking is when you have the right tools.  I love gadgets as much as the next wanna be gourmand, but it is the tools that are worth every penny you spend, and to be honest this knife was a steal.  I guess this is what happens when I have a little extra cash.  I don't mind spending the money though, because I know they are going to get me in the kitchen and keep me having fun.  Getting in the kitchen and cooking for myself is the single biggest thing I have done for my health, so they are an investment in my health.  That being said these are the last non-food item I buy for the kitchen for a while.

Oh, You Noticed

This week has been particularly gratifying in the vanity department.  In addition to helping and impressing the CEO at my job, by manager's boss (my boss to the third power) noticed my new slimmer figure this week and was very complimentary.  I say looks are secondary or lower in this journey, but it sure does feel nice to surprise people.  I was wearing the new slacks I had gotten last week, which are already fitting a bit looser that in the fitting room.  My older pairs are pretty baggy now, although I have yet to find someone to do the alterations for a reasonable amount.  For what some of these folks want I could just buy new pants.  Like I have said before, however, this is a problem I don't particularly mind having.

Check back in on Friday for my Three Month Spectacular.  For now I leave you with a couple more pictures I have taken over the last couple of weeks.  The first is of a chicken stroganoff I tried.  Okay, but needs some work before I try it again.  That is 2% fat Greek yogurt, not sour cream, by the way.  The second is a tomato basil soup (shooting for La Madeleine for my Texan readers.  Very close) that turned out very good, (the secret I think is a bit of lemon juice and a good pinch of  freshly ground clove) although a bit calorie rich for everyday eating on a diet.   Good to fill out a meal though.  See you Friday.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Weigh in #13

I am not a superstitious guy, but 13 has been an unlucky week for me.  My consumption was good, but the weight loss just wasn't as good as it has been.  I did not workout at all this week, which probably had a big effect on the results.  Between work and life, though, I didn't get to it.  I haven;t learned yet to make the time and I know I can get better at that.  I will be meeting with my friend Laura here in the next week or two to talk about my exercise plan.  She went to school with me at OU for theater and works as a personal trainer, among other things.  Here are this week's results:

Current Weight: 379 lbs
Starting Weight: 440.2 lbs
Weight Loss This Week: 2.6 lbs
Weight Loss Total: 61.2 lbs

I make it sound as if the results are terrible, and they are not by any means, but I am impatient and the last couple of weeks had been really nice with the 4 plus pounds lost.  Two and a half is right in the middle of my "recommended" weekly weight loss (I have read that 1/2 to 1% of your total body weight a week is a manageable pace that allows your body to recover more naturally.  I'll take more though.).  My appetite certainly recovered this week and I am fighting more hunger and cravings than I have had in a while.  You know my philosophy:  eat when I am hungry and try to be smart.  I wasn't as smart as I could have been this week, but I still had positive results.

Short post this week.  I have an apartment to clean, an audition to prepare for, and a treadmill to reintroduce myself to.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

In The Middle

Another Wednesday.  And this week another milestone.  As of this morning I was down exactly 60 pounds.  My 65 pound goal for the 30th is well in sight and I would love to be past that.  I talked a while back about how my clothes are starting to fit a bit loosely, and today I did something about it.  I went to the big and tall store today and got a couple of items to tide me over, including a new belt that I desperately needed as I am on the last hole on my current one and it is the only thing keeping some of my pairs of pants up.  You may be interested to know that I am down a full shirt size and between 4-6 inches in the waist.  I bought everything just a bit snug, and some with a bit of stretch so that I could get a bit more usage out of them.  I also got a new pair of workout shorts.  I had been working out in sweatpants, which is okay while there is still a spring chill in the air, but soon it will just be too uncomfortable.  Hopefully by the next time I absolutely have to get some new clothes I will be able to get some items at a standard department/retail store and have a lot more choice (and a lot less price.  The lowest priced collared pullover tee shirt at the big and tall store is over $20).  I know I will have to do a few more interim buys before I get to my goal, and by the time this whole thing is done I should be down almost 20 inches in the waist.  I am still looking for a place to get some inexpensive alterations done.  The dry cleaners across the street probably could get the job done, but I don't know that the proprietor knows enough English to follow my directions.  I went by the other day to ask a question about a stain and got blank stares.  I am going to do what I can for the time being, but if you see me in the next couple of months don't be surprised if I look like a hobo.  If the alternative is having clothes that fit at my old weight that is a trade I will gladly accept.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Weigh in #12

Twelve weigh ins. Eleven weeks worth of work and I am pretty happy with my results.  I had some carryover from last week's light eating and didn't really get back into my usual eating habits until the past day or two.  I am still not being super consistent with my snacks because my work schedule has been a bit odd and I haven't always been hungry.  I am not going to eat a snack just because the clock tells me to, and my metabolism and weight loss do not seem to have been adversely effected.  Here are this week's results:

Current Weight: 381.6 lbs
Starting Weight: 440.2 lbs
Weight Loss This Week: 4.4 lbs
Weight Loss Total: 58.6 lbs

Chugging along.  This week was not nearly as good as last, but I'll take four plus pounds any week.  I didn't have much exercise this week, but I did take a 4 mile walk on Wednesday,  which was a very pleasant experience excepting the blisters I ended up with.  Those were short lived thankfully.

