Thursday, January 08, 2009

My New Year’s life preserver: time to get healthy

I lead an unhealthy life.

Though this is slightly more personal than what I usually write, I need to motivate myself by just putting it out there: I am severely overweight. I don’t necessarily look it, but I weigh about 190 pounds, ten pounds of which have come on over the last couple months and five pounds off my all-time high. This means my BMI is 28.5, and 30 is considered obese. Fortunately, I don’t look it – when I ask people to guess my weight, they're almost always about 15 pounds off. Still, while aesthetics are nice, health is nicer, and with my height or frame I should ideally weigh about 165.

It’s tough for me to lose weight, because not only am I an unathletic desk jockey, I love food. I don’t love food as much as your standard Italian or Greek mother, but I still love it. Big portions of bbq or steak, huge mounds of French fries, berry pie ala mode, and what’s that? An extra helping of grease and salt? Oh yes, please!

But this love of food is leading me towards dangerous waters. A 21-year-old can get away with just about anything, but I won't be 21 forever. Metabolisms change - sometimes around 30, sometimes as early as 24. Since my singing voice deepened earlier than most and I started growing facial hair in sixth grade, maybe I'll be ahead of the metabolism curve as well. If I want to avoid that dreaded 200-pound barrier (which also happens to be the exact number I'll hit a 30 BMI), then I need to change my habits now rather than later.

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know when I say New Year’s resolutions are rarely kept, but my disgustingly low physical energy levels have pushed this past the point of rinky-dink resolutions. This is my life, so this year I will forgo New Year’s resolutions in favor of the following “New Year’s life preservers”:

  • I aim to go to the gym at least 104 times this year, meaning an average of twice a week. The real goal is 3-4 times a week, but I want to be practical.

  • I’m going to try to have meat at lunch just 2-3 times a week. In most countries, and throughout history, meat has been a condiment, not a main course. It has also been environmentally sustainable, unlike today’s sprawling meat industry. I’ll try to cut back severely at lunch and to a more limited degree at dinner.

  • My dentist has been hounding me to have no more than one soda a week. I long ago succeeded in cutting back to about one a day, but that’s still a lot of calories. My new hope is 1-2 Dr. Peppers per week as well as a reduced amount of Powerade; I’ll replace all those calories with what nature intended – water.

  • Mario, my roommate in Colorado last week, lost fifty pounds earlier this year. One of his suggestions was that every time I dine out, ask the server to put half the meal in a doggybag before even bringing it out. After years of being told to join the “clean plate club,” we Americans are conditioned to finishing whatever is put in front of us, but sometimes that just isn’t healthy. Half of a restaurant portion is usually enough, with a second meal thrown in.

  • Mario also said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day not because it gives you energy, but because that initial food speeds up your metabolism. Even a single granola bar before heading out in the morning makes it easier to keep portions smaller, as will a pre-dinner snack. Sometimes “spoiling” one’s appetite is a good thing.

I'm not going to resolve to lose weight, because the weight can just come back. This has to be about habits and lifestyle. Thus, my New Year’s life preserver is not to lose 25-30 pounds, but to make these small lifestyle changes in the hope that they will produce results. Wish me luck; I will post periodic updates here at Wayward much the way Paul Turner used to do in the Spokane, WA Spokesman-Review (for you local ID/WA readers).


James said...

Dang, Nathan, I feel for you. In the past five years I've dropped almost 200 pounds and it is not easy to do.

The suggestion about the doggy bag is brilliant, by the way.

I read a year ago, that if people who drink a lot of soda (as I do), just cut that out of their diet and nothing else, they would loose 25-30 pounds in a year.

Your new project will be included on my prayer list, my friend.

Nathan Empsall said...

200 pounds!!!! James, you are quite the inspiration! Thank you much for the prayers.

I don't know if I'll be able to cut Jack & Coke and Dr. Pepper out entirely, but the good news is I haven't had a single soda since Gather (Colorado) started. :) The bad news is I've skipped both my scheduled trips to the gym. :(

Jordan said...

Well Nathan it appears you and I are in the same boat, albeit for different reasons.

I intend to change my lifestyle back to one I've held previously. My first few years at ISU I exercised not to lose weight but to gain it for my application to the US-AFA. Unfortunately I haven't kept up the regimen this past semester but didn't change my diet to accommodate that fact (hence the extra five pounds I carry and the "roundness" in my face you saw over the break). So it's back to the gym on campus to try to get into shape for that commission I hope to get in a year and a half or so.

I think I'll keep you updated on my progress as you post blogs about yours.

Nathan Empsall said...

We'll be fitness buddies from afar, my friend!

Cany said...

And YOU HAVE the key: "I'm not going to resolve to lose weight, because the weight can just come back. This has to be about habits and lifestyle."

Let me say one thing though about your plans, if I may.

Make your biggest meal, if not breakfast lunch, not dinner, and therefore MEAT should be in the first two, and very much less so in the latter.

Meat has higher fat than complex carbs (read veggies). So for dinner, if you are cooking, think about a nice 8 veggie salad (and make sure the greens are actually GREEN... not that faux iceberg junk), add slices of 6-8 vegetables of multiple colors, put a couple of thin slices or a bit of cubed meat on the top, cover with light dressing and voila! Dinner!

I have reversed my meals for years.
I use breakfast for the grain/fruit part, lunch for the vegie/meat part, and dinner for more veggies (or soup), but preferable raw stuff.

The sodas ARE a killer. Try water with a lemon squeezed in... but if you put in too much, or drink too much of this, you won't like the results so be aware!

Glad you are doing this. And it also portends the message to your future kids (should you choose to be a father) that obesity isn't healthy.

Good for you!

Nathan Empsall said...

Great advice and even better motivation/encouragement. Thank you, Cany!!! :)