Sunday, June 8, 2008

My Weight Loss 101: A Q&A Session (I Hope You Like Reading)

Hey, Andrew.

Yes, disembodied bold voice?

When are you going to post that piece on your weight loss?

What the hell are you talking about?

Didn't you say over a month ago that you would be writing a full-on post about how you lost sixty pounds? I did. What do you want me to do about it now?

Well, you could make good on your promise and write about it.

...Fine. But how should I go about it? There's lots of areas to cover.

How about I ask you questions, and you answer?

Eh...fine. Where do you want to begin?

Hey, I'm asking the questions here!


So, how did you do it?

Heh. This is the most common question I received, and understandably so. After all, people don't just lose a lot of weight by doing nothing. But, anyway, my answer is simple: diet and exercise.

That's all?

Heh. That's a common response to my answer. Most people seem surprised - and even a little disappointed - at the fact that I didn't do some sort of wonder program.

That's probably because this is pretty much The Biggest Loser

Um, I've only really only seen about two episodes of that show, so I wouldn't really know. But I guess I'll give you some more specifics:
Exercise: 30 minutes (plus 5 minutes cool-down) of elliptical trainer every day.

Let's stop there. Why an elliptical trainer?

Several reasons, really. First (and probably most important) it was available. Where I live (in a dorm), we have a small exercise room in the downstairs central building. How small, you ask?

Actually, I didn't.

Well, it has four ellipticals, two stationary bikes, two treadmills, and a rowing machine. That may seem large if you're comparing it to a home gym, but for a dorm serving 1000+ people, it's not very big. Anyway, as such, I'm limited to one of the machines featured there. Technically, I could go to the Recreational Sports Facility, which is built like a palace of fitness. They have nearly 40 treadmills alone! However, it's on campus, which is really inconvenient. So, I make do with what I have.

Now, amongst the four options I had (elliptical, treadmill, bike, and rower), why choose what I did? Mainly because, from what I can see, the elliptical is the closest you I can come to the perfect exercise machine. It provides a low-impact, high-intensity workout for both your arms and legs, and easily keeps track of what you do. Overall, I think you get the most caloric bang for your buck (this is a concept I'll refer to several times from here on out).

The stationary bikes are obviously good for your legs, but they do nothing, absolutely nothing, for your arms. Also, you can do a lot on them and not burn many calories. The rower, I'm sure, is better for muscle building, and for my weight loss period, I was mainly focused on cardio. Plus, the electronics were missing their plugs, so I couldn't track anything. :(

Well, what about the treadmill? That's the classic exercise machine, is it not?

Here's where it gets tricky. I actually think you can do more on an elliptical than a treadmill. When you're on a treadmill (or rather, when I am), every time your foot hits the ground, a shock goes through your system. This makes you exhausted faster, and so you end up stopping/slowing down earlier, netting you fewer calories lost overall. On an elliptical, though, your feet are always connected to the "ground" and so there is low- to no-impact when you're moving. This keeps your body that much more energized, enough to go further/faster and burn more.

There are also some other reasons I like the elliptical more. For example, if you wanted to watch a movie (either on a laptop or on the nonexistent TV in the workout room), the elliptical keeps you more steady than running on a treadmill would. Also, when your resistance is high enough, the elliptical can provide quite a workout for your arms, as well. And I had my resistance notched up to...almost...the highest amount. People often joked about slow I would be moving (relative to them). I'd retort about how their 10 mph efforts were going to waste when they were on level 1/25.

Okay, so you did some cardio, but-

Some cardio?! Mister, in a scant 30 minutes, I would lose anywhere from 550 calories (nowadays) to 750 calories (when I started)!

Okay, okay, but I was going to ask if you did anything else. Weights? Pushups? Situps?

Uh, no. That wasn't really my focus at the time, but I'm doing those latter two things nowadays (I'll talk about that later).

Alright, enough about exercise. Exercise can only get you so far anyway. What was this diet you speak of?

It's pretty basic: eat less, and eat better.

Didn't you do any sort of program? Jenny Craig? Weight Watchers? Slim Fast?

