Thursday, May 28, 2015

Yet Another Blog About Weight Loss (YABAWL)

I worked for a while as a computer programer (when you're done snickering, I'll continue) and if there's one thing programmers like, it's acronyms. One that I heard during my time pretending I was more clever than I am (which, by the way, I still do) was YAPL, which stood for Yet Another Programming Language. With as many blogs as there are out there in the blogosphere (a place with which I am admittedly not well acquainted) dealing with weight loss and the "weight loss journey" of individuals, I don't pretend that I'm going to have anything new or profound to say that will be worth reading. Which I don't say to discourage you, faithful reader. I just want to be honest. Honesty in it's rawest form is going to be (I hope) the crux of this blogging adventure. The uncomfortable, naked truth.

It is also, I think, worth noting that this blog was not primarily my idea. It had crossed my mind a time or two that I should write down my goal and how I intend to accomplish it, and also log my progress, but I had been dismissing that idea for the very reason I mentioned above. Then someone very important to me suggested that I blog about my journey (right now in it's very very early incubating stages) and I found myself reconsidering. And then I clicked that little "new blog" button and here we are.

Let me lay out for you a little more clearly exactly "where we are".

We (and by "we" I mean "me") have committed and are actively taking steps to lose a serious amount of weight. A couple of things happened over the course of the last year that have finally pushed me into a complete change of heart and mind so that I feel I am now, at long last, in a mental state to actually get this done. Here are the things, in no particular order:

1 - I hit an all-time high weight of 267 lbs. Then I saw a picture of myself at that weight. Terrifying.
2 - My girlfriend told me that she didn't want to marry a fat person. That was not a direct quote, by the way, but I got the message.
3 - My "fat pants" were tight. The thought of going up another size made me physically sick.
4 - I read about a program called HealthyWage and did some research and read some reviews. More on this in a bit.
5 - I was told that I was too fat for a job I really wanted. The information was relayed in a way that was far more PC than that. The job required taking a physical which included a BMI requirement of <30. My BMI at the time was a whopping 38. It was a very clear wake-up call.

And those things are enough. They came to me one at a time, and one at a time, they were not enough. But when they all started adding themselves together, it was enough.

So, here's the goal, the plan, the dream - all of which is perfectly achievable, and 100% up to me.

I placed a HealthyWage bet. The way the challenge works is two-fold (and I added a third layer for myself for some extra incentive). Here's a link to their "why it works" page, if you'd like to gather your own info and not wade through my less than succinct explanation, but it boils down to a two part financial incentive. First, you pay in money ("place a bet"), which you lose if you don't meet your weight loss goal. "Lose" as in they keep your money. Goodbye, money! Second, if you "win" they pay you a bonus. The way it works with HealthyWage is you decide how much weight you want to lose, how long it's going to take you, and how much of your money you want to put in. They do some fancy math and tell you how much they will pay you if you reach your goal in the time you've set based on how much you're investing, how difficult they expect your goal to be to achieve, multiplied by the internal body temperature of an angry marmot, divided by the average number of Starbucks orders that are botched in a day, etc.

It was not the first time I had heard of this type of incentive, and the science behind it sounds reasonable to me. (Aside from the nonsensical math I just made up.) After a bit of research into the company, I decided to jump. I decided to bet $50 a month that I could lose 90 lbs in 12 months. It's ambitious. Here's the third layer I was telling you about. I spoke to two people about my wager. My mom and a close friend. They both offered to pitch in to my wager. Sort of like sponsors. They each decided to place a $25 bet that I could achieve this goal. Making my total wager $100 per month. My payout at the end of the 12 months (when I win) will be $3,919, which I will split with my investors. The added incentive here is to not lose money that isn't mine. And since it's 100% up to me if I win, the only risk is in my quitting.

I'm not going to quit.

