I WILL TURN 40 in just under a year. For this birthday just past, to devote myself to one change that will have the most productive influence on the rest of my life, I have chosen fitness. The goal: to lose 30 pounds by my next birthday.
On my birthday last Friday, I weighed 228 pounds. This January 1, I weighed 231.5. Doesn't appear to be much difference, and I do admit some backsliding during the stressful late winter I endured, but my body composition has changed somewhat since then; a little more muscle and a smidge less fat. Don't get me wrong, I am quite obviously obese. I ought to weigh somewhere between 155 and 175 at my height. But I've been especially diligent since the beginning of May, and I've crossed a definite threshold as compared with past attempts to drop fat.
For one, lifting weights only three days out of eight in early–mid June while in Las Vegas didn't ding my progress at all. I got right back into my routine and took off the few pounds of fat I gained while there. Second, shortly before I departed for Vegas, I did three real pushups. In 39 years I have never been able to do even one. This revelation left me stunned for about three days and provided a tremendous endorsement of what I've been doing.
What have I been doing? Keeping most of my meals during the week healthful and of appropriate size and nutrition, and eating five or six of them through the day. Visiting the gym six times per week at minimum, seven ideally. Keeping careful records of my progress and pushing myself in some new way each time I visit. Avoiding the temptations of crappy calories at work (it's like Elaine's office in Seinfeld with the sugarfests). Restricting meals that dip into the standard American diet to the weekends or special occasions like my birthday.
I am not perfect, and I expect to fail, but I refuse to stop. I know that the forward progress is most important, no matter the temporary deceleration required to avoid obstacles. What I am introducing is a signpost, a checkpoint, to set a definite goal at which to aim. The short-term goals of eating better and visiting the gym are now solid habits to be tended carefully. I want to push them further toward a fixed, medium-term objective of major, permanent fat loss.
Losing 30 pounds by my 40th birthday, to weigh 198 pounds by June 27, 2009, will require a rate of loss of .57 pounds per week, or 2.5 pounds per month. This goal is well within the guidelines of 1–2 pounds per week mentioned as ideal (to maximize the impression of healthy habits and metabolic changes to keep the weight off) on Consumer.gov, the Mayo Clinic site, and WebMD. I've been tripped up in the past by eating crappy food between or after meals due to boredom, aimlessness, depressed mood, or laziness. If I can figure a proper caloric intake per day for weight loss, and direct the energies that lead me into situations where I eat crap more positively, I should be able to hit that rate of loss.
The end of the year will be the real kicker. Halloween through New Year's is a nightmare of free-floating sugar and holiday bingeing. But one thing I learned while in Las Vegas was that I've lost the ability to eat huge, single-sitting meals. I just can't do four plate-loads of food at the buffets anymore. Not that I didn't try; I just went into a lethargic funk after doing so. I've backed myself into a corner of better consumption, it seems. About goddamn time. So I should be able to manage the autumn sugar siege without destroying my progress or getting written out of the will because I brought a Tupperware full of broccoli and lettuce to Thanksgiving dinner. (Besides, a day full of football goes naturally with onion dip and cheddar cheese.)
So that's the goal. The best thing to do is to continue to post here about it, to hold myself accountable in "public," and to track my progress. If I can take one year, set strong yet flexible habits to keep me from heart disease, cancer, and diabetes for the rest of my life, and emerge feeling even better than I already do after just a couple of months at this quest, I'll have prepared myself well to enter middle age. It's time to build on the foundation I've been constructing for the past several weeks and give myself a birthday gift each day.