I am really seeing some excellent results in my physical appearance.  My clothes are fitting very loosely and before too long I am going to have to get a new wardrobe.  I am reluctant to get too much, but I am down five or six holes on my belt since the beginning of February.  It is a great problem to have, and I am thinking about going to the big and tall store this afternoon and picking up a couple of items that are a bit small now, but that can serve me for a few months in the interim.  If anybody knows a good seamster/seamstress who will do cheap alterations that could work too.  Since I forgot to take a "before" picture I had to search, but I found a picture that shows some of my body from the first week of my weight loss, so I will put on the same clothes and have an "after" picture to show in the next week.

So much for another week.  Thanks for following and keep checking back.  My next goal is to be down over 65 pounds (I'd like it to be 70) by the 30th, which will be my three month.  Fingers crossed and keep pushing me.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

We Have Now Achieved Normality

Back to the grind.  Other than some minor discomfort on the extraction sites (it really just feels weird) and the propensity to tire a bit easier things are back to normal for me.  It happened a  couple of weeks later than I wanted, but since weigh in on April 3 I have lost 10 pounds, or 10 pounds in 11 days, which I was trying to do to hit 50 pounds a while back.  Nice to know that it is possible.

I have been thinking about how my eating habits have changed in the past two and a half months and I am really pleased with the changes.  Before this process began I never ate that many vegetables and would only even tolerate a few.  Now there are several I like, many more that I think are OK or tolerable, and only a few I still don't like at all.  I am fine having a couple of veggies I just don't like now that I have at least given many of them a chance.  I think the key for me was preparation.  My favorite TV chef, Alton Brown, focuses a lot of energy on techniques that highlight a certain set of ingredients rather than one recipe.  The philosophy of the show, Good Eats, seems to be about building a tool bag for the home cook and allowing that cook to master an culinary technique or idea and then branch out.  Thinking about cooking that way has allowed me to be flexible and adventurous.  Knowing that despite appearances broccoli and Brussels sprouts are a lot more alike than they are different has allowed me to take techniques from one item and apply them to the other .  With only some minor tweaks I have been largely successful as well. 

Another factor in my veggie success has been learning what I like.  I have learned that with few exceptions I like my veggies crisp, so crisp some folks would consider them underdone.  I like them browned, so I typically use at least a little oil when cooking.  I don't have a problem with that in my diet for several reasons.  I use heart healthy and flavorful oils and I am careful to drain the food properly.  That minimizes the amount of oil put in the food and maximizes caramelization, so I get the best bang for my buck calorically speaking.  This also lets me cook fast, so I am more likely to keep fresh vegetables in my diet.  The last thing I do regularly is make sure I include a smart, flavorful addition to the veggies.  With the sprouts a while back it was red pepper flake, which is calorie free, and parmigiano reggiano.  The cheese is not calorie free by any stretch of the imagination, but I am using the best cheese I can get and I am using a micro-grater to apply it.  This gives me more surface area to taste the cheese with less on the food and allows me to use less because it is just better than that stuff in the green can.

The Amazing Shrinking Stomach?

A couple of days before I had my teeth pulled I started to experience pain in my chest and gut immediately after eating, and sometimes after drinking, even water.  It took me a while to find a pattern and take stock of what I was doing that was causing the pain, and after the surgery I wasn't eating much for a few days, but I think I have an idea what it was.  Even if it started as a minor stomach bug or gas or some other ailment I think my stomach really is smaller now, and since the surgery the pain has only come after eating what I would consider a "full" meal or large portion and goes away fairly fast.  I have also found that I have not been very hungry lately, even after resuming my day to day activities.  Perhaps it is that I am not as active as I was before the week off and don't need as much energy to keep me going, but the past few days, even with a full work schedule I have only eaten about 1300-1400 calories.  I don't quite know how to feel about that.  Almost all of the research I have read recommends eating at least 1200 calories a day, and I am well above that.  I also don't feel deprived at all, but the number seems too low for some reason.  I am not going to worry about it too much for the time being.  I think once I get back into my normal schedule and activities for a period of time my body will adjust back closer to where it was before.  I do like feeling full sooner for obvious reasons so I will not complain about that, and as long as I keep up with my nutrition I think I'll be fine.  I'm interested to see what effect this has on my weight loss and energy, so Saturday should be intriguing.  See you then.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Selling Out

You may notice that I have added adds to the blog.  I am no musician, but some may call this selling out.  Until I am approved they will be PSAs, but soon they should be from money-grubbing corporations.  It is an experiment in an attempt to support this acting habit I have, but if it becomes intrusive off they go, so if you find their presence annoying leave a comment here and I will consider removing them.  Thanks.