The other question I've been asked is if HealthyWage offers some sort of weight loss plan. Nope. Just the incentive. How you lose the weight is entirely up to you. Here's what I'm doing right now:

1 - I'm faithfully using MyFitnessPal, which is a fancy dancy calorie counter app that has a huge database of foods (and also lets you add custom foods) and tracks exercise, water consumption, and weight, as well as working with other apps that track steps (like fitbit or the iPhone Health thingy that I don't really understand, but since my phone is almost always in my pocket and doesn't look like a rubber bracelet, I use that.) The idea being that if you have a consistent calorie deficit, you will lose weight. I've used this app before with some success. It's the same general idea as WeightWatchers (though their point system is certainly a bit more sophisticated) which I have also used with some success. What I've learned is that I am successful when I track my calories. When I quit tracking, I lose ground. With the added motivation to use the app consistently for an extended period of time, I know this is going to be a huge step in meeting my goal.

2 - I played a lot of Pinochle growing up and the rules for that game are set up in a sort of graduated system of steps. During a hand, you have to follow suit and play a higher card than anyone before you has played, if you can't play a higher card, you still have to follow suit, if you can't follow suit, you have to play a trump card, if you can't trump, you can play anything else in your hand. That kind of linear logic makes sense to me, so I'm applying it like this: Eat a fruit or a vegetable, if you can't eat a fruit or a vegetable, eat some protein, if you can't eat protein, have a "healthy" starch, if you can't eat a healthy starch, eat something. Eating is important.

3 - I'm working hard to change my relationship with food. I love food. I love sharing food with people. I love eating food. I love the way it tastes and the way it feels in my mouth and the way it smells. I love food. I have a problem with sugar. Especially baked goods. Especially donuts. I'm trying to figure out how to not eat donuts without making donuts the enemy. Because donuts aren't the enemy. I'm not sure there is an enemy, per se - just a mental shift that needs to happen. "Eating healthy" doesn't have to sound evil and donuts don't have to be the enemy. Certainly not all calories are created equal, but in math, a deficit is a deficit.

4 - Water. Lots of it. At least 8 glasses (glass = 8oz) a day. More is better. Peeing all the time is totally worth the many health benefits of drinking stupid amounts of water.

5 - Exercise. This is the one I'm struggling with the most right now. My brain works in dumb ways. It logics itself right out of doing smart things. For example, I know that I can lose 10 pounds with just the calorie deficit pretty easily. I expect the first 10 pounds to sort of melt off. I've done it before. I am confident this will happen with little to no exercise. I also know that I will hit a plateau. I don't know when that will be because I've never stuck with a thing long enough to hit a plateau, but I've heard and read and learned enough to know that a plateau is a real thing that happens, so I assume that it will happen to me. From what I've read, to push your body past the plateau, you have to up your game. My brain tells me that the smart thing to do is to hold off on really exercising until I hit my first plateau - then the exercise can be the "up" to my game. I understand even as I write this that it is a stupid plan full of pitfalls and potential for failure, but my brain is convinced that this is how I should run the opening play of this game. If someone has a better plan, please convince me out of my own stupid. I really do want to get past stupid and get to healthy.

So, let's look at the numbers. I started my challenge on 5/15/15, which means I have until 5/15/16 to achieve my goal and make a bunch of money. My official weigh in was 250.5 lbs. I'm headed to 160.5 to win. That puts me squarely into what is considered a healthy BMI for my height. All the way to healthy. Not satisfied with "overweight" instead of "obese". Not content at the <30 BMI that the job required. All the way to healthy. I'm all in. I know that I can do this. There are people who love me who believe that I can do this. I'm ready to prove them right. I'm literally putting my money (and theirs) where my mouth is.

I've been at this for less than two weeks. The last time I was able to get to a scale (two days ago), I was down three pounds. That is exactly, perfectly, precisely on track. It's a good start. I know there will be hiccups and that this will be hard to maintain. I understand that there will be frustration mixed in with success. I am fallible. But setbacks are not failures. I only fail if I quit.

I will not quit.

Also, because I'm not attending Weight Watchers meetings (or anything of the sort), you, dear readers, are now nominated as my support group. I will post regular weigh ins. Maybe once a week, maybe every two weeks. I travel a lot and don't always have access to a scale, but I will try to make the check in a regular thing. Maybe if there are people waiting on my progress, that will be another incentive. Or it might just be intimidating. I don't know. I haven't done this publicly before. It's new and scary and we'll see how it goes.

It's life, you know? You make it up as you go along.

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