So almost exactly one year ago, I reached what for me was a pretty important life milestone. Since 2013, I’d been steadily gaining weight until summer 2018 when I reached highs (or lows) heretofore unforeseen by me in my then-44 years of life. I’d ballooned up to around 230 pounds, and began experiencing a myriad of issues associated with being obese, including asthma, foot issues, snoring and a general deterioration in my health. So in November 2018 I began the Keto diet, and never looked back. I won’t go into much of that here, as I’ve written about that at length (though you should go back and read it!).
This time last year, I stepped on the scale and got the number I’d been hoping for: <175 pounds. Actually, it was a decent bit more than that at 174.2. When you reach a goal like that, it’s natural to think: What’s next? I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do, though I knew what I wanted NOT to do, which was go back to eating how I did before I started Keto. There’s a saying that 95% of diets fail, and by and large that is true. Of course, the reason it’s true is that once people stop dieting, they go back to eating how they did when they were overweight/fat/obese. I certainly am part of that statistic, having dieted several times over the past 30 years (and is THAT an eye-opener).
But reflecting on my dieting history–and successes and failures–is probably a post for another time. When I was thinking about what I wanted to do after reaching my first goal weight, I mostly just took inventory of where I was, how I felt about my body, what I could commit to and what I wanted to “be.” After all, I *was* nearly 45 years old. I wasn’t going to be playing collegiate/professional sports, and my potential for a professional bodybuilding career was probably beyond me too.
What I did know I wanted was to be fitter, faster and stronger. Basically the best physical version of myself that I could be.
KEEP ON KETO ON
The first thing I decided on was whether to stay on Keto, modify it to more “low-carb” or move to something else. I knew pretty quickly that I’d stay Keto. I like the lifestyle, didn’t miss carbs and enjoy many of the benefits that come along with burning fat for fuel instead of carbs. It’s just they way I like to eat. That’s not to say I haven’t had a “slip” here and there. During the 2019 holidays, I was on a pretty heavy carb binge that resulted in me gaining about 15 pounds. Now, probably half of that was water weight. But not all of it, and I didn’t enjoy the bloated, lethargic feeling. Carbs have an addictive nature to them for me, so it’s tough to “just eat one,” so to speak. So for my health, it’s just better for me if I mostly avoid them.
The good news with Keto is that if you see those spikes in weight due to carb loading, it’s pretty easy to drop it once you get back to it, since the body will flush out that water weight when the carbs go away. Thus in January 2020, I was back on Keto in earnest and dropped the 15 pounds pretty easily. And since that point–with the exception of a boozy weekend here and there–I’ve been Keto all the way.
For most of my life I’ve been pretty active. Whether playing sports, lifting weights or just running around as a kid, I always enjoying moving and exercising. Even when I was at my heaviest, I at least made it to the gym three times per week. But the saying goes, “you can’t outrun a bad diet,” and boy is that the truth.
The good news is that once I hit my first goal weight, I was in a much better position to improve myself from both a fitness and aesthetic standpoint. It’s certainly nice not to be spilling out of your 34” (okay, 36”) pants, and take “slim fit” in its natural meaning.
It’s been a long time since I’ve “liked” my body. I’ve never been able to get that “look.” Some of that is likely down to just some unfortunate genetics (I still love you Mom and Dad), but the other 80-ish percent is the result of a questionable gym routine and, of course, stuffing my face with Mac & Cheese every day, and washing it down with a few IPAs.
Since last June, I’ve tried a number of fitness regimens, and to my surprise I’ve enjoyed most of them. Much of my first attempts at body recomposition, focused on cardio and some modest weight lifting. Combined with Keto, I actually succeeded in dropping more weight with this method. By the fall of 2019, I was well into the high 150-pound range, and I actually completed my first 5k run. But my body composition was not where I wanted it to be. Essentially, I had no muscle definition at all–what the kids these days call it skinny-fat.
