Losing weight

There have been a couple of somewhat related threads (this one on workouts/gyms, and this other one on exercise motivation), but I figured I’d start a new thread more squarely on the weight topic.

After years of slow upward drift of my weight, things accelerated this year. I now weigh about 234 (height about 6’ 1/2"). This is more than just on the high side of normal or needing to shed a couple pounds - I am now fat…

Two main options for losing weight:

  1. Diet
  2. Exercise

Diet is possible, but somewhat tricky. I’m married with 3 kids. My wife does the grocery shopping and makes most of the meals (we eat together as a family 5-6 nights a week). When I was living on my own, I controlled my eating at the grocery store level - don’t buy fatty foods and they won’t be around the house when I’m in a snacking mood. My wife’s philosophy, OTOH, is to buy all kinds of stuff (including plenty of junk food), but to exercise willpower at the pantry door. That doesn’t work well for me - I tend to scarf whatever’s around. We’ve discussed this many times over the years, and I’ve had little luck in persuading her not to buy this stuff. Plus the kids like it. I guess what I’m saying is it’s hard to impose one person’s food dictates on four other household members. Probably I should just buck up and get better willpower, but I struggle with it…

Exercise is the direction I’ve gone.

Things that didn’t work:
Jogging. We live in the burbs, on the crest of a hill. Jogging would be tricky because of the hilliness (though there is a hill crest line I could follow, but it would make for a relatively boring, repetitive path). Plus, there’s something about the vibe of jogging and looking fat and sweaty past the houses of lots of neighbors we know. I used to jog when I lived in apartments, but haven’t done it in this neighborhood. Finally, where we live it’s typically cold in the winter and very muggy in the summer - prime jogging season is only about 3 months each in the fall and spring. Maybe as an occasional break from another routine I could/would do it, but I don’t see it as a primary exercise vehicle.

The Gym. The closest gym is about a 12 minute drive. I’ve occasionally gone there to work out (you can get a day pass), but it’s pretty inconvenient. Afterwards, I’m sweaty and either need to take a shower there, which means toting more clothes and towels and such in, or get in my car sweaty and drive home. Basically, it takes about an hour (door to door) to get a ~20-25 minute workout in. I like the machines, but have trouble reading while doing them (too much head bounce), don’t tend to listen to music, and the TVs they have are small and a bit dull to watch as they’re usually tuned to CNN or CNBC or something like that. Finally, the vibe of gyms just feels a bit wrong to me - a married, 39 year old pudgy guy. I don’t quite feel like I fit in…

The Solution?

Anyways, I decided to get a home exercise machine.

Mostly I’ve used stair-climbers before, but the exercise stores don’t really carry those anymore.

They have various weight machines (not interesting to me at this point), plus various cardio-oriented machines (which is what I want).

The cardio machines mainly fall into 3 areas: treadmills, exercise bikes, and ellipticals.

Treadmills don’t interest me - even though I’ve jogged in the past, I worry about the stress on my feet and knees, and worry about keeping the right pace unless I were to buy a really large machine. Exercise bikes seem boring to me, and probably don’t deliver as much impact as the other alternatives (because you’re sitting while you do it).

So I gravitated towards ellipticals. For those who don’t know - they’re sort of an updated version of the old cross-country ski machines. Your feet stay on pedals and move in an elliptical motion, and on most machines, your arms grasp poles and move them back and forth.

I tried machines at two specialty stores (they sell more expensive, more solidly built stuff, mostly $2000+), and at a few sporting goods stores (most of their stuff is $500-$1500, but feels less well built). I also tried my local gym one more time to cycle through a bunch of machines. I tried the step-machine and my knees hurt very quickly - ok, no step-machine for me…

Ultimately, I went with a fairly high end machine - an Octane Q47e. It’s a very heavy machine (290 lbs, according to the brochure), that feels solid and has a nice motion (i.e. it feels good as I do it). It has variable stride length, which means that the workout can vary in two dimensions (resistance and stride length), hopefully keeping it interesting for longer. The variable stride length should also nicely accommodate myself and my wife (who’s about 7" shorter than me).

I figured the big risk with a machine like this would be boredom - I want to be able to keep doing it long term. So I put it in a spot in our finished basement that has a view out the window and doesn’t feel too basement-y, and then bought and mounted a 32" LCD TV in front of the machine, with a Tivo feeding it. Hopefully with a nice big TV with a variety of shows, the workouts should stay interesting.

So far, so good. Installed Friday, had decent workouts Friday and Saturday, then nearly 50 minutes yesterday (Sunday), all without too much follow-up soreness, and no significant pain in the knees or feet (except when I used the machine with a backwards motion for a short time - THAT I felt in my knees).

