The name of this blog is the Boater Bloater and, rather like Fat Cyclist (see below), I'm hoping to use my blog as motivation in my battle against the bulge. So, comments like "wow, you're a fat bastard" are actually welcomed (assuming anyone ever actually reads this). This is the one entry I want to get down on paper (well, you know what I mean) before I head out to Tasmania, and the Wildwater World Cup.
I'm not a tall guy, maybe 5'5" or 5'6" if I'm stretching. But, until my final year on the US Wildwater Team (in 2001) when I was looking for a faculty position, and the resulting time as a faculty member killing myself 80 hours a week, I was in pretty good shape. I played a lot of rugby as a kid, and those workouts plus a significant weight regimen had me at around 12 stone (that's like 168lb). When I went to University I dropped a lot of weight from my legs as I stopped playing rugby and ended up at around 150lbs for a long time. Once I moved to the States the monster portions and massive availability of fast food and pizza, as well as some more time paddling moved me back up into the low 160's. And that was the weight I raced at my first time on the US team in 2000 in Vipiteno, in Italy, on the Isarco river. The following year in Europe I had already begun a downward spiral as I traveled around trying to get a job, and I was in the high 160's. After I got a job at Penn State I tried to keep biking and paddling, but in 2006 I maybe paddled 5 times all year. I used food as comfort when I got stressed out at work (which happens pretty much all the time) and by the start of February 2009 I was 204lbs - holy crap!
I knew I was getting heavy, like super heavy actually, and I had tried to do something about it. But nothing I had tried worked. I won't bore you with what I tried, mostly because some of the things I tried, or thought about trying, are somewhat embarrassing. Dieting is not something that manly men (like myself - and I've got the hair on my chest, but not my back, to prove it) like to talk about, even less than they actually like to do it. I'd rather talk about liposuction than about dieting. But exercise had always worked, at least when I didn't have that much weight to lose. So, I assumed I would lose weight when I upped the amount of exercise that I did. I was not alone in this assumption, my Tajik kid coaches also assumed this would be the case. And we were right, kind of......, for a while. And then, not so much. My weight dropped from 204 to 191 in about 3 months, but then rebounded so that 5 months after I began my new training regimen I was back at around 195-196lbs for the National Championships/ Team Trials in Colorado. One of my major aims to meet while training was losing weight, so I was gutted. You would think that being a biologist I would appreciate that the body will always adapt to new conditions with time. But apparently I can't think laterally from work to working out, so I span my wheels for a while trying to work out what was going on.
My other half is a wonderful woman who prefers to remain nameless in this blog, so I will refer to her as "Her Indoors". She has constantly told me that I eat too much, and just eating less will allow me to lose weight, regardless of how much exercise I do. But this sounded too simple, and I was unconvinced. It took an innocent remark by our departmental lab manager, Ray the Hoarder (not his real name), about his recent trip to New York where restaurants are required to post the caloric content of the food they serve. He discovered that a single slice of deep pan pizza contained 700 calories and, in his words "no one eats just one slice". Rather than someone telling me what to do this peaked my interest - how much actually is 700 calories? Is that a lot relative to what I should be eating daily and, if so, how much was 1400 calories for 2 slices? And how many of those calories did I burn by doing exercise of various kinds? So I did some reading, some more reading, some math and some planning. And in 3 months I lost 25 pounds before easing up to prepare for the World Cup.
Its not a coincidence that 25 pounds in 3 months equates to about 2 pounds a week. Two pounds a week is what I planned to lose, by eating 7000 calories a week less than I burned. To burn a single pound of fat you need to burn around 3500 calories, but it is pretty much impossible to burn that much by exercise alone, so a reduction in dietary intake is required. Estimating the number of calories within a meal is not an exact science, but by eating pre-prepared meals regularly and by weighing some other meal contents, I could estimate pretty accurately how much I was eating. I found some pretty interesting things. A reasonable size bowl of cornflakes and 2% milk is about 20% of my daily caloric intake but a bowl of oatmeal that is much more filling contains a little more than half of the calories in the cornflakes, and less than 2 pieces of toast and butter. Paddling hard for 90 minutes burns maybe a thousand calories, riding my bike at an average of 16mph for 2 hours might burn up to 2000 calories. Unless I did a super long training session that would leave me wasted for days to come I couldn't burn enough in a day to lose a pound of fat. But by keeping my dietary intake between 1400 and 2000 calories when my basal metabolic rate requires 2500-2600 calories I could lose 2 pounds a week. It isn't quite that simple, as the weight tends to level off and then drop 3-4 pounds at random times before going back up. This makes losing weight psychologically challenging, but armed with some information and some math I managed to overcome it. And, lets face it, Her Indoors was spot on.
My initial aim was being under 180lbs by the time I left for Tasmania, but I exceeded my expectations and ended up around 170lbs. To have a "healthy" Body Mass Index (BMI) of under 25 I need to weigh under 150lbs, although I have a feeling that BMI is an idiotic measure invented by tall skinny people to make short people with muscles feel bad. I'd like to aim for being close to a "healthy" range close to the World Masters Championships in 2012 and, armed with some scientific information, I think I can get that done. In the meantime though, calling me a fat bastard will help with my motivation......