I did do Slim Fast, mainly toward the beginning. I've since kind of stopped using them, but I still have plenty of their products. Considering one of their meal bars has fewer calories than a standard candy bar, they're pretty useful. But I generally eat pretty normal food, just less of it. Mainly in the early meals. I just eat enough that I'm satiated. In dinner, though, I kind of kick back and indulge myself a bit. I never leave any meal hungry, but I always leave dinner full.

Ooo, now we're talkin'! What kinds of things did you have for dinner?

Here, I'll just show you a picture:
Aargh! Too much green! Get it away!!!


You would eat all that?

Sure would! This is a pretty typical example of what my dinner would look like. I'll explain each part of it. First of all, I mostly always got my food to-go, because 1)I had nobody to eat with (
*tear*) and 2) it made portioning a lot easier. So, a to-go box had two small compartments and one large one. In a big one will go any of the following:
Spinach (
Lots and lots of cherry tomatoes (
Broccoli (
Celery (
When available)
Lima beans (
Usually only when there is no celery)
Hummus (
The magic formula: I use it to dip the veggies into)

All raw and organic, if you're into that (I'm not).

Dear God, and I thought you hated vegetables.

Well, I've come to...appreciate them. Sometimes I'll just snack on a leaf of spinach or a celery stalk. But cherry tomatoes! I loooooove cherry tomatoes. I could just eat them forever!

Oh. Well, what else is in there? It looks like you have burger.

A Garden Burger.


I'll get to the meat issue in a minute. But yes, that's a garden burger with tomatoes and mustard, wrapped in lettuce. I've officially given up buns on burgers, as you may remember from a while ago.

And there's also some crisscut fries. I still like my french fries (particularly if they're baked). They are, I would say, one of my two Achilles Heels.

One of two? What's the other?

Take a look.

Consarnit! That looks almost exactly the same as the last one, except the spinach is covering something. What is that...?Ah, nachos!

That's right. I simply cannot say "no" to nachos. They could have ambrosia being served in one corner of the dining common, but if nachos were being served, I'd choose the nachos. They're just sooo good. And while I know that my somewhat-healthier choices of soy meat, black beans, and
are completely overshadowed by that molten trans-fat that is the cheese-like sauce, I DON'T CARE! Nachos make a shortened lifespan worthwhile!

Okay, okay. Nachos. But what were you saying earlier about meat? Have you become vegetarian or *gasp* vegan?!

Hell no! I would never give those nuts the satisfaction of my joining their ranks. No, I definitely still eat meat (and enjoy it), but I have a...method, you may say, which may be summed up in my "Things to Avoid/Limit" Mantra:
"Wheats, sweets, and mammal meats."

A rhyme. Cute.

Thanks! Keep in mind, this is not a hard-and-fast rule. I did not give up every instance of any of these. For example, on St. Patrick's Day, I was more than happy to eat Corned Beef. It's just a general guideline, as these three categories tend to have a greater caloric cost than other, similar things.

So, for meat, fish was still in my normal repertoire, as was chicken and turkey (I still eat chicken quite frequently). I guess you could say I was just giving up red meats. But I never had any intention of becoming vegetarian. I'm just a lacto-ovo-pollo-pescatarian.

What about desserts? It says you "gave up sweets", but how can anyone give up dessert?

Well, I haven't had ice cream in the longest time, if that's what you're asking. One thing not pictured above is fruit. I always pilfer lots of fruit, especially apples. But all kinds of fruit work great. For a period, I was enjoying bowlfuls of frozen grapes (one of the greatest fruit innovations ever). Right now is watermelon season, and half of my meals' weights are made up of the stuff.

But, as far as more traditional desserts, there are a couple things I would do. First, I would get myself a mixture of one-part chocolate milk and two-parts nonfat milk. Yes, that would be my dessert. Other times, I would have one of my Slim-Fast snack bars. One recent idea I've come up with is getting a "Freddo" from the Peet's Coffee next to the DC (essentially, it's a Frappachino). I'd get it no-sugar, no-whipped cream, and with nonfat milk. Essentially, as bare-bones as it gets. I would then stick this in the freezer, and then take it back out hours later, scraping off shavings so as to eat it slowly.

