On the plateau

281.5 lbs / 10 lbs lost

Well, it’s earlier than I had hoped, but I seem to have hit my first plateau. For about the last two weeks, my weight has been stuck at 281.5. It’s bounced up and down from one day to the next, but it always returns back to that center of gravity.

I admit, it’s more frustrating than I expected. I knew pounds wouldn’t always come off as quickly as they did in the first week or two, but I didn’t expect to run into a wall just ten pounds into this. Keeping to a 1000 calorie deficit has taken effort, and it’s easy to feel like that effort has been, at least for a week now, largely for nothing.

Oh, well. It doesn’t do any good to fret over it too much. But it’s worth noting as a milepost.

So consider it noted. Now I’ll look forward to seeing it in my rearview mirror!

Things that have surprised me

One of the biggest things about my weight loss experience so far has been becoming aware of how many calories are in the food on my plate. My guesstimates are getting better the more I track and learn. But some items have caught me by surprise, both good and bad.

Here’s a short list so far:

Surprisingly Low in Calories

  • Vegetables in general. I’m still amazed at how close to “free” a lot of veggies are. Load up on the broccoli, cauliflower, and baby carrots – you can pack a cereal bowl full of ‘em and still barely hit 100 calories.

Alas, the “surprisingly low” list ends there! There have been more bad surprises:

Surprisingly High in Calories

  • Rice. Tonight’s downfall. I loaded my plate up with white rice without looking it up first, thinking, “Rice is one of those healthy things to eat – serve generously!” Bad call on my part. I ballparked that each cup of cooked rice on my plate was maybe 100-150 calories. Turns out it’s more like 200. It’s still a good (and inexpensive) tummy-filler, but it would be a mistake to think of it like veggies.
  • Toast in general, and Eat’n Park garlic toast in particular.  This is another one of things that seems to me like it should be practically free. I mean, toast is what you eat when you’re sick and your stomach can’t handle “real” food, right? But there are quite a few calories in bread products, and it’s easy to go overboard, especially when they’re served with butter and other toppings. (Wheat bread is about 60 calories per slice before you dress it up, by the way.) Most egregious of all was the little side of garlic bread I was served at Eat’n Park (with a low-cal meal, nonetheless!): just two thin slices of sourdough with butter and garlic, no cheese or anything. In the name of all that is holy, how is it possible to get 500 calories out of that??? I ask you.
  • Turtle Pecan Cluster Blizzard. OK, so it’s a no-brainer that there will be lots of calories in a DQ ice cream treat. But just how many? Take one of my favorites (which, as fate would have it, appears to be the king of the hill when it comes to calorie content among Blizzards). In my mind, a large Turtle Pecan Cluster Blizzard was bad for me, to the tune of about 800 calories – a good sized meal’s worth of calories. But it’s so, so much worse: just shy of 1500 calories in that cup! Even being “responsible” and getting the Mini (not the small, but the smaller-than-small) lards up your day with 400 calories. There may be OK ways to include ice cream in a diet, but this is surely not among them.

Have you been taken by surprise, for good or for ill, by a bit of nutrition info? Share it below!

Century Gear: Body fat scale

Losing weight can be done with no investment in gear whatsoever. But it’s a lot easier with the right tools. “Century Gear” is an ongoing catalog of tools that have clicked for me. Your mileage may vary.

What fun is losing weight if you don’t have a way to track your progress?

One of the most basic tools you’ll want in your collection is a good body fat bathroom scale. When I got mine many years ago, it was a newfangled idea, but they’re very common now. You’ll recognize one by the metal electrodes embedded in the scale’s platform.

By passing a tiny amount of electricity through your body, the scale is able to calculate not only your weight, but also your percent body fat and your percent body water.

For most folks, “weight loss” is synonymous with “fat burning,” which means we need to be sure that it’s not just our weight that’s dropping, but also our body fat percentage. Although an old-fashioned scale is better than nothing, it’s best to keep track of your body fat just as carefully as you watch your weight.

Some scales get even fancier. If you’re willing to pay for it, you can find ones that are WiFi enabled, conveying your stats automatically to your diary in the cloud.

One question that often comes up: How often should you weigh yourself?

