One Pound Lost is Three Pounds of Progress

Author’s Note: While this blog is first and foremost about IT, since the very beginning it has always been about how I see the world… whether that be music, martial arts, travel, whatever.  Although I have struggled with my weight since the very beginning (and for many years before that), I have done my best to leave those struggles off the blog.  Why?  I thought it would be a good way to avoid or at least reduce unsolicited advice for one, but there are other reasons too.  In over 1,100 articles published on this site, there are probably fewer than a dozen that refer to or even mention weight loss.  I felt that this piece, originally written in my journal, should be an exception, and hopefully an inspiration. –MDG

Weighing InA pound is a pound, right?  By any definition of weights and measures, one pound equals sixteen ounces.  It is very simple.

In a recent conversation with a friend who is on the same weight loss program as I am, she told me that she had been disappointed that she was only losing one pound per week… but she was finally at peace with that, knowing that she was sticking to the program religiously.  She would have to settle for what she was doing.

I disagreed with her, much to her surprise.  I told her that she had not lost a single pound, she had actually lost three.  She – along with the others who were involved in the conversation – looked at me confused.

Let’s look at the math:  Take the number 150.  If you weigh 150lbs and you lose one pound, you now weigh 149lbs, right?  150-1=149.  That is one pound actually lost.

Weight loss is extremely difficult.  It would have been just as easy for her to have not lost that pound.  She would not be 149lbs, but still 150lbs.  149+1=150.  That is one pound potentially not lost.

My friend stayed the course of the weight loss program… but what if she had cheated just a little during the week?  Say, rather than having two poached eggs and a salad for breakfast on Saturday, she had instead had the bacon cheese omelet with a side of buttered toast?  All of a sudden, instead of losing a pound she would actually have been up a pound.  150+1=151.  That is one pound possibly gained.

Every pound lost – nay, every ounce lost, is not only one ounce closer to your goal, it is one ounce you might not have lost, and in fact you might have instead gained.  So in fact, every pound lost is not one pound, rather it is those three pounds – the one actually lost, the one potentially not lost, and the one possibly gained.

In 1990 Paula Abdul had a hit song called Opposites Attract… ‘I take two steps forward; you take two steps back.  We come together ‘cos opposites attract.’  While we may support each other, but dieting is an individual event.  There are no opposites; the forward steps are successes; the backward steps are setbacks.  Staying in place is the eternal glass-half-full question… did I fail for not losing, or did I succeed for not gaining?  It all depends on the individual perspective, but the optimist looks at it as a success and the pessimist sees it as a failure.

Who is right?  Neither are… and both are.  We all have different personality types.  Some people will see the stagnation as a reason to redouble their efforts.  “I stayed where I was, but I am optimistic that if I keep at it, I will get past this plateau.”  Some will see it as a reason to quit.  “I worked so hard on my diet and stayed the same… I might as well quit.”  It is important for the pessimist’s support system to remind them how far he or she has come, and how a plateau is a temporary body adjustment.  The optimist, on the other hand, might need to be reminded that too many plateaus might mean they need to make a change – in my case, they might suggest I stop adding milk and sugar to my coffee.  The point is that both the optimist and the pessimist are right… and at the same time, both might need encouragement and adjustment.

Progress is what you make of it, whether it is forward progress or the occasional backward progress.  The difference between seeing the one-pound weight loss as ‘I only lost one pound’ and ‘Wow! I lost a pound!’ Can be the difference in the future between long-term success and the alternative.  Keeping a positive attitude is so important and can propel a stagnating dieter to ultimate success.

It is a Loooong Journey…

Crane Pose The scale this morning was kind to me… down 1.7lbs over yesterday.  However looking at my 30 day graph I am only down 8lbs this month… respectable, but not where I want it to be (10lbs per month).

Last week I was sitting with the Educator at the Weight Management Clinic and she looked through my food diary, and nitpicked a few of my choices.  She was right of course… there are certain things I just shouldn’t be eating.  However when she asked me why I ate those foods I had a good answer for her.

Had she asked me three months ago it would have been the depression of unemployment and living in the same house with my estranged wife.  Now that I am working, living on my own (in a great place I might add!) and no longer as down about life as I was, the answer has nothing to do with moods and depressions.  I have not been an emotional eater, I simply know that if I deprive myself of so many of the foods that I love (and which I know are bad for my weight loss progress) I will do very well for a while… and then I will crash and gain back a lot of that weight because I will start back with my old habits of ‘Oh food how I have missed thee so!’