Oh, and I know this isn't a desert, but one of the best caloric-value snacks out there is actually Trader Joe's Salsa Verde. If you live by a Trader Joe's, you owe it to yourself to pick up a jar (or six). It is so good that I literally will take a spoon and eat the salsa by itself. I wouldn't do that with any other salsa! (Mainly because it's kinda gross.) The best part is, an entire jar is only 110 calories, so it's completely guiltless.

Also, mints make a good dessert, as they make you not want to eat anymore.

Okay, cool. So that's how you lost the weight. But exactly how much did you lose? And over what time period?

As it turns out, I kept a log of my progress. On December 28th (I guess that's my official start date), I weighed 232 lbs. On May 2nd (my official "end" date) I was 174 lbs. That's 58 lbs in 127 days, or about 1 pound every 2 days (and some change). That seems almost excessively dramatic, and were I a thinner man at the start, it definitely would have been. Of course, it was nowhere near constant. Over the course of the weeks, the weight lost would fluctuate wildly. I tried to keep my weighings as consistent as possible to mitigate this, but there's always lots of variables.

One interesting note is that the scale I bought when I returned to school was actually a body fat scale, which measures your body fat % (it's supposed to be more relevant than BMI) by sending electrical signals through and seeing how fast they move, as electricity moves at different speeds in fat than it does in water. So, on January 20, by body fat percentage was 26.8%. On May 9 (a week after the official "end") it was 13.4%. So, as you can see, I've effectively cut my body fat percentage in half. So I've got that going for me. I've also increased my body water percentage by ten percentage points, but I don't know what that really entails.

Isn't this too much? Couldn't it be unhealthy? Have you seen a doctor?

Yes, I did, and he gave me a (figurative) thumbs-up.

Okay then. Well, I know that you posted that one comparison Before/After picture. Does that mean you had taken a picture last year for the sole purpose of being a "Before"?

Yes. That picture was actually taken in November, so it's not completely representative of the exact change, but it's pretty close, if not even more dramatic. It's one of three "Before" pictures.

Ah! So there are more?


Are you going to show them?

Okay, you've twisted my arm. Sure, I'll show them. Just be warned that pretty much from here on out, I'm not wearing a shirt, so you may want to just stop here. (Especially if you're at work. These pictures may not have anything unsafe in them, but your boss doesn't know that!)

Duly noted.

Okay, here we go.

So, the main premise behind the comparison pictures was to do a somewhat tongue-in-cheek parody of those "Before/After" shots that you see on commercials. Y'know, where the before picture is all bleak and frowny, while the after picture looks like the person just won the lottery. Well, the latter two before pictures were like that. I let my stomach stick out as much as possible, and I had a utterly depressing face. However, I wanted one picture with me holding my stomach in, because really, that's how I (and I think most people) present myself. The face is also decidedly less frowntastic, and I thought it worked well to give a better picture of the actual me.

So, you may remember this picture from a while back. This was the halfway point, 30 pounds. The main things of note (besides the hair) are the slight indentations my armpits, the vertical stretching of my belly button, the less of an overhang of my stomach. One interesting note, too, is the fact that my pants hang just a bit looser on my hips.

And, for a change of pace, here's the thirty-pound mark compared with the sixty-pound mark. Note that the armpits are now full-on crevaces, my belly button has almost disappeared, and there is almost no overhang at all. Also notice that my pants now needed to have the cord tied. In fact, that barely helped, and they fall off at a moments notice; I've since had to retire them. :(

And this is the picture everyone is familiar with, which shows the weight loss quite clearly.

Okay, but this is nothing I haven't seen before. What about those other pictures?

I was just getting to them. Here's my front gut-sticking-out/sad-face picture.

Ew. Anyway, this was again the thirty-pound mark. Not much to say.

You're doing it wrong! You're supposed to be smiling in the "After" picture!

Oh, right. Well, I didn't. Unfortunately, I don't feel these pictures did a good job in portraying the extent of the weight loss. Yes, there are some indications around the neck area, but it's not dramatic.

If you want dramatic, you need to see the side pictures!

Good God, that's hideous. But it's the way I was...when sticking my stomach out as far as it would go. At the thirty-pound mark, it's really not as noticeable as I would like.

