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Lose It! App

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I started using the Lose It! app on my iphone last week. It makes a difference.

In just a few days I’ve come to recognize that I eat way too much even as I view my consumption as healthy and moderate.

Logging all the things I eat everyday is a rude awakening to just how many calories are in the foods I eat.  The calories add up fast too. Counting calories (and the macro-nutrient levels) helps me make better food choices (so far).

A breakfast sandwich from McDonald’s (I love the steak, egg, & cheese on an english muffin) barely fills me up and it has over 400 calories!  That’s just shy of 1/4 of my daily caloric limit (the calorie limit recommended for losing 2 pounds per week). I would need to eat two of them to be reasonably satiated, and that would make the rest of the day painful as I’d have only about 900 calories left!

Also, seeing the number of calories in the food I eat and keeping track of them is motivating me to eat at home rather than at restaurants.

Every person is different. I’ve read often that we don’t need to count calories as much as we need to eat healthy and cut out processed foods, sugar, and carbs. I agree that if I were eating a very low carb diet then I wouldn’t have to count calories, but barring that strategy the calorie counting is necessary.

The app is only useful if you commit to logging in everything eaten every day – even on bad days.  I had one of those last week, but it helped to log in the food so that I could look back on it and see what pushed me over my limit.

I can see myself using this app not just to lose weight but to manage it and my macro-nutrient levels in the future after I achieve my weight loss goals.


Gettin’ the real “skinny” on my fat numbers

I don’t feel as fat (note: I said “as fat”) as the standard charts say I am. These charts are used by doctors and they’re usually pretty firm in their opinion that the charts are right.

These charts use a person’s height and weight to identify one’s body mass index or BMI.  BMI is a percentage that tells us what percent of our total body weight is made up of fat. BMI is a measure that can tell a person whether she/he is within a healthy range or at risk of ailments related to obesity. One thing to note is that every person has to have some fat (essential fat) in the body. I’ve read that for men it is 2-5% and for women it is 10-12%. Here is what the BMI calculator at the Centers for Disease Control says about me:

CDC BMI Calculator

Obese!  Yikes! That is worse than being called fat in my book. But I don’t think of myself as obese. These calculators can’t be right!

I did some research into bodybuilders.  Arnold Shwarzenegger (yes, the actor who was in his early career was perhaps one of the greatest bodybuilders ever) weighed 235 pounds at 6’2″ tall. According to the same BMI calculator Shwarzenegger was – during his prime – at 30% BMI.  Here are the results:

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Here is what Arnold Shwarzenegger looked like at 6’2″ and 235 pounds:


Does he look obese? I think not. In this picture Arnold is probably at 12-13% BMI (that’s my ballpark guess; he’s not shredded but he is very lean).

I’m using Shwarzenegger’s physique and stats to point out that these calculators do not take into consideration a person’s muscle mass (or rather, they assume a very average amount of muscle). For those of us who strength train this can be problematic. That was my contention for myself.

To get an accurate measurement I did some research and found that one of the most accurate ways of determining one’s BMI is through hydrostatic underwater weighing. The University of Illinois at Chicago’s Human Performance Laboratory defines this as follows: “hydrostatic underwater weighing, or hydrostatic testing, determines a person’s total body density using Archimedes’ Principle of displacement. Hydrostatic underwater weighing has been considered the gold standard for body composition assessment.”

The image atop this post is the testing tank.

I went into the UIC Human Performance Laboratory last week and had myself tested. The test confirmed what I believed to be true, but it also gave me specifics that I can use to improve myself. Here is what the test showed:


According to the hydrostatic weighing at UIC Human Performance Laboratory my current BMI is 27.4%***. My fat-free mass is 166 pounds which is 8 pounds more than what the height-weight charts suggest I should weigh (with a 18-20% BMI)!

I’m glad I got this test done. It gives me the kind of details that can boost my effort at self-improvement. As they say “if you can measure it, then you can improve it!” That observation applies in many aspects of our lives including our health and fitness.