When you have as much weight to lose as I do it is a marathon (and a super-marathon at that), and not a sprint.  A good sprinter can run a mile in under 4 minutes.  Then why is it that a good marathoner cannot finish the 26.2 miles in under 1h44 minutes?  The answer is simple… you have to pace yourself, otherwise you will cramp up and not finish the race.

 Gilad & DadI have a long race ahead of me… there is no doubt in my mind.  But if I don’t pace myself I know (as I have in the past) I shall fail.  I don’t remember where I first heard the expression ‘failure is not an option’ but this is how I feel about my weight loss this time.  I am 42 years old, and at my weight (and with my family history) I should be thanking G-d that I do not have diabetes, and a host of other weight-related ailments.  I have gotten this far while being relatively healthy, but I know that if I don’t lose all of the extra weight I am carrying around I will not make it to 50 with the same luck.

And so yes, from time to time I will have the evil ice cream… and this week-end I was invited to my favourite Brazilian Steakhouse in Niagara Falls and did NOT weight my portions nor register them in MyFitnessPal… I ate and enjoyed, and knew that the scale Sunday morning would be less than kind.  If you don’t indulge in moderation, you will eventually engorge in its absence.

On a side note, I had a friend in from out of town for the week-end.  She is a professional photographer from Halifax, and took some great pictures of my and my younger son.  I look at them and smile – I am still grossly overweight… but even I can see a difference from three months ago.

Leave Mayor Ford Alone!

Wow, I’ll bet that none of you would have thought I would ever post something so political… well, it’s not.  Read on.

First of all, for those of you who do not know the Greater Toronto Area, I should explain that I actually live in a city called Oakville, Ontario.  When I am outside of the province I generally either tell people that I live in Toronto, or if they seem to know a little about geography I say that I live about halfway from Toronto to Niagara Falls.  Either way, I do not actually live in the City of Toronto, and do not have the right to vote here.  I vote here in Oakville, and think that our mayor (Rob Burton, a very nice guy who is himself a PC and has attended my Windows 7 events) does a fine job, and does not seem to need to diet.

With all of that being said, Oakville does not really have talk radio to speak of; we may not live in Toronto, but we still live in the proverbial shadow of the CN Tower.  My radio stations in the car are all tuned to Toronto stations, and I seem to gravitate toward talk radio over music.  My usual station of choice is therefore News Talk 1010.  I may not vote in Toronto, but I get all of their dirt Smile

So the story goes: in November, 2010 Toronto elected a new mayor – Rob Ford – whose main platform was that he was going to cut out the gravy at City Hall, and would get the city’s finances in order.  I will not comment on whether he has or has not done this; I know he is currently very unpopular for a lot of the moves he has made (and what seems to be his inability to get along well or work well with others), but I do not need to be a financial wizard to understand that a lot of the cuts he would like to make will take time to pay dividends, and in order to slash the budget he necessarily has to slash services, piss off unions, and step on a lot of toes.  None of that interests me, other than the fact that my subway token now costs a little more than it did a year ago, for the 30 days a year that I spend in the city.

There’s no nice way to put it (well there are, but I don’t sugar coat these things).  Mayor Ford is fat.  To be fair, I would bet that if on January 16th (a relevant date) we had stood side by side on the scale we would have been within about 7lbs of each other.  This is actually not a fair bet; on that day I DID step onto a scale, and know what I weighed… and so did the Mayor, and I know what HE weighed.  He got onto a scale at a press conference and weighed in at 330lbs.  I was in fact 6.9lbs heavier than him (Yes, this is the first time I am revealing to anyone what I weighed).

The Mayor (along with his brother Doug, a city councilor and chiefly irrelevant to this article) launched a public campaign that he called ‘Mayor Ford’s Cut the Waist Challenge.’  I was not very interested at the time (nor am I especially so now) but that week I made a similar, albeit much less public, decision.  I decided to start training for my Second Degree Black Belt Test, which I will take on June 3rd.  I also decided that I wanted to test at 65lbs less than I was at the time – a VERY lofty (weighty? Smile) goal.  A month into my own challenge I codified my plan in an article on this page called ‘Planning for Success: A fat man’s plan to test for his Second Dan Black Belt.’  I wasn’t going to hold press conferences and public weigh-ins, but I was up front about what I needed to do, and how I hoped to accomplish it.

