Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Annual Physical and Weight Loss Thoughts

One of the nicer benefits of working at a small hospital is our free annual physical - not even a co-pay. The offer is only good in the month of your birthday, and I had my physical yesterday.

For the most part, everything was great. The doctor read back the note from a year ago, when I was complaining of fatigue and poor workouts. That trend followed me through early August of last year, when I decided to take an extended low-level rest period. I told him that I feel way better this January than I did a year ago. My weight was almost identical to last year, but I know my body fat percentage is lower.

My one complaint to him was about my weight and how difficult I find it to lose weight these days. His first response was "I can't very well ask you to exercise more, can I?", followed by some laughter. I asked if he had any other patients similar to me - lots of exercise but they really struggle to control their weight. I got a "not really" sort of answer, and he acknowledged that he has no patients who exercise as much as I do.

He then reverted to the standard "calories in, calories out" position. He did acknowledge that one medication I take could have an impact on my weight, but my dosage is so small that he doesn't think it's a likely issue.

So, that's it. Eat less. I really wonder these days about the huge disconnects between the USDA-sanctioned position vs. the millions of other theories out there. I know that the world is full of people trying to make a fast buck any way they can from people who want to lose weight. I know the drug companies are working on a magic bullet solution as well. The USDA sticks to its food pyramid, which I believe is absurd, but money talks and the dairy and grain lobbies don't want to see their products de-emphasized in the pyramid.

I guess I've become a convert to the thoughts of a number of fitness trainers and some of the basic tenets of the Paleo Diet. There are a number of trainers whose blogs I read, such as John Berardi of Precision Nutrition, Craig Ballantyne of Turbulence Training, Alwyn Cosgrove, Naked Nutrition, Avidity Fitness, and some others. They all seem to agree that weight loss is best achieved by high levels of intense exercise, diets that emphasize frequent small meals, and food choices that limit the quantity and timing of carbohydrates.

I try to avoid foods that have no nutritional value. That is, I try to avoid foods like white flour, sugar, white rice, etc. My overall grain intake is fairly low. A typical day for me includes a number of smaller meals, each meal containing some protein and some veggies. I've cut way back on alcohol consumption - none for 10 days right now - a significant streak for me.

But, there are certainly times when I could eat better. It seems that I'm most likely to eat some food I'd be better avoiding when I go too long with no food. A good example might be lunch on a Saturday or Sunday, when I'm teaching skiing. If I don't eat breakfast, I'm starving at lunchtime, and a cheeseburger will look a lot more tempting than a salad. Or, right after skiing, if I don't eat something right away, I'm more likely to go home and eat anything I can find in the kitchen while I'm cooking dinner. So, I know where I am likely to overeat or to eat the wrong things.

Precision Nutrition advocates that you can't really know how well something works unless you are at least 90% compliant on a long-term basis. I know that I don't hit 90% over the long term, although I have short bursts of high compliance compliance.

So, I'm not really losing weight. What's going on? Perhaps I'm losing fat but adding muscle. The way my clothing fits says this might be true, but I need to check with my body fat calipers. I might be semi-following a good program, but not following it well enough. I might be following the wrong program completely. Perhaps I've fallen for something that doesn't make nutritional sense at all.

Of course, I tend to believe that my body doesn't follow the laws of thermodynamics. It can't be my fault, right?

Yes, I think I know where the answer lies. It's in the choices I make every day. They just aren't good enough right now.

And, until I get my weight moving in the right direction, and under a particular goal, I won't drink any alcohol at all. That gives me some pretty good motivation at least.

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