Hopefully, I’ll still be using this machine in 6 months and in 6 years - I’m aware that’s a big issue with folks buying expensive exercise machines.

I don’t think typing is going to burn nearly enough calories.

On the exercise front, I’ve started using “Yourself! Fitness”, and it’s done wonders. I have the same issue with the gym you do (schleppy to get there, you spend as much time in the car as in the gym), so my solution is to do something at home.

Also, get audio-books (I joined audible), and it’s a lot easier to get yourself motivated to take a long walk (“I’d like to turn back now, but I’ll just keep walking till the end of the chapter”, that sort of thing).

Anyways, I started the thread to share my own experiences, and solicit other folks’ experiences and advice.


Also, while I hope and intend that the exercise machine will be the primary vehicle for weight loss, I’m mildly intrigued by the different food-oriented systems (Jenny Craig and the like). I don’t know much about them - it seems that you get a bit of diet counseling, then they sell you various somewhat overpriced pre-packaged meals.

On the one hand this might kick-start weight loss in conjunction with the machine, which would probably make me feel better about the whole process and keep me more motivated to continue.

On the other hand, I’m not sure how expensive this stuff is, whether one could improvise something almost as good with a diet book or two and regular shopping in the freezer section of the grocery store, and also, whether this kind of thing would be compatible with family dinners and such in our household.

I hate to say this, and it’s true of me as well as everyone else, but there is no easy solution. It’s a combination of willpower (not eating bad snacks all the time, and easting late at night, and too much, etc.) and hard work (more exercise). It’s going to be hard work and getting used to it is hard, hard, hard. Take it easy and be fat, or go the hard route and exercise. Just ask Stroker and BillD, they both lost weight recently.

I’m struggling with losing an ideal 20 lbs right now, and not snacking when I’m watching a movie or such is a huge, seemingly dumb hurdle to overcome. That, and being motivated to exercise when it’s much, much easier to just eat, drink and be merry after work.

I understand the frustration of trying to eat healthy when your spouse is busy buying crap. The only way it ever got through to her, for me, was to say “Would you stock an entire bar with an alcoholic in the house?” Because that is what junk food is like for a lot of people.

And I don’t believe in the “junk food in moderation” philosophy either. If it’s in moderation, buy it while you’re out and about, there’s no need to keep food that is bad for you around the house.

Diets are more effective for losing weight, but exercise is more effective for getting healthy and looking better. I’ve mentioned this in the past, but without exception every friend I’ve had that has used Atkins or something similar to lose weight, without exercising, ends up looking skinnyish but suffers from all over body flaccidity.

An hour of moderate exercise is like a coke and a snickers, ergo exercise tends not to balance out against junk food intake unless you’re an Olympic swimmer.

We’ve embarked on the Fitness Initiative at my house. It’s been about two months.

I have a long history with body issues, including eating disorders, so I approach dieting from a handle with care position. In my opinion, the best thing to do about eating habits is to read a book like Intuitive Eating or see a nutritionist. If you focus on eating slowly and consciously, paying attention to how full you are, getting enough variety in your diet, you can avoid a lot of overeating. It’s too easy to really mess up your head and your body by dieting. Look at the Keys studies for a good example of what calorie restriction will do to you.

Exercise, on the other hand, is a life saver. Weight lifting and core exercises are a godsend in my opinion. I’ve injured my foot and can’t walk, but I use a variety of gym machines to get my heart rate up. Intervals make the time go faster. I much prefer walking and jogging outdoors to most cardio in the gym, but the gym is good for climate control.

Focus on how you feel instead of results - be patient. Don’t weigh yourself. Maybe measure yourself once a month.

Right now, I shoot for 5 days of cardio and two days of strength training a week. I don’t always get it but I reward myself once a month if I get in 4 days a week.

I sympathize with your snacking problem Phil, I’m in the exact same boat. If I can keep the bad junk food away I don’t have a problem with it but my wife wants it in the house so I have to learn to cope with it being there.

I’ve had some success cutting my calorie intake by giving thought to my snacking triggers and trying to avoid them. Boredom is a big killer for me, and a rigid schedule and list of activities helps with that. If I’m just sort of floating around the house wondering what to do I will end up snacking while watching TV, or snacking while reading a book, or snacking while surfing the web. If I can avoid the floating phase I do a lot better resisting the snack attacks.