There’s no right answer to this one, as long as you’re aware that body weight can change pretty dramatically from one day to the next. It’s not at all strange to see your weight go up a few pounds without any reason that’s obvious to you. If that sort of normal fluctuation is going to be discouraging to you, it’s recommended that you step on the scale once a week.

I’m weighing in daily. I understand about the fluctuations, and am not troubled by them. I know that it’s really the 7-day running average that smooths out those bumps and gives the general trajectory of my weight. It’s helpful to me to have an awareness of what my body’s doing from day to day, without placing too much emphasis on it. And having a daily routine is much easier than having a weekly one.

In the end, as with just about anything to do with weight loss (and life), the idea is to use it in the way that helps you the most.

Expect to spend $30 and up for your new bathroom scale. You can find them at just about any store with a home goods section.

Reader questions

Let me take a few minutes to answer some of the questions I’ve been asked since starting the Century.

What plan or program are you using? No gimmicks, no endorsements, no product line – just “eat fewer calories, and use more of them.”

What’s your pace? I started on August 11 with a 500-calorie daily deficit. That amounts to one pound of fat each week. I found that it was pretty easy to keep within that limit – too easy, actually. (This is just temporary. Because a 300ish pound body will use 2700 calories each day even if I never get it out of bed, a 500-calorie deficit still left me with a 2200 calories, which is quite a few!)

So this week I upped the ante. I’m currently shooting for a 1000-calorie deficit each day, which amounts to two pounds of fat per week. It’s definitely more of a challenge to keep to this number! But so far, so good. And if I go over a little, I’m not worried. After all, I’d need to overshoot my goal by 1000 calories before it would amount to even a tiny amount of weight gain.

I’m enough of a realist not to expect that I’m going to drop a steady two pounds each week. It’ll get harder as I go along, since my base calorie rate will go down and the deficit will grow relative to what my body needs. And I know I’ll run into the wall that everyone seems to hit at some point. That’s fine. I’ll just keep on hitting my target number, and the weight will come off however fast it comes off.

Are you exercising or counting calories? Both. The app I use to record my progress tracks both calories consumed and calories expended. That helps, because it gives me flexibility. On days when I can’t (or choose not to) exercise, as long as I stay at or below my calorie goal number, I’m okay. On days when I can move my body more, then that amount gets added onto my goal number – bonus calories to eat without guilt! Having options is a big deal.

Are you losing with anyone? Not officially. But a few of my crew back home have expressed degrees of interest/inspiration since I started the Century. And I’ve got several church folks who are following their own weight loss programs who are excited for me and go out of their way to be encouraging.

What’s with the title? Isn’t a “century” a unit of time? It is. (But I hope it won’t take me 100 years to do this!) But the word “century” is also sometimes used to describe 100 of something besides years. In cricket, if a batsman scores 100 runs in an inning, he’s reached his century. In ancient Rome, a century was a unit of 100 soldiers – headed, of course, by a centurion. And in cycling, a major accomplishment is completing a century – a ride of 100 miles. That’s the phrase that stuck in my mind as I thought about a shorthand way to talk about my weight loss experience: “completing a century.”

That’s it for now. Thanks to everyone who’s pulling for me!

Major changes at BobSchaefer.com

For the first time in what feels like forever, I’m rolling out a completely new version of my site, built from scratch, just for me.

I’ve separated out my personal posts from ones of a more pastoral nature. That should make it easier for folks to follow what interests them. I’ve also added a new category: The Century. You can read the introduction here, but the gist is that I’ve started a major effort at weight loss, and this is where I’m telling that story. Again, it’s sectioned off, since those posts won’t interest everyone. But if you’re of a mind to share this journey with me, I’d be glad for the company!

I’m also establishing an online portfolio. It’s not quite ready to roll out yet, but in the not-so-distant future I’ll have information about my various web design projects, and other design work I’ve done.

I know things have been sparse around here lately – that’s changing. Keep checking back, or subscribe to any of my RSS feeds to get the latest updates delivered right to you.

And, as always, thanks for reading!

Introducing “The Century”

Let me start out very simply: I’m fat.

