Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Weight a minute

The last time I lost a significant amount of weight, I remember feeling fairly frustrated at my lack of progress the first couple of months. At that time, I had chosen to eat a very low-fat diet [this was about 12 years ago, I think, when "they" recommended 20 grams of fat or less for weight loss], and I went to a wonderful gym every day.

The food wasn't that hard to manage; low-fat and fat-free products were plentiful, and I was determined. I had been doing Jazzercise for years, so felt somewhat fit. But working out on the cardio machines at the gym was really, really hard, and it took a couple of months before I felt comfortable there.

I remember the first time I used a Stairmaster. After five minutes at a fairly low level, supporting myself on the side rails, I was panting for breath. My feet were numb. Eventually, though, I worked my way up to 30 minutes straight at the highest level, without holding on.

[Aside: How could I have let myself get in such bad shape, after being that fit? Wail, wail, wail!]

Moving on ...

My lack of significant progress led me to hire a personal trainer to learn how to properly and effectively lift weights. I'd never lifted anything heavier than a baby, and certainly never lifted for fitness. We met once a week for a month, and then I had a follow-up session with him a month later.

If you've studied weight loss as if you were preparing for a final exam [as I have], then you know that increasing muscle mass boosts metabolic function – a more muscular body uses the calories you eat more efficiently. Lifting weights builds muscle; aerobic exercise, good for cardiovascular health and some fat-burning, just isn't enough.

Now I've known this all these years. But I don't like lifting weights. But my progress improved dramatically when I started adding weight training to my aerobic activities, and I was able to lose almost 60 pounds in five months.

Fast forward to now. The first couple of months of this year haven't been quite so frustrating, because my expectations are not as high this time as they were then. I know that at my age it's more difficult to shed pounds, partly due to hormonal changes and partly due to the naturally lowered metabolism we're stuck with as we get older.

Looking at my logs, though [yes, I'm somewhat geeky after all, and I have a spreadsheet and chart and everything!], I find an interesting trend. The first 12 weeks of this year, I lost 12 pounds. I started lifting weights on a regular basis March 25. I don't know why that was the day, but since then, I've lost 11 pounds.

I don't need to hit myself over the head with a dumbbell to know what I need to keep doing.


Annie said...

Debbi, thanks for explaining this! The Spark People recommend strength training, but it was'nt explained to me in this way. Now it makes so much more sense. I've been doing a little bit, and grumping through it, but now that I understand, I'l probably do more. Even the ones with the ridiculous names! "Full weight body squats" - whatever happened to plain old deep knee bends?

Debbi said...

Honey, if it makes you feel better [or more like doing them!] to call them deep knee bends, then you go right ahead. Whatever works is my motto! Thanks for your comment. See you in the [virtual] gym!