Another tip I’ve found helpful is to make myself observe and write down the calories of everything I’m eating. It’s on the box anyway for just about any food so I calculate up how much I’m eating. It doesn’t stop me from eating junkfood, but the guilt that sets in after I realize how many calories I’m sucking down does help me stop after a much smaller portion.

I’ve gone mostly vegan and I ride my bike to work every day. These two things have made me much more lean. In the past year or so I lost 15-20lbs around my middle and I am at an ideal weight for my body. Even Wii Fit tells me I can’t improve!

Is Wii Fit actually good for fitness or is it basically a novelty/toy?

What worked for my wife and I:

  1. January 1st, 2008: bought a Bowflex machine.

  2. Started the workout regimen as written in the manual.

  3. Drank lots of water. (Also in the manual. Super hydrate.)

  4. Wife stopped drinking diet sodas.

  5. Ate 5 times a day (small amounts) but did not attempt to diet.

We worked out 3 times a week, increasing the amount of tension, reps, and mixing up exercises as prescribed in the user manual.

Results on April 2nd, 2008:

I had lost 25 lbs, replaced with lean muscle. (6’1" 215lbs.)

Wife had lost 35 lbs, replaced with sexy hotbod lady muscle. (5’6" 130lbs. Went from size 10 to size 4, ladies!)

Results as of August 25, 2008:

Continue to work out on Bowflex twice a week to maintain muscle mass. Still drink mostly water and just pig out once a week or so.


It really works for us.

(Of course, if you have a genetic leptin malfunction, this won’t help ya. At least, not for long.)

There are three things that are effective for weight loss. Listed in order of effectiveness:

  1. Diet
  2. Strength training
  3. Cardio.

Diet, as in eating well, not some fad diet. You should be eating something like 40/40/20 (protein/carb/fat) with the carbs coming from good, whole grain sources (Whole grain brown rice, oatmeal, etc.), fruit, and vegetables. Ideally you’d be breaking this up into 5-6 small meals throughout the day, instead of 3 big meals. Also, protein shakes are your friend. Also, as said above, DRINK WATER!!!

It should be self-explanatory that diet is first. You have to have a net-loss from your body’s energy expenditure v. what it’s taking in. There’s a reason people say “abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym.”

Second is strength training. The biggest boost to burning calories is a higher resting metabolism. This directly influenes how much energy your body is burning during the majority of your day. For most people this is sedentary time (office, driving, etc.) so a high resting metabolism is essential. To get a higher resting metabolism, you need more muscle mass, which leads to strength training.

Cardio is third because while it might burn calories in a short period (45 minutes on a treadmill or whatever) along with some residual raise in metabolism (maybe an hour or two) it doesn’t have any real long term effect on your body outside of cardiovascular fitness. Barring examples like those above of swimmers, or people who regularly run 20 miles per week.

I almost always post this link whenever a topic like this comes up , but it’s one of the best (free) general purpose guide to loosing weight you can find on the interweb:

Good luck!

That’s a biggie. I think it’s near-universally agreed that this will kick your metabolism into higher gear, so you’re storing less food as fat.

I bought a bike and starting riding it every evening. After about a week I became less interested in snacking all the time and I’ve lost about 15 pounds in the last 3 months (but just in my legs/stomach… I need to do something about my manboobs). Come winter I’m probably going to need an exercise bike to keep it up.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to think that you are going to go on a diet to lose weight. You have to get it into your head that this is going to be a permanent lifestyle change. It can be a little daunting at first, but once you get into the swing of it you won’t miss the old lifestyle.

A toy, as Tom found out (check the Fidgit archives). It doesn’t really guide you through anything, so it’s not really any better than just making up exercises on your own. Gav mentioned Yourself!Fitness, which is much better at putting together proper goal-oriented exercise routines, though there isn’t as much control as I’d like (i.e., no ability to entirely exclude specific exercises that just Aren’t Gonna Happen).

You might also consider a food-tracker like The Daily Plate or Calorie Count. It can be a bit eye-opening to see just how much you’re taking in and from where, and I find it helps with the willpower a bit when I find myself thinking about whether something would break the limit or not.

Why would you do that?

Why would you do that?

Are you being serious?

Why would you stop drinking diet sodas?

They are caffeinated water.

Yup. Don’t think too much about eating less, but definately cut out the junk food. There are tons of healthy, tasty snack/meal options that aren’t bad for you. And on the upside, once you’ve been eating healthy, the junk you thought was delicious before will taste overly sweet/chemical-like and you’ll be less prone to wanting it. Kinda how ex-smokers only realize how bad cigarettes reek once they’ve made the separation.

Also, your kids will definitely be the big losers here if their diet consists of garbage.