If you follow this blog you also know that I have started blogging on Fitbit.com about my progress, mostly to do with my jogging.  I am not discussing my diet regimen at all because it is one that I do not and would not endorse, but suffice it to say that this morning when I stepped on the scale (three months after Mayor Ford’s challenge began) I have lost 47lbs… the Mayor has lost 22. 

I want to be clear: I am firstly not competing with Mayor Ford, and secondly I commend his efforts and laud his success.  Losing weight is NOT easy, especially for busy high-profile people on the go.  While the Mayor makes a big deal of how busy he is, I am sure if you have looked at my travel schedule you will know that I am no slouch either.  What he is done is amazing, and I applaud him for it.

So this morning the Toronto Sun posted a video on its website showing the Mayor (who still looks pretty big… but then, so do I) walking into a KFC, with the people who recorded the video (apparently from their car on a camera phone) laughing at him and making fun of him.  The story has taken up hours of talk radio time and I am sure will be in the newspapers in the morning.

Now here’s the deal, folks.  Remember when I said that I applaud his efforts and his success? I speak from a position of understanding… I AM in the Mayor’s shoes.  As athletic as I was as a kid and (obviously) right through the army, after that I started gaining weight, and found myself weighing as much as 350lbs.  I love to eat, drink, and be merry.  I love rich foods and I love fast foods, and over the years no matter what diet I have tried, and no matter how strict I was with it, something always happened to derail me, and I would put the weight back on.

If you have not struggled with weight issues then you have no idea what you are talking about.

Let me clarify that… I have a friend who weighs about 125lbs.  She thinks she needs to lose weight, and struggles with it.  Do me a favour and sit down… you don’t know.  You are always struggling with the extra 10-25lbs you wish you could lose to look like a runway model? Shut up, YOU don’t know.  I am talking about people who have gone to the doctor and heard for years that they had to lose a lot of weight or else they were going to get sick and die.  People like Mayor Ford… people like me.  Yes, my name is Mitch Garvis, and I am a fat SOB who needs to lose a lot of weight.  I get to comment because I KNOW.  30lbs? Go away, you don’t have a clue.

Along my journey Master Dimitrios Beis has been my coach, mentor, and friend.  HE knows, because HE used to be fat.  Now he is a Fifth Dan Master, but once upon a time he was as big as I am.  So when he tells me every couple of weeks ‘Mitch, it’s time for you to indulge… go have a plate of wings or something;’ I trust him.  His explanation – and he is right – is that if you deprive yourself of all of the foods you love for a long period of time you will eventually fall off the horse and go mad.  I know he is right because I lost 40lbs in the seven weeks leading up to my Black Belt Test two years ago and guess what… I found every last one of them, plus ten of their friends.

I don’t know if the chicken that the Mayor bought was really for his family (as the media is reporting) or if he bought a small little wrap for himself, or if he bought a bucket of extra-crispy that he sat in a dark room devouring alone.  It’s none of my business.  However if he has fallen off the wagon, rather than making fun of him we should be encouraging him to get back up off the ground, point out the positive progress he has made, and have a little understanding that three months of salad… <shudder!> Let the man have his fried chicken in peace.

A group of Troglodyte morons who want to point fingers and laugh like hyenas will do nothing but discourage the Mayor, which is just mean and stupid (I get called fat all the time… but not a lot of people have the nerve to say it to my face and laugh), or I hope get the Mayor mad and refocused, and get him back on the horse.  Don’t think though that if this happens, morons, that you helped him… his success will be in spite of you and not because of you.

And for all of the media outlets who devoted any time to this today, I would like to point out that there is an election coming up in Alberta, a presidential campaign in the US, an Indian missile test, a Toronto police officer stabbed in the neck, an economy trying to recover, gas prices at near-record highs, Europe is still on the verge of collapse, the NHL playoffs are in full swing, there’s a playoff race in the NBA, and if you ARE going to focus on how hard it is to lose weight, then rather than just either pointing fingers, or (just as bad) spending an hour or column issues discussing the people who pointed fingers, you could have nutrition, athletic, and psychological experts on to discuss how difficult it is and what a good first step would be, and what to do when you do falter.

By the way… I had six chicken wings at Wegman’s this afternoon for lunch… anyone want to make something of it?  I’ll be in the Dojang tomorrow evening from 7-9 and would love to discuss it with you in the sparring ring.  By the way… BRING IT… I may still be a fat SOB, but I am 47lbs less so than I was, and today’s chicken wings just fueled the next two weeks of dieting and training.

