Acta, non verba. – Motto of the United States Merchant Marine Academy
It’s just another manic Monday, and time for a sorely needed update on the Captain Hammer Project. I’ve been talking about some of the trials and tribulations, some tips and tricks, time and tide, and any number of other word pairings that start with T. What I haven’t done so far is talked specifically about A) Exactly what the hell I am doing? and B) How the hell it is working out for me? So today in addition to everything else, we hear the tale of the tape. The quote up there translates to “Deeds, not words.” A great theme for today’s Healthy Gamer post.
It’s probably a good time to mention that I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but if I did, that doctor would be totally rad. I digress. Any advice I give should be taken with a grain of salt the size of Montana.
So what the hell are you doing?
I kicked this off with a burning commitment. One that still is my primary source of power. I’ve got a lot to prove, to myself, to the world. It wasn’t on a lark that I made the decision to go public with this and drag my readers along for the ride. Dealing with myself, I am often a cruel taskmaster, but my effectiveness goes unquestioned. If anyone else is trying to do this, I cannot possibly overemphasize the importance of this commitment factor. Absolutely essential. Be it ever so cliched, you have to want this. Really want it. You have to want it more than the donuts. You have to want it more than the cheese fries. You have to want it more than you want to breathe. It is imperative that you look deep inside to find that power source for you, no matter what it is. It will save you from yourself. It will push you to continue when you want to quit, and it will cheer you on as you smash through your goals. This isn’t a passive thing at all, and it’s not just a simple matter of willpower. This desire needs to be hungry, and it needs to be insatiable. You can probably apply this to any type of goal, but I find it especially applicable to getting fit and losing weight seeing as the things that sideline us are rarely circumstantial.
Once you have your power source, you need your plan. Mine is pretty simple. First, let’s do some Science.
Most of my four readers (that means three of them, and not Steve) know what a calorie is. For those not in the know (you’re welcome, Steve), a calorie is the energy it takes to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius. The key word here is energy. Calories are the energy that fuel our bodies and all that entails. Heartbeat, brain function, breathing. All of these take energy. Many people (myself included until I educated myself on the matter) have no real clue how many calories it takes just to keep up with autonomic functions.
The minimum number of calories you need to keep your key organs working is called your resting metabolic rate (RMR) This will vary from person to person depending on age, sex, weight, and muscle mass. In order to have enough energy to actually live and be active you need more energy than that RMR minimum. This extra energy is basically what you need to move around as opposed to lying around all day.
From here we jump to math. If you exceed the number of calories your body requires each day you will gain weight. There are 3500 calories in a pound. So if your body needs 2000 calories a day to maintain your current weight and every day on top of that you drink two 20 oz bottles of soda (500 calories), in one week you would gain a pound. (500 calories x 7 days = 3500 calories or 1 lb.) Makes you think a little more about that morning or afternoon soda, huh?
Conversely, to lose weight you need to burn more calories then you consume. This is an oversimplification (as I am not a professional) but basically you figure out how many calories it takes for you to maintain your current weight and you start cutting. Any number lower than your maintenance point is a deficit that causes weight loss. It’s really that simple. Any system or program that tries to sell you anything different is a scam, pure and simple. The diet industry makes billions of dollars by promising us easy fixes, but the only thing that truly works is existing in this deficit.
Now, it’s critically important to keep the first part of this class in mind. Cut too far and it’s like you are running your car on gasoline vapors. You wouldn’t do that to your car, and your body is exponentially more valuable than your car, so make damn sure that you are eating enough to compensate for your existence AND additional activities (because you ARE working out, right?)
Specifically, I keep a baseline of 1500 calories per day and I increase that to account for more activity. That 1500 goes pretty fast, so you learn pretty quickly what kind of things let you eat more. I am not campaigning for the Paleo Diet, but I’ve found that in just trying to eat right in this stage, I’m doing most of what they’re doing.
When I started off, I thought to myself “This will be a piece of cake. I’ll brown bag my lunches. I’ll get some whole-grain wheat bread, some lean turkey, lettuce and onion and I’ll be good to go! Low fat, low calorie.” So imagine my shock when looking at the various breads and seeing numbers like 150 calories PER SLICE. So, before I put one single thing on the sandwich, I’m in 300 calories. Son of a bitch!
So bread went right out the window. Rice, too. My grain consumption has all but vanished, I still treat myself to some pretzels, trail mix or nuts every other week at the Pathfinder game I play in, and even then, this indulgence generally means me skipping lunch, but the way I see it, I’m more inclined to stay on track with a snack during gaming than I am to deny myself something to munch on, or to help myself to cookies, candy or the other less-than-ideal options found at most tabletop RPG sessions.
I’m still a slave to convenience though, so more often than not, my lunches are frozen Healthy Choice Steamers meals. They come in a pretty wide variety and some of them are actually pretty tasty. My breakfasts usually consist of a piece of fruit and a protein shake, and my dinners are typically home cooked. Spinach salad, grilled chicken breast and vegetables, etc. I will snack on some low-fat microwave popcorn. I drink water almost exclusively, though on occasion, I will treat myself to a diet soda or iced tea (like for gaming).
This is only half of the equation. I could probably lose a lot of weight just keeping these habits over a long enough period, but that’s not going to get me to Captain Hammer.
Exercise is absolutely key. Ideally, you have something that you either really enjoy, or something that you totally don’t mind. I dance with my daughter. I ride the stationary bike while listening to an e-book. If time and opportunity allow, I go swimming. This past weekend, I introduced myself to crunches, which I now love and hate in equal measure. Weightlifting is creeping more into the agenda. The idea of a treadmill bores me to death. Whatever you decide to do is fine, so long as you DO IT.
The app for My Fitness Pal has been an absolute godsend. It acts as a food and exercise journal, has search functions for a zillion different foods should you be out and unsure about what to get at a restaurant, and this awesome barcode scanner that you just point your phone at what you’re eating and it logs it. Journaling is really important as when you go for your updates, if the results don’t match the effort, you know what you did (or didn’t do) and can correct it.
Fitocracy is another little thing I’ve been playing with. I’m not the best at updating it with everything I do, but I’m getting better about it and starting to have a little fun with the site. There’s a Pretty Sneaky, Sis Fitocracy group for those who want to join in.
But does it work?
Well, I’m 16 lbs down from my last weigh-in (which I didn’t mention here) and 62 lbs down from my heaviest. I wanted a bigger number from the last weigh in, but I know that if my efforts remain consistent, my results will balance out and follow suit. I’ve still got a ways to go to Captain Hammer, but I’m proud of what I’ve done so far.
That’s another thing: don’t despair if the needle doesn’t move as far as you wanted it to. It went down, because you made it go down. That’s something to be celebrated and encouraged. Besides, there’s still all of that muscle mass weighing more stuff I haven’t begun to touch on. I’m looking less for a number weightwise and more for a feeling. I’ll know when I’m there, and I’m on the way.
This one ran a little long, but it’s something I’ve meant to do for a few weeks now. For those who are pursuing your own fitness goals, keep up the good work. For those who have been following me, thank you! You’re one of the stronger motivating factors in keeping me on the straight and narrow.
Have your own stories to tell or advice to add? Sound off in the comments!