At the sixty-pound mark, though, it is. I mean, look at it. The second picture is still me forcing my stomach outwards. And yet, it's smaller than when I would suck in my gut at my old weight. I would say that's pretty dramatic.

I guess. But what about muscle pictures? Don't you have any of those?

Well, like I said earlier, I wasn't really focused on building muscles. So I don't really have anything special. However, as I also said earlier, one of the benefits of the elliptical is that it also works well for your arms. So I did build a little bit, plus I lost the fat covering them. I took some pictures that show that, but I actually think better showcase my new armpits, which are among my proudest points, because they are actually pits now, as opposed to just being under-arm areas.

It's fun to note that I call these my "Fierce" pictures because I can't seem to flex without making a truly psychotic face. Hence, I find them quite entertaining, which is the only reason I'm putting in more than one. Enjoy!

Army Man! Hut-hut and ten-four!

Like I said. Completely and utterly psychotic.

This one I just found hilarious for some reason. So much so, in fact, that I decided to turn it into this:

As you can see, the resemblance is uncanny.

Y'see the pose here is excellent. It would actually be a good picture, if I actually had what I'm supposedly showing off.

Okay, that's enough of that! Please!

You asked.

Regretfully so! So, new question: what are some things you've learned about your body?

What is this, a 5th Grade sex ed class? Anyway, I've learned a few things.

1. I have big ears. Yes, I've actually always known this, but my face has slimmed down
just enough that they stick out quite me, at least. While it seems nobody else notices, it's one of the first things I see when I look in the mirror. That will take some time, I guess.

2. I have a
ginormous chest! Look at this thing.

Yes, I'm sucking in my stomach, and yes, there are some light-and-shadow things going on, but still! My chest is now about twice the size of my waist at this point. I think I finally understand what it means to be "big boned."

3. My lower left rib sticks out significantly more than my right one. Apparently, this is a common thing, and as long as it doesn't cause any pain, I'll be fine.

4. My feet are really veiny. I won't put in a picture, as I've tortured you enough with that already. But still, the veins in my feet can stick out quite a bit, especially after I work out. I think I know which side of my family this comes from.

5. My back is bony. It makes sit-ups hurt quite a bit.

6. Stretch marks suck. They're one of the side effects of being quite overweight, and apparently, won't ever fully disappear on their own. (Note: the reason you can't see them on the picture immediately above is because I edited them out. They're no fun to look at.)

Okay, so let's talk clothes.

What about them?

How's the clothes situation been?


How so?

Well, to introduce it, take a look at this picture:

What's that? A paperclip on your belt?

Yes. This is a picture of the side of my pants. My belt, which used to only extend a few notches past center, now went all the way through that second loop near my back pocket. The paperclip was to make sure it wouldn't come out and flop around. I've since had to buy a new belt.

Here's some other examples:
-My high school ring is now too big. And since there's no jewelry size adjusters around here (that I can find, at least), I've had to simply put tape on it.

-Similarly, my watch and my gloves are experiencing a similar feeling of looseness.

-When we had a job fair a couple weeks back, I wanted to use the opportunity to wear my brand new suit. So, I put on the shirt, pants, and jacket, pants fell off. Literally, off. It's not that they were sagging; they were at my ankles. I felt like I was in some kind of slapstick comedy. I couldn't use my new belt to hold them up, since my new belt was too big, too. And my jacket...let's just say it made me look like a early 20th century hobo. I'm going to have to get it re-tailored sometime this summer.

-On the other hand, I was able to wear my old sport coat to the job fair, as well as to every other job-related thing this past semester. I also wore it in my "new-age millionaire" style, which is a plain white t-shirt, jeans, and an open jacket. Why I bring this up is because in the past fall semester, I always wore that jacket open because I had to. I couldn't actually close the jacket. Now when I wear it, it's actually quite loose. Looser, in fact, than when I wore it in high school.

-All my old jeans: gone. Sag-o-rama. In their place, new jeans, most of which I picked up from the Goodwill piles at the end of the school year. The system works!

So, overall, it's a mix of current stuff no longer fitting, and really old stuff fitting again.

Moving along, do you have any advice for someone who wants to lose weight?

Nothing particularly inspirational, but I guess if I can do it, anyone can. You just need to be committed.