Good luck Mayor Ford.

…and I WILL Walk 500 More!

Many of you probably know that I am overweight… but like my wife likes to say, I am a slim man trapped in a fat man’s body. I am pretty active – I worked hard to earn my Black Belt in Taekwondo two years ago, and am currently in training hoping to test for my Second Dan Black Belt in June of this year.

If you ran into me for more than a few minutes in the two months leading up to the first test you would have known that I was ‘In Training,’ which meant that I was in the gym every day, I was on a radical diet plan that was healthy but extreme and unsustainable, and that despite still being a hundred pounds overweight, I was in damned good shape… for a fat man.

Unfortunately after my test, three things happened that contributed to my falling off the diet wagon:

  1. I broke my hand during the test, and had to take a couple of months off of training
  2. The night of the test several friends took me out to Monaghan’s Pub for ribs, wings, and beer. The following night there was another celebration, and so on… I quickly remembered how much I enjoy bad foods and forgot how bad I feel being fat.
  3. Work got extremely busy, and I started traveling… A LOT. Every restaurant was another missed opportunity to eat healthy.

Last year I decided that my ultimate weight loss goal would be to be able to wear my old army uniform again. I finished Basic Training at about 215lbs, and was in really good shape back then. I don’t know how much I weighed when I moved to Canada, but whatever I weighed it was far less than I weighed by May of last year, when I made the decision to start losing weight again.

I tried one diet plan for six months, and was completely disappointed in it. In truth it likely would have been better had I not been on the road as much as I am – it is impossible to follow a plan where they provide the food when you are traveling from city to city, country to country.

clip_image002In September I was in Harrisburg, PA when a friend told me about an electronic and computerized pedometer and system called Fitbit. She was raving about it, so I went down to Best Buy and picked one up. It has, since then, been tracking my steps… but that is not only walking, that is also Taekwondo, golfing, and everything else I do. If I am not in a swimming pool I am wearing it. The on-line system (it is a USB gadget – how cool!) tracks my progress and lets me see where I am at on any given day, or week. The new version – the Fitbit Ultra – also tracks stairs climbed, but I don’t think I’m going to invest in another $99 version for that.

The Fitbit allows me to set goals for myself and see how well I do in reaching them. It awards clip_image004you achievement badges for both daily achievements (and lets you know how often (and when you last earned one) for your number of steps, and also Lifetime Distance awards, which allows you to track… really nothing of value, but it is another milestone.

(For those of you who are wondering, my daily record was on December 4th, my first day in Mexico City. I took 32,019 steps, walked 15.52 miles, and burned 5,287 calories. It is the only day that I earned the 30,000 steps badge. My activity report logged 1h28m VERY ACTIVE, 5hrs15m FAIRLY ACTIVE, and 1h7m LIGHTLY ACTIVE. I have earned the 25,000 steps badge twice… that day, and three days later on December 7th, also in Mexico City. The highest badge that I have earned five times is the 15,000 steps badge (most recently on Tuesday)

clip_image006A few days ago I received an e-mail from them congratulating me on earning my 500 mile badge. That is a lot of walking, even over the course of six months. Still and all, it is a reasonably useless statistic to track – it is not like a car, where I would need an oil change every 10,000 kilometres. It is still nice to know that I did it though… but as the badge (and the song) says, this is just the beginning… I will walk 500 more – possibly by the time I test for my belt in June!

For those of you who keep asking me about my current weight loss plan, YES I am on one, and no, I will not tell you what it is. It is a diet that I do not and would not endorse for anyone because it is an unhealthy way to eat, and I am told that without the strictest discipline when I end the program I will immediately gain back so much of the weight. Needless to say I have tried several diets, and the best plan for weight loss is this: Know what you are eating and be disciplined both in substance and in portion size. Eating smaller meals (or snacks) more frequently keeps your metabolism high (I remember the army served us six ‘meals’ per day in Boot Camp). Exercise wisely and frequently. There is a simple equation: Burn more calories than you consume and you will lose weight. If you exercise, eat wisely. On days that you don’t, eat less. You can rely on your spouse or friends or whoever to support you, but there is nobody responsible for your weight gain or weight loss other than the person you see in the mirror every morning.

More Taekwondo articles to come… but no, until I have lost it ALL I will NOT tell you how much I weigh, only occasionally how much I have lost.

…Now I will walk 500 miles and I will walk 500 more just to be the man who walked a thousand miles to fall down at your door… But for now, have a great week-end! -M