194 pounds. That's what the scale said this morning, and it blew me away. I knew my jeans weren't quite fitting the way they should, but that's pretty heavy. It feels like yesterday (in fact it was only 11 weeks ago) I was toeing the line in Madison. I weighed 180 pounds that day, and I was fit. 180 is not the lightest I've been since I began triathlon (165 if you're interested) but that is the highest fitness level I've ever attained. I had a disappointing race due to nutrition, but I was healthy and strong that morning. Today I am not.
What the hell happened? Unfortunately, it's not rocket science, and the blame is all mine. After my two Ironman season, I decided I needed some time off. This was a good idea. I decided to do no structured training for the rest of the year - also a good idea since I hadn't taken an "off season" in 4 years. But I made some mistakes:
- My time off (no exercise) lasted 8 weeks. It should have been 2-3 weeks, and then some light unstructured workouts
- I continued to eat calories as if I had been training. I had been in Ironman mode for 20 months, and eating 4000+ calories a day was habit.
- The quality of my diet degraded badly.
The first two mistakes I can live with. Stuff happens. I was tired. I needed a break, and I overdid it a bit. The third mistake, eating poorly, was preventable. I knew it while it was happening, but I didn't stop it - big mistake.
I wasn't eating cleanly to begin with (I eat out at lunch almost every day), but things got really bad this fall. My office has a couple of perks, which turn out aren't so perky in the long term. First, we have unlimited soda fridges. I've always had a bit of a sweet tooth, and Cherry Coke is a very effective way to fill your bloodstream with sugar. Second, we have unlimited candy in the office. For me, it's the Laffy Taffy that gets me. Or the Nerds. Or the Jolly Ranchers. I was drinking 3-6 Cherry Cokes a day, and at least 10 Laffy Taffy's. Below is the evidence, it's a photo of my garbage can at work as I found it this morning - it's Friday's diet. You won't see any soda cans since I recycle those - at least not killing the planet is still important to me.
It's embarrassing to post that picture, it makes me angry at myself. So what am I going to do about it? One of the many things I've learned from triathlon is that nothing goes as planned, and you've got to constantly adjust your expectations, focus on the things you can control, and forget those you cannot. I cannot go back and undo the damage I've done to myself, but I can correct the behaviors that lead me here.
Notice I said "correct", and not "over-correct". I believe that is the mistake most people make when they decide to get fit. I could go from my slovenly 194 pound frame to my gaunt 170 pound version in the next two months if I needed to - but it would not be a good idea. To do that I would need to do severe calorie restriction. This would mean I would be hungry all the time - and it would not be sustainable. As soon as I "finished" my diet, I'd want to eat more again. This is the typical Oprah-esque yo-yo diet. The idea of a "diet" is crazy, because by definition it has a end. What happens when it's over? The only way to permanently fix things is to permanently change your behavior. Not for a week or two, not until you've reached your goal weight, but permanently. Easy to say, tough to do.
What behaviors am I trying to change (permanently)? Here they are. If you catch me violating these, please harass me.
- Pack my lunch. I am capable of making good nutritional choices in a grocery store. I have a much harder time in a restaurant.
- Stop drinking soda. Not cut back, but eliminate it. I have an all-or-nothing personality with soda. I cannot drink it occasionally - that opens the floodgates. It has to be cold-turkey for me with soda.
- Reduce refined sugar considerably. No more candy at work. Watch Sugar The Bitter Truth to discover why. I am going to try to follow the guidelines presented at about 1:09.
- Get back to working out. This one is easy. I'm overweight, a little rusty, and out of the habit - but I really enjoy swimming, biking, and running.
That's it, four simple things. These are all easy to understand, easy to measure, and will become part of my routine after a few weeks of struggling with them. Notice that I didn't say anything about eating less, or counting calories etc. That's because I don't think it's as important for me. Replacing low quality calories with high quality ones is important, but reducing the amount of calories is less so. More importantly, calorie restriction is difficult. I'm going to have a hard enough time with these goals - sugar addiction sucks. I want to start with the basics first and get them right - I don't want to derail the whole thing by setting too aggressive a goal. If I need to start counting calories later I will, but not now. Especially with 8 to 12 hours of training a week (I'll be there again soon!) calorie restriction can be detrimental.
I'll keep you posted on the progress. Hopefully in the next few months you'll be seeing a lot more of me here on the blog, and a lot less of me in person!
"It’s not the will to win that matters – everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters." - Bear Bryant