Monday, January 31, 2011

Big Climb Training and Donation Info

If you've been by any time in the last month, you probably know I've been training for The Big Climb, a charity event to scale 69 floors in the Columbia Tower in Seattle. (All of my Big Climb posts are available here.)

So how do you train to climb 1311 stairs? Anyone?

That's what I've been trying to figure out. You see, I've never been on a Stairmaster in my life and I don't run. On the plus side, I do like to walk (I'll be walking, not running, the Big Climb on March 20th) and both my work and home require a little stair climbing every day.

In December, I decided to walk about half, just to see if I should even sign up. I made it through 650 stairs, though my calfs got so sore I could barely walk up one flight of stairs the next day. Nonetheless, I made the commitment and in my eminent wisdom decided on the following intermediate goals, mostly because they sounded good:

End of December: 750 steps
End of January: 1000 steps
End of February: 1311 steps
March: 1311 steps on three different staircase layouts

I'm proud to report that last week, I passed 1000 steps (!!!) and yesterday I climbed 1088!

Fundraising Goal for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

My sons emptied their piggy banks to contribute
The Big Climb is a major fundraiser for an excellent cause: The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I am walking in memory of my father-in-law, Stewart, who died at age 58 from the disease. He was fit, working out five days a week at the Y, and a stand up community member. The whole family misses him and would give anything to prevent others from being affected.

My fundraising goal is $1000. That's about $15 dollars for every flight of stairs I'll be climbing. I know we can do it! My 8 and 10 year old boys dipped into their savings and came up with $20 to help get things started.

If you're interested in contributing, click here for the easy donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Your generosity will be very much appreciated!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Stuff I Read Friday

To the links!

Perhaps many of you have read this already, but I really have to give Big Clyde credit for capturing something we all deal with: being down a lot of pounds and more committed than most, yet still being big and suffering the same stereotypes we had before starting our weight loss journey. And he does it with humor. Great post, Clyde.

Would you eat school lunch every day? Mrs. Q. did in 2010. She's a teacher who ate the same food as the students everyday and blogged about it. For a "taste" of her blog, try a post about bagel dogs

Slate ran an article the other day about using "precommitment devices" to change behavior.  Examples include using software to prevent procrastination online, keeping your credit card in a block of ice in your freezer to prevent impulsive spending, or wearing your "granniest underwear" on a date as motivation not to...hey, I'm just reporting the news here. Anyway, there are applications to weight loss, such as pledging $10,000 to your friend if you don't lose 38 pounds in a year. I'm trying to decide if that's brilliant, or foolish.

Ever had a rude anonymous commenter you wanted to track down? Sports Illustrated's Jeff Pearlman did, and he found the guy.

The Mariners are getting three extra home games this year because U2 booked a concert in the Marlins' stadium.  It's a beautiful day!

More info about my training and fundraising for The Big Climb on Monday. Have a great weekend everyone!

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    Final Four Update: No Processed Loses to Calories

    "What's processed food and why can't you have any?"

    One of the interesting parts of the P.O.P. has been explaining it to my kids. They don't really get what processed food is (except it's, in my 10 year old son's words, "The kind of food we get in school?") I don't want to overly dwell on food choices, so I let it go, waiting for a teachable moment.

    Yesterday, a bar of Nice'n Cheesy processed cheese spread made it into my house for the NFC & AFC Championship party we hosted. OK, here's the moment.

    Me: "This is an example of a processed food."

    Son: "Oh. How is it different than other cheese?"

    Me: "Well, for one thing, it doesn't need to be refrigerated before it's opened. Do you know any other kinds of cheese that don't have to be refrigerated?"

    Son: "Isn't that a good thing?"

    Me: "No, cheese is supposed to be fresh, and that requires refrigeration."

    Son: "But if you don't have a refrigerator, this would be better for you."

    Me: "Remember that story on Nova Science Now (the fun science show on PBS with Neil DeGrasse Tyson) about how they need to make food that can stay fresh for years before they can try a manned mission to Mars? They might be able to use this box of cheese."

    Son (confused): "So, that's a good thing?"

    And so ends the run of No Processed Food in the Pounds Off Playoff. No Processed had a very strong run. This week was one of those doozies, where I had untold hours of sitting, more eating out than I need (though I made decent choices), and not enough access to water. In the end, I gained 0.5 pounds in 2 weeks, basically a wash.