Weigh in #11

Four teeth down and hopefully a few pounds too.  It is Saturday, so in the spirit of tax season it is time for the weekly audit, so to speak.  This week was very positive, largely because I didn't eat much, especially Monday and Tuesday, when I basically ate only enough to keep my body from rebelling when I took my painkillers and to keep my stomach from rumbling too badly.  I have gradually added back some solid foods, but I still haven't broken 1500 calories in a day this week.  I haven't been all that hungry either because I have been eating mostly soup and other soft foods and the water content in those allow me to fill up with very few calories.  Since I have been resting I haven't really needed the energy either.  I posted about a milestone earlier this week, but now it is time to see the full results:

Current Weight: 386 lbs
Starting Weight: 440.2 lbs
Weight Loss This Week: 7.4 lbs
Weight Loss Total: 54.2 lbs

Excellent results, definitely more than I was expecting.  I had been so consistent lately that I thought even with the changes this week I would be in the 4 pound range, but I will take the extra any week.  I don't think I will emulate this week's techniques for future weeks because I feel it would not be healthy under normal circumstances to eat as little as I did this week.  I do feel that I can emulate this week's results, however, by continuing my good eating habits, with maybe making a few more cuts that I think are healthy and within my lifestyle, and exercising much more consistently.  I have found lately that I seem to lose more weight with weight oriented exercise mixed with aerobic than just pure aerobic.  Perhaps it is that I am not capable of exerting the kind of energy needed in aerobic exercise yet and the isotonic exercise pushes me farther in a less uncomfortable way, but the mix is definitely working, and it keeps me interested.  Once I am back to 100% I will get to the gym and out on the lakefront a bit more and experiment with combinations and see how I feel.   Until next time.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Who Needs Exercise

The wisdom teeth are gone and I have been laid up for a few days.  Since the surgery I have not been that hungry which is good because I haven't been doing much of anything but lay on the couch. The lack of food and the amount of energy my body has been using to heal has kept me on the right track however and this morning I broke the 50 pound mark.  It is a week later than I wanted, but that is such a huge number and I am so excited about it.

I'll blog more in depth about the week on Saturday, but I had to share the success.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Weigh in #10

It is Saturday so you know what that means:  Weigh In Day on The Amazing Shrinking Actor.  This week has been fairly positive.  It has been interesting tracking my weight day to day because the fluctuations have been extreme.  By Tuesday I hadn't lost much of anything and then I lost over two pounds by Thursday.  I then gained almost a pound and then lost a full pound Friday and then this morning.  I am assuming that these fluctuations are due to water retention and that my actual fat loss was steady over the week.  Whatever the mechanics of my weight loss I feel like this week was good results-wise.  Here are the numbers:

Current Weight: 393.4 lbs
Starting Weight: 440.2 lbs
Weight Loss This Week: 4.0 lbs
Weight Loss Total: 46.8 lbs

Four pounds more toward my goal.  It is a little bit higher that the previous few weeks and I think that reflects one less cheat meal and a bit more exercise from last week carrying over in my metabolism.  I figured out that if I maintain a pace of 4 pounds a week I should be at or near my weight target around the one year mark in this journey.  That would be amazing, but I know that pace is unrealistic.  It does put in perspective though that this is not going to take forever.

Speaking of exercise, I have been taking measures to remove excuses to make sure I actually get the three to four workouts a week I have been looking for.  One issue for me has been that my current pair of New Balance is great and airy for a nice moderate walk or for everyday wear, but they are actually a bit painful to walk briskly or jog in because the mesh doesn't provide the support I need and my feet end up slipping around inside the shoe.  I decided to get a pair of workout only shoes and picked up a pair of Asics 2150 running shoes.
The gentleman at the sporting goods store recommended them for two reasons.  They are made for over-pronators, which I definitely am, and will protect my ankles.  They are also very sturdy and should protect and cushion my whole foot.  They will also be a silent signal to my body that when I put them on I am going to work out, and their presence in my apartment will be a constant reminder that I should be working out.  I know that they are just shoes and can't work out for me, but every little bit really helps.  I am still taking is fairly easy in the exercise department and some times a "workout" for me is a nice walk on the lakefront.  The other night I went out during the last hour the park was open and got in about three miles, and even though my pace was not that hard I still got my heart rate up a bit and got a chance to enjoy the superb weather we had here in Chicago over the last couple of days.

We'll see how these lofty goals turn out.  As the saying goes the best laid plans oft go astray and I have never been all that talented in the planning department.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Progress Check

The time has come my friends to pull out the map and check on my progress.  Two months down.  I had set some lofty goals for myself.  The first was to break 400/lose 40 pounds (since they were so close together) and I did that in the last weigh in.  The next, and loftier, goal was to lose 50 pounds by the 1st of April.  It was always going to be tough and I had little expectation of reaching 50 pounds, but I was okay with that.  As of today I had lost 46.6 pounds.  Not too bad.  I actually went out to a nice dinner before seeing a show last night and had a beer and still lost some weight today, so I am very happy that I am having measurable and even good results when I chose to indulge a bit.  Of course I am only indulging at one meal and not every meal that day, and I think that is important.  I was still under 2000 calories yesterday.  It is a positive indication that to achieve my goals I don't have to lead some sort of ascetic lifestyle.

Next week is going to be a bit of a wild card, but I will at least post my weight at the end of it and maybe a post on all of the soft things I am eating while my mouth recovers.  See you Saturday for the weigh in.