Monday, April 29, 2019

My Weight & Health Management Systems

In March of 2018, I visited the doctor for my checkup.    Feeling fine, I expected things to go very well.    Instead, the conversation went like this.

"Dave, your glucose level is far higher than it should be.   You have two choices.  Choice one, you can lose 6 pounds in the next six weeks and begin bringing that number down further.  Choice two, I can declare you diabetic, because you are, and teach you to use insulin today.   You will be on insulin for the rest of your life."

I was 250 pounds (5'11" for reference), and didn't think I was "fat", but I didn't think I was diabetic.   Apparently, I was.  This wasn't as brutal as it might seem.  I like choices, and rather than dwell, I decided right then that choice one was the one I was going to do, and that I would start then.   I'd actually lost weight once before.   Before Sharon and I got married, I lost weight to slim down for wedding pictures, and I did it with Weight Watchers.  I was going to do it again.

As of writing this, April 2019, I've lost 54 pounds and been below 200 pounds for well over a month.  My checkup was solid, and I've never felt as good as I do now at age 43.

This blog chronicles how I did it, as some of this is hopefully useful to others.     I make no claims about being an expert and will note that my weight loss is doctor monitored.    Disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer.

Step One: WeightWatchers.

I use Weight Watchers every day to track my food.   I use just the app -- I don't do a thing with meetings.   They call the program digital.    I did just this from March until Sept 1st of 2018 (so the first six months).   This took me from 250 to 207.8.   Just that.   The program works.    I do the freestyle points option, which includes free food items that I can select.   You get a daily allocation of points to use, as well as a weekly allocation to use during the week.

However, I wanted to ensure I didn't rebel against the program.   I like beer.  I also like junk food. How do you ensure you can add items for indulgences, within the program context, but not feel you are always having to deny?

Two key support tools here.  If you're not familiar with "Dotti's Weight Loss Zone" and you're doing WW, you need to know about this throwback looking website.    The website does totally feel like 1998, but the restaurant information is awesome if it's not already in WW.

Second, Sharon highly recommends    We have a pretty good track record with their receipes, and they include the WW points.  

Several key basics I started with as I go into the next steps.   I already had an iPhone and an Apple Watch.   WW links to Apple Health, so I started there, and weight data came from a WiThings WiFi-enabled scale (which I upgrade later).    Basic tools getting started.

Step Two:   Excercise

80% of weight loss, I'm told, is food but the other 20% is exercise.  This is an area I knew nothing about.   I started super simple -- I went for a walk.   It started very simply, with a 30-minute walk every day.    This added a number of points per day -- essentially, one beer per walk.    Not bad.    This started the habit, and I started figuring out amounts too.   33 minutes versus 30, then 40 minutes, then 42 minutes.  I found 42 minutes was a good amount of time and points back.  All of this I log just using the Apple Watch Activities, so each workout is logged there, and this automatically syncs to WW.

Step Three:  FitPoints 2.0

Around November of 2018, WW made changes to their tracking program, which started measuring activities less on time and more on intensity.    FitPoints, which can be traded for food in the program, are a way to "earn" more.   This would become critical in ....

Step Four:  Gym

It got cold.   In late November, the morning walks were getting unpleasant as the weather had changed, and it was cold.    I knew I wouldn't be able to continue the routine I had when it was snowing or hovering around freezing.    We joined the gym.  During the sales process, we were offered a "free training" session, which turned out to be a few basic push-up like activities and a sales pitch for more training.  I learned two things.  First, I hate anything that I have to count reps for.  Second, lots of people were using the incline controls on treadmills to change the difficulty.

The gym was about one thing here -- a treadmill.  It was cold, I didn't want to walk in the cold.   Period.   I moved my workouts to the treadmill.    But for the first one, I upped the incline a little from zero.   This resulted in a much better point total from the WW app, and I wondered... how did this happen?

Step Five:  Heart Rate

With the knowledge that I could change the incline and get more results, I started playing with various inclines, noting that I could get better point numbers in FitPoints by increasing.   Googling for cardio options that focused on heart rate, I found Orange Theory, which had a lot of information about heart rates. Could I figure this out for my own use?

Yes, I could.

Using Heart Graph, I was able to start charting the heart rate zones described in the article above using my Apple Watch and the incline graphs, I was able to start finding patterns that created the bursts of high heart rate in zone 4 (with some in 5).    Any workout in Apple Activites show up in the app, and thus I can analyze the rates.    Ultimately, it's about making the workout vary to make your heart rate go up, and giving yourself a rest period between.

Step Six:  Better Data.  

I'd always used a WiFi-enabled scale, which pushed data into Apple Health.   I upgraded that to the Body+ from WiThings because this gave me body composition.  The doctor had been doing much more comprehensive analysis, and I wanted data that was closer to this.   As my weight was close to the goal -- we had set 193 -- I wanted to find out if that was actually the right number, as body fat percentage tells me a whole lot more.  This gets that kind of data.

Step Seven:  Getting varied.

I was on a business trip in March and hit the gym.   There was a Peloton bike in the gym, and since it was set up so anyone could try, I went for it -- I'd seen the ads and was curious.    It was pretty fun -- varied music, something different, and a great workout.   I don't want a piece of equipment in the house... but they have an answer for that.    Peloton Digital.

I joined, and now generally use it twice a week in the gym.    Sometimes a power walk, sometimes a bike, but the idea being that I can vary up what I'm doing.  With the weather getting nice, I'm able to go for a bike, a walk, to the gym, etc.  I need to keep things different, so here we are.  I use the app generally on my iPhone, and they recently added the ability to pre-download workouts.

Step Eight:  Intermittent Fasting.

Also in this timeframe, the doctor (who focused on obesity and diet), suggested I look at intermittent fasting.    There's a lot of science here, but the idea is to help your body burn fat better, and to do so, you get your body into a fat burning mode.     He recommended I go three times a week on a fast.

To manage this, I use an app called Zero.   Zero lets you track fasts, get reminders on fasts, and the like.   My fasts will go from generally 8pm until 1pm or so, going for the 16-hour block.   You can have water during the fast, but it's actually easier than you might think.

This is my plan.

So far, so good.   I mentioned my April 2019 checkup -- I'm below 25% body fat, approaching my goal, and all signs look good.    This is my system -- again, offered that the systems or apps may be of help.

Note that everything was done one step at a time.   The core for me is step one, but everything else builds on that.   Your system shud be yours, and it will only work if you like it.  I offer mine as components so you can pick what you want to leverage.  Hope it helps!

I'll update this as I change things.


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