    Claim Jumper chocolate cake, wrapped for later, with a quarter for perspective
    No Processed didn't go down without a fight. Friday night was the annual PTA auction at the kids' school. They were selling dessert and drinks coupons. For $5, you got two desserts and two drinks (mostly sodas). I'm half-way surprised they didn't have blood sugar tests as a silent auction item.

    I wanted no part, but we're a family of four, and it's for a good cause, right? So my wife forked over $10 and we each got our stuff. I grabbed a bottled water and then chose a slice of the Claim Jumper chocolate cake. I'm not going to go too hard on Claim Jumper here, since they do appear to have donated the cake, but suffice to say it was huge. Long story short, I carried it to my car, took it home, wrapped it, and it's waiting for either for somebody else to eat it or for No Processed to be over.

    No Processed is a great plan, one on which I lost eight pounds in the first four weeks. I believe eating more whole foods and fewer processed foods is essential to any successful healthy eating plan. But this week I struggled with the lack of variety, and I was beginning to snap. I started having pasta at home and the bread in restaurants, exploiting the gray area between heavily and less heavily processed. After a while, I was on to hamburgers, and then one night with a bag of pretzel sticks (no defense there, really).

    If our world was built around a rich variety of whole foods, I might be able to avoid processed foods in their entirety. For now, I can't. I'm proud I stayed away from the really bad stuff, but in the end I just didn't get enough of the really good stuff.

    If you're scoring at home, that puts 2500 Calories in the finals. I'm now on to the 8:00 Curfew (hmm, that cake will be lookin' good at 7:45!) and then Three Strikes.

    Thanks as always for your support and comments!

    Friday, January 21, 2011

    Stuff I Read Friday

    Before I get to the links, a little blog business. You may have noticed I've added a post schedule to the right hand side of my blog. For several months in 2010 I had a posting schedule and it worked great, except that it committed me to a lot of writing, even when I didn't really have time for it.

    I'm really excited about my new blog schedule. I'll be posting an original post every Monday and the link post every Friday. Mondays will be for "serious" blogging about the POP, my progress, health topics, etc., while Fridays will allow me to freewheel a little and hopefully show you something of interest in the areas of health, sports, or whatever catches my fancy. I hope you like it.

    Now, some links for your reading pleasure...
    • Here's a great example of how the food industry markets food to hook us on crap.  Any'tizers® QuesaDippers™?  Puh-lease!
    • While I subscribe to Real Complicated (the feature on the BCS formula was awesome!), my wife subscribes to Real Simple. The latter has an article this month with the "30 Healthiest Foods." We have eaten 19 in the last week. How about you?
    • I've shied away from blogs with thousands of words every day, which is probably why I never followed Sean Anderson's Daily Diary of a Winning Loser. I caught up over the three day weekend and it's really an amazing story. He went from 505 pounds to under 230 by sticking to 1500 calories a day. With calorie counting looking like as much of a sure thing in the POP as the New England Patriots Green Bay Packers are for the Super Bowl, Sean's story is the perfect inspiration. 
    • For a summary of Sean's 250+ pound weight loss adventure, read this interview with Sean or set aside a half hour to listen to his story in this long-form radio interview, as I did while making lunch on Monday.
    • Lisa at "100 Pounds and Counting" has yielded the floor to Michael and they are running a very informative series on how to buy a bike. This one on road bikes and hybrids is very detailed and informative. Follow the links in the post to learn about cruisers and trainers.
    • If you're looking for an article on how to find a good bike if you're overweight, try mine.  It's nowhere near as advanced as Michaels, but it's just what I could have used when I was large, out of shape, and wanting to ride again for the first time as an adult.

    Monday, January 17, 2011

    Review: The End of Overeating

    I've stopped wearing suits for the time being because they don't fit well, thankfully this time because I've lost weight and gained muscle tone, instead of the other way around. Fortunately, I have a job where a shirt and tie, and sometimes even just a sweater will do. Dr. David Kessler, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, didn't have the choice not to "suit up," so he invested in a whole range of suits. "In every size," he says.

    Kessler, author of The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite, is a lot like me.  He's analytical by nature and concerned about the greater good. But while he was successful in other areas of life, he was powerless against eating.

    Claiming to have gained and lost his body weight many times over through various diets, Kessler resolved to finally figure out why so many people are motivated to eat foods that ultimately don't satisfy them. His work became a treatise on modern food addiction and the peddlers who exploit it.