Now, I don’t especially like writing that. It’s an ugly word, “fat,” and it feels ugly to use it to describe someone I’m rather fond of. I much prefer any one of the dozens of euphemisms that keep me from saying the F word:

  • I’m a big guy.
  • I’m an executive size. (That’s Men’s Wearhouse.)
  • I’m portly. (Slightly less OK, courtesy of JCPenney’s sizing scheme.)
  • I’m overweight.
  • I could stand to lose a few pounds.

And so on. All of these dance around the simple fact that back around 1994-95 I put on a freshman fifteen, and then a sophomore 15 for good measure. I kept on doing this for several years, in fact. Now, by any measure that shoots straight and doesn’t try to flatter me with smooth words, I’m what you would call morbidly obese. Let’s just say fat for the sake of brevity.

Now that we have that fact on the table, the Century is my plan to do something about it.

I’m fat now, but I don’t need to be fat forever.

Here’s the math: As of the beginning of August 2012, I weighed in at 291 pounds. By my reckoning, I’ve got to drop a solid hundred of them before I’ll be approaching a healthy weight. In fact, that would turn back the clock – as much as such things are possible – to sometime in the middle of my college career.

100 pounds. As long as it takes. That’s the goal. That’s my Century.

For some who visit my site, this will be a massive overshare on my part. Others may find my journey down through the pounds to be the most helpful thing here. For both types, I’ve separated out my Century posts from the rest of my blog. Read them if they interest you. And if not, you can safely ignore them and not miss anything critical.

Aside from the fact that losing this weight is, ahem, critical.

I’m taking the risk of oversharing for two reasons:

  1. I need the accountability. It’s easy to make excuses and not get the job done when no one’s paying attention to the job in the first place. Just about anyone who’s successfully lost weight can tell you the importance of being accountable to someone else. Because I’m a geek with a blog, it comes naturally to me that this should be how I check in.
  2. I might be helpful to others. I’m not the only one in the world with a lot of weight to lose. Inspirational weight loss stories are encouraging, but what I think is really helpful is to read the ongoing, hard-won, day-to-day insights of people who are undertaking the same challenge. I want to be able to share what I think is helpful, so that others might be encouraged to undertake their own Centuries.

Feel free to cheer me on, and to ask me any questions you’ve got.

I’m looking forward to my Century. Whether it’s 2014, 2015, or beyond – one way or the other, I’ll see you at 191 pounds!

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-02-18

  • 2/11: My Kindle book is now available from the library. Woot! Except 2/10: #PenguinUSA locks out Kindle apps. BOO! http://t.co/PbeLNRSZ #fb #
  • Reform copyright law to allow libraries to keep digital copies of ebooks and other media. http://t.co/L8ZjnutT #fb #
  • Rite Aid. Four items. Twenty inches of receipt. *sigh* #
  • Taxes are done. Refunds will be had. Happy dances will be conducted. #
  • Know what I'd like to do today? Just completely gorge myself on Godiva. Mmm…. #
  • I provided a family of 4 clean water for a year. Cost? $4. What will you do? https://t.co/LHjDJRZK via @philanthropr #

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-02-18

  • 2/11: My Kindle book is now available from the library. Woot! Except 2/10: #PenguinUSA locks out Kindle apps. BOO! http://t.co/PbeLNRSZ #fb #
  • Reform copyright law to allow libraries to keep digital copies of ebooks and other media. http://t.co/L8ZjnutT #fb #
  • Rite Aid. Four items. Twenty inches of receipt. *sigh* #
  • Taxes are done. Refunds will be had. Happy dances will be conducted. #
  • Know what I'd like to do today? Just completely gorge myself on Godiva. Mmm…. #
  • I provided a family of 4 clean water for a year. Cost? $4. What will you do? https://t.co/LHjDJRZK via @philanthropr #

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-02-04

  • Is student debt a modern-day style of indentured servitude? This scholar says yes: http://t.co/LPoZhmga #
  • Great book currently FREE for Kindle! 'Church History: An Essential Guide' by Justo L. González #fb http://t.co/8daVtdFP #
  • Must be a really good dream – the pooch is making all kinds of little muffled woofs, snorts, and growls! #
  • Bach Choir in the news: "Bach to the Future" http://t.co/CmNsS1Ze #fb #
  • A harrowing longform report from a Marine recon unit in the first weeks of the Iraq war. NC-17. http://t.co/isHY2HTG #