...Oh, and there's a very good book out there that I really enjoy! It's called Eat This, Not That. It's a book filled with simple hints, tips, and facts about food in general, but the majority of the book focuses on what to get at a number of fast food restaurants to cut the calories and the fat. It's extremely interesting, and you'll learn some general rules of thumb, such as:
-Mayonnaise is the enemy. Always. Avoid mayo.
-Cheese also ain't so hot.
-"Healthy" foods aren't always that. Example: a bagel with cream cheese can be 700 calories with 40g of fat.

It's very eye-opening, but it's done in a way that doesn't accuse you of being bad (rather, it accuses the other guys). Like I said, I recommend the book, but if you're too cheap for that, you can always go to the website for a good percentage of the info.

More than anything, I would say just find whatever works for you. I really doubt my system would work for many people, as it was something I designed for myself. See what works for you, and go with that.

And it's always best to have a goal and a reason for doing things.

Oh, what was your reason?

I won't go into that.


I dunno. Several reasons, I guess. Becoming healthier is definitely the main one. Also, what if I wanted to make myself look more presentable to the fairer sex? Before, the ladies could easily reject me because of my weight. Now, they can only reject me due to my personality! There's other, smaller reasons, but there's really no reason to go into them (mainly because I can't think of most of them :\).

So, I guess the only question left to ask is, where do you go from here?

Interesting question, and one I've thought a bit about myself. Honestly, I put myself in a weird situation. I can't continue the way I was going; while I may not have been risking anorexia (as you may be able to tell from my dinner samples above), I would definitely risk wasting away. At the same time, my mindset is totally different right now regarding food. When I'm purchasing something (anything), I instinctively twist the package until I see the nutrition facts. If it's a snack in one small container (or, like a bar or something), I am extremely hesitant to get it if it's over 100-120 calories. Candy bars are effectively out of my mindset. I do everything possible to limit my overall intake, and that's going to be tricky to change to any great extent.

Considering that, I've reduced my exercise caloric loss a bit, and I've begun to focus more on muscle building. I've begun doing sit-ups and push-ups. For the latter exercise, I actually purchased the Perfect Pushup, which delivers a more intense, effective movement. It's tough, but I think its working.

Since officially ending my diet and exercise regimen, I've still lost some weight, though at a slower rate than before. I anticipate that it will continue for some time until I find my equilibrium point. Overall, though, I anticipate keeping the weight I lost off, and having a much healthier, slimmer life overall.

That's nice.

Thanks. Well, thanks for joining me. My fingers are now calloused from all this typing, so I think I'll call it a day.

Hey, Andrew! I just thought of something! You aren't smiling in any of these pictures! You've lost a lot of weight! More than post people can think of! Can't we have at least one smile?

Fine...just one before we're finished.



Andrew Schnorr said...

I'll answer any additional questions you have, but I'd prefer they use bold text.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I am proud of your resolve. As your Mom, I am grateful and happy about the healthier lifestyle and the happier you.
You inspired me to get back into moving and now I run on the treadmill about 4 times a week and am happy to be feeling athletic again. Just this morning I was thinking how easy it is getting and how relaxed I am when running. Sometimes I go on strong for a full hour. You totally inspired me and when I was tired, I would think to myself...if Drew can do it with his schedule, than so can I. I feel like you accomplished it in one of the most difficult settings there is...bad hours, bad food available, lack of sleep, and stress. Well done despite! You got me up and interested in regaining that part of me that has always made me feel good. Thanks for being my inspiration. I am so proud of you.

Andrew Schnorr said...

Actually, I would say having a meal plan was on my side, as I could better control what I ate. I didn't like going out to dinner much.

Anonymous said...

Congrats and all that. I'm hoping to lose a few pounds myself soon, so I'll be using some of your plan for myself when I'm suitably ready.

Oh, and by the way, I've always thought you had rather small ears, if that makes you feel any better.

oh and here:

When you attend comic con, how many grilled meats will you be consuming at our 3rd annual visit to Chilis?

Andrew Schnorr said...

Grilled meats? You make it sound as if I ever got anything other than the buffalo chicken sandwich. (I suppose the answer will be "One.")

Anonymous said...

well, you could always consume more than one of the same thing you know...