    To understand Kessler's book is to understand two key concepts, "conditioned hypereating" (don't click away!) and "sugar/fat/salt layering."

    First, conditioned hypereating. The latter is the easy part to explain. Hypereating is what it sounds like - eating too much, eating in an uncontrolled manner, etc. If you're reading this blog and you're anyone other than my skinny friend Misha, you probably do it. We don't need to dwell on it.

    The conditioned part is why you hypereat. It basically means you've become addicted over time to food and food cues. You've become accustomed to huge portion sizes and unhealthy foods. This happens over time and not by accident.

    The conditioning of conditioned hypereating happens most often through the layering of sugar, fat, and salt by restaurants and food processing companies. Kessler drives this point home with a refrain after naming yet another obscene food creation.  He would write something like, "Super Cheesy Cinnamon Beef Nachos are fat, layered on sugar, layered on salt, layered on fat."  And then another item "...fat, layered on salt, layered on fat..."  And another item, and so forth.  This being Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I'll mention that it has the effective repetitive cadence of "I have a dream." It's just that the repetition of sugar, fat, and salt in our foods today is a nightmare for the health of our country.

    I made up "Super Cheesy Cinnamon Beef Nachos," but the scary thing is that food engineers are probably inventing something like this or worse as I write this.  (And if you do happen to work for a restaurant chain, I AM JOKING. I do not want to see a Super Bowl commercial for Super Cheesy Cinnamon Beef Nachos!)  Kessler introduces us to an anonymous source in the food industry who shares in galling detail how food manufacturers conspire to keep us addicted. They say they sell what people want to eat, yet food manufactuers are constantly researching combinations of sugar, fat, and salt that keep us wanting what they sell.

    It's knowledge of this practice that Kessler believes will allow us to rise above it. To know we're being manipulated. To know we're being played. As a person whose number one peeve is being condescended to, this point resonates strongly with me.

    Kessler ultimately concludes that for America to end its overeating, it will take new social norms that reject large portions and the sugar/fat/salt trio. He offers an analogy to smoking, which has finally been significantly reduced not because of health warnings or regulation (though I would argue those have helped), but because smoking went from socially acceptable, even "cool," to being seen as deviant and repulsive (his words). Kessler rejects demonizing food companies in favor of society becoming aware of the motives and practices that have hooked us on ridiculously unhealthy food and portions.  Until that time, each of us will have to save ourself, becoming aware of the cues that lead to our own excesses, and systematically replacing them with healthy cues and healthy food.

    The End of Overeating belongs on the short-list of most thorough and insightful books about how America got into the obesity mess, and how we might get out. Unfortunately, it's not an easy read or a page turner. Kessler eschews foods that come virtually predigested for you in favor of those that are good for you. He writes the same way. This is the literary equivalent of eating your vegetables.  But if you're still reading this post, you probably like your vegetables, right?

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    Stuff I Read Fridays

    Welcome to a new feature on the Pounds Off Playoff: Stuff I Read Fridays. It's a difficult concept, I admit, but here's a primer:
    Stuff I read during the week.  Posts on Friday.
    Stay after class if you need more explanation.  Topics will include health, weight, personal productivity, sports, and whatever else I find interesting.  If I've done my job, you'll find an article or two each week that you find interesting or amusing, while I get to show off how much of my intellect is wasted on minutia.

    And now to the Link-O-Rama!

    • I thought about doing a Pounds Off Profile about Seth Rogen's 30 pound weight loss. It would be timely, with The Green Hornet coming out today and everything.  But since he was on one of those high priced Hollywood diets (starts with "5") and he's been braggin' about how he just did it for a role and he can't wait to put the pounds back don't get your own post, Seth Rogen! Just a link.
    • So if a person successfully charges $150/hour as a professional organizer, reforming playrooms and dispensing people's knick-knacks, is she brilliant businesswoman or P.T. Barnum? (Or yes, all of the above.) And if you pay $150/hour for such service, are you just dealing with life's stresses in a higher orbit, or hopelessly spoiled and out of touch? But they're uncluttered, and on this day I'm not yet (sorry honey!), so I'm a little envious, frankly. (New York Times)
    • Are you a football fan? Or do you just want to see something awesome? Check out the seismograph reading when Marshawn Lynch scored the biggest touchdown in Seattle Seahawks playoff history.
    • Better yet, watch Marshawn Lynch run to Super Mario music. If you grew up when I did, it makes total sense.