I would like to get down to a BMI level where I am below the average but still not necessarily at the fitness athlete levels. According to the folks at UIC Human Performance Laboratory I need to lose 33 pounds to achieve a BMI of 15%.

This is my goal and I’m giving myself until June 30, 2018 to reach it.

*** My hunch is that this testing has some margin of error because the way the test is done. If the individual being tested does not follow the pre-testing dietary guidelines or does not execute his part of the test (where one is required to exhale as much air as possible while submerged), then the numbers can come be off by a bit (likely the fat-free body mass being a bit greater than what it really is).

Strength Gains without Weight Gain…


A recent (Fall 2017) milestone

In my youth I was in a hurry to get big and strong. In my middle age I’m struggling to stay strong and get smaller (not smaller really, but lean; I’m not interested in huge muscles as much as strong ones too)!

I recently saw a video of a guy bench pressing over 400 pounds at a body weight of 154. The guy looked fit but if I’m honest, I would not have guessed that he was THAT strong. Once upon a time I not only wanted to be strong but to look it too.

Today I would love to be lean (or just a lot less fat actually), strong as an ox, and capable of running steadily for miles and miles.  Big muscles are no longer important so long as they are really strong.

In my adult life my weight has been up and down.  When I turned 40 I hit my lowest point by hitting my highest weight of 260 pounds (I started college at 175  and finish at 200; 190 pounds was my best weight in my mid-20s), and I was the weakest I’ve been in my adult life as well.

I took up running and dropped down to 200 pounds.  I still had fat around the belly but I was a lot healthier.  With running and an Atkins-type diet I kept the weight off for about 4 years.  Then I injured a knee, stopped running for over one and a half and packed on about 30 pounds.

For about 18 months now I’ve been lifting and running.  I know I’ve replaced some fat with muscle as I’ve been able to fit into some of my smaller sized clothes (yes it’s sad but true – I have a range of clothing to accommodate my size fluctuations), but it’s not nearly enough. I am, however, a lot stronger than I’ve been in a long time (since my early 20s).

It feels so awesome to go to the gym, lift hard for 60 to 90 minutes along with 20-30 minutes of light cardio, and then eat lots of food (most of it good some of it real bad). But at 48 years of age this isn’t a healthy way to live (the latter part – eating lots of food that is).

So I’m about to make a public challenge to myself – weeks before the new year and to be started immediately (and therefore less likely to be targeted for a “new year’s resolution” ridicule), and this is it:

12 MONTH GOALS (deadline 12/21/18):

  1. Bodyweight: 185 lbs
  2. Run 7 miles on a treadmill at 6 MPH on a 2.0 incline
  3. Bench Press 310 lbs x 5 reps
  4. Squat 250 lbs x 5 reps (butt to calf full squats)
  5. Deadlift 350 lbs x 5 reps
  6. Clean 225 lbs x 5 reps
  7. Standing Military Press 225 lbs x 5 reps

For reference purposes here’s where I’m at right now (12/21/17):

  1. Bodyweight: 227 lbs
  2. Run 2.5 miles on a treadmill at 4.5 MPH on a 2.0 incline
  3. Bench Press 250 lbs x 7 reps
  4. Squat 145 lbs x 5 reps (butt to calf full squats)
  5. Deadlift 205 lbs x 5 reps
  6. Clean 135 lbs x 5 reps
  7. Standing Military Press 145 lbs x 5 reps

Some of my goals seem more ambitious than others.  My lower body is much weaker than my upper body (yes, I was like so many others who focused on the upper torso and severely neglected the legs and core) so my squats, deadlifts, and cleans are pretty weak. Add a bad knee lower back issues over the years, and you can get a sense of why I’m a bit more tentative with these lifts.

The weight loss plan is going to be based on some basic principles:

  1. Calorie reduction (slight)
  2. Low carbs
  3. Lots of green vegetables
  4. Protein shakes using casein protein
  5. Front load the carbs in the mornings and very low carbs after 3pm

I’ll revisit this in four to five weeks.