I then embarked on a pretty strenuous strength training program called “nSuns.” It’s a progressive overload lifting regimen. I was successful in increasing my strength. Very successful in fact! But the increasing weight eventually took its toll and I sustained an injury in December. I went from being thisclose to benching 225 pounds (which would have been by far the most I’ve every repped) to barely being able to bench 135 pounds. I had to go to the doctor and take anti-inflammatory medication, and took a month off. And just as I was about to make my way back to the gym…
My gym (and most gyms) shut down in the middle of March, and I was left with no options to get back into building strength and muscle. I tried some bodyweight routines, but they didn’t really work for me. At best I was maintaining, which wasn’t bad under the circumstances. But instead of stumbling around from one YouTube exercise to the next, I decided to invest a little in some equipment.
I started out just grabbing one resistance band off Amazon (my shopping history would make even the worst shop-o-colic blush) and searching for a program once again in the bowels of YouTube. After stumbling around from one video to the next, someone sent me to a couple who run ACHV PEAK and let me tell you: It’s great. Workouts for every experience level, and they provide great explanations within the workouts to help you improve your form. After only two weeks of experimenting with the workouts, I happily dropped some cash to pay for the formal program.
The 12 week program lets you work up from scratch essentially through some very intense workouts. And you’re going to get a workout every day. There are also quick 5-minute “finisher” workouts if you want to do a bit extra or just work a particular body part that you didn’t feel got enough of a burn during the exercises. Can’t say enough good things about them, and happy to give them a plug.
I have to say I’ve really enjoyed working out at home, which is really surprising. Having been a gym-goer on and off since I was 15, I never really considered it as an option, even moreso after not really enjoying bodyweight exercises. For me there have been several benefits:
1) Saving time: My gym wasn’t too far away–about a 10-15 drive depending on traffic–but working out at home has saved me potentially a half-hour in commute time every day. That definitely adds up over the course of a year or three. Granted I wouldn’t necessarily be doing anything with that time, but it’s nice to have.
2) Saving money: My gym membership wasn’t particularly cheap or expensive at around $35 per month, but that’s about $400 per year I could be spending elsewhere.
Obviously there are a couple of significant downsides to not going to the gym. I don’t have access to the pool, hot tub or basketball court for starters. And I still have the lingering doubts about whether I want to give up weight lifting forever. But its hard to discount the increased muscle I’ve be able to realize over the past 10 weeks (maybe even some definition?). Plus given the ongoing epidemic, I’m not even sure I’d want to be in a gym right now. So for the time being, I’ll finish up my program and then see where I want to go from there.
LOOKING UNDER THE HOOD
One thing I’ve always enjoyed is reading about the numbers of fitness and weight training. Getting a bit beyond just looking at the number on the scale or the weights on the end of the bar can provide a bit more context and help you focus in on your goals. So as a little treat to myself (and if any time calls for it…), I scheduled a DXA scan to help measure my progress.
If you don’t know what a DXA scan is, it’s kind of like an x-ray which gives you a superficial look at your body. Not invasive or painful, you simply lay on a bed and allow the machine to scan you from head to toe–literally. Aside from getting an accurate weight, you’ll also get a look at the muscle and fat distribution on various body parts, which will give you a snapshot at your overall body composition. The cost wasn’t outrageous at $45, though you won’t be getting one every month.
As you can see, it’s a pretty cool look at your body, and provides some useful information, aside from weight and body fat. It can also alert your to certain warning signs (I learned that Visceral Adipose Tissue or VAT is a no-good, very bad thing and you should try not to have any of it. Seriously, it should be as close to zero as possible). Also I learned that I’m not particularly symmetrical, which isn’t uncommon.
Aside from that, I’ve gotten myself into pretty good health, and the technician said I should be “proud” of the results, though maybe he was just trying to get me to come back for another scan in a few months. Which I probably will, as I’m an easy mark for these things,
So halfway through this coronavirus-plagued year, I’ve been mostly able to keep on improving, which I am proud of. Even if things are a mess everywhere else, a couple of the things I can control is what I eat and how I move, and with everything going on in today’s world, that’s something.