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    The Final Four Edition!

    It's the final countdown!

    We're now two weeks into the Final Four, with 2500 Calories per Day putting up a solid 3.6 pound loss over the past two weeks to kick off the tournament's last chapter.

    Here's a "reset" of the final four eating plans.  The complete bracket, scoreboard, and eating plan power rankings provide more detail on the results of all 16 eating plans.

    2500 Calories per Day
    December 26-January 8
    When I did 1800 calories, I often went off track and then just kept eating the rest of the day. The more realistic 2500 calories actually has produced more weight loss, as it's more than 500 calories below my maintenance level, but not low enough to stall my metabolism. Plus, I can budget 500 for the morning, 1000 for mid-day, and 1000 for the evening, so I'm really never deprived.

    No Processed Food
    January 9-January 22
    A whole lot of folks are figuring out modern processed foods play a significant role in the obesity epidemic. In some ways, processed foods are the tobacco of our time. But completely eliminating processed foods would pretty much alienate me from my family, friends, and co-workers.  So, by "no processed food," I'm really saying no highly processed food: products with refined sugar or flour, processed meats and cheeses, etc.  And while it's a challenge to find these foods in today's society, you quickly find that real food tastes good, makes you feel good, and helps you lose weight.

    8:00 Curfew
    January 23-February 5
    The Seattle Seahawks of the Pounds Off Playoff, 8:00 Curfew won the weak "Behavior Focus Region" by basically keeping my weight stable. It's the double digit underdog of the Final Four. Nonetheless, late night snacking is a major threat, not because calories eaten before bed count more (this is overrated), but because when you're zoned out on the couch at 9:30 PM binging, it's rarely on carrots and celery.

    Three Strikes
    February 6-February 19
    This plan, which to the best of my knowledge I made up, limits junk food, snacks, seconds, and eating out to a total of three per day. I call it "artificial eating intelligence," because it's what normal eaters do. They eat out, eat dessert, and indulge the occasional donut or side of chips. But they don't overdo it.  And surprisingly, I've been able to do that, too, by counting to three strikes...and stopping.

    Look for more updates as I go through each plan in the Final Four. Which one do you think is going to win?

    Saturday, January 8, 2011

    Training in the Ice and Snow for the Big Climb

    I've never participated in a race of any kind before, so committing to The Big Climb has opened my eyes to the advantages of having an event circled on the calendar. Why, you might wonder, is it better to do a race than just to run your own "event" around the neighborhood, especially if you're not planning to win anyway? I wondered that myself, but now I get it. It's about accountability. (surprise!)

    The date is unrelenting. You can't choose to take a week off and kick the end goal down the line. The Big Climb is on March 20th, which means I have 71 days to prepare.  Today, I climbed 850 stairs.  The Big Climb is 1311.

    That's why I went out recently when the stairs looked like this.

    Without that date on the calendar, I'd have been home, warm and dry, waiting for that mythical perfect day to start exercising.  What could give you a "date certain" to propel your exercise?

    Monday, January 3, 2011

    Training Rocky-Style for the "Big" Announcement

    While I was in Philly for the holidays, I started training for my upcoming "fitness event".  Can you guess what it is?  First, open a little Rocky music from YouTube in another tab to set the mood...

    OK, my turn...

    In my last post before Christmas, I teased that I'd be signing up for a fitness event in 2011. I didn't mean to be sly (maybe a little "Sly Stallone" - bahahahaha!), just wasn't fully sure I could do it. You all were great with your encouragement, interest, and speculation. And now I'm ready to commit.  I just signed up for...

    The Big Climb

    The Big Climb is a fundraiser for the The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, their largest fundraiser in Washington State.  Participants climb 69 floors/1311 steps in the Columbia Center tower in downtown Seattle.  They cap participation in the March 20th event at 6,000, so I'm glad I got in.

    A huge thank you to my fellow Washington blogger Diana for the great idea to participate. Diana's an insightful weight loss blogger and I've learned a lot from her. She's putting together a team to do the climb, and they are participating in the timed running event, while I've chosen the untimed walking event. Maybe Diana's going to be Rocky running up those stairs.  I am not.

    I'm climbing in honor of my father-in-law, Stewart, who we all miss greatly. If you live around Seattle, I strongly encourage you to sign up.  In addition to being something to help jump start your winter weight loss, it's a great cause.