Tag Archives: numbers

Month 28: The end of numbers

Wade - apple pie pizza

I had a checkup of sorts Tuesday. I went for a Bod Pod assessment, my first since May 2 and starting a maintenance diet.

In the 2-plus years I’ve been on Project Bulk, it’s been trickier and trickier to get the test. Lakeshore Foundation (which now does the pricier and more robust DEXA scans), Samford University and St. Vincent’s One Nineteen no longer offer Bod Pod. The University of Alabama still does at a very reasonable $20, but that’s a 2-hour round trip to Tuscaloosa.

Fortunately, PhysIQ Lifestyle Medicine in Homewood has one for $40. Contact them to get an appointment on Tuesdays or Thursdays.

May marked a successful conclusion to Project Bulk, with a 15.7 percent body fat reading, very healthy for my age and gender.

Today, after 8 months of a slightly looser maintenance diet, I’m at 16.8 percent body fat.

That is very good news. I strongly encourage you to get a Bod Pod or DEXA scan to determine your body fat percentage. I learned from watching the documentary “Fed Up” how even people without weight issues can have serious problems with high body fat.

I’m going to take a big step (for me) in 2015, starting in 24 hours on New Year’s Day.

No more food diary. No more measuring ounces and counting calories.

I will continue my exact same boring workout routine and record my results. I will continue to eat the same slow carb diet 6 days a week and indulge in a cheat day once a week, with a little cheating during the week.

The only change is I won’t have to weigh every meal and calculate the calories and protein. After more than a year, I know how to shop and cook and eat within the plan. It’s super easy.

Besides, my calorie and protein calculations were often estimates. I was winging it all along.

I’m comfortable with the road ahead. Maybe in a year or two I’ll check my body fat percentage again. But I’m going to return to eating like most normal people do, without the fuss of a scale and a calculator.

I call it a big step only because the numbers, even not perfectly accurate, have been reliable and comfortable. If I need to gain or lose pounds, or gain or lose muscle or fat, I could work on the intake numbers. This has been my life since September 2012.

But I have to remember a couple of things. First, I’ve lived most of my life without this obsessive pre-meal measurement. Second, I can always restart the record keeping. I’m not throwing my kitchen scale in the trash.

Step by step, I have dialed back the major time-consuming efforts: daily photos, weekly weigh-ins, protein shakes, daily/weekly/monthly posts. And I haven’t fallen down. I haven’t screwed up.

I’ve become stronger, more confident and comfortable in this lifestyle. It’s now routine.

I hope you’ll try some of the crazy things I did from “The 4-Hour Body” [Amazon | iTunes aff. links]. They worked for me most of the time, and I’m happy to help you with advice and answers and encouragement. Just ask.

I hope you’ll simply try. I did, and my life is better in ways I never imagined.

Day 238: Lean out

Day 238 - front

  • Weight: 139.0 lbs.
  • Workout C: 30 minutes, 3 seconds; next: Workout C, April 29
  • Total inches: 125.0
  • Protein: 131 g (0 g over target)
  • Calories: 1,940

I have slid backwards in body fat.

My fat went from 25.5 percent at the start of the year to 26.7 percent.

Date Aug. 30 Oct. 1 Nov. 1 Jan. 2 April 19
Body fat % 23.5 24.5 26.8 25.5 26.7

body fat percent

The challenge before me is to figure out where I need to tweak: exercise or diet. For my age and gender, 18.1 percent to 19.6 percent is considered good, while 13.6 percent to 16.3 percent is excellent. I am back in the poor to very poor range.

I already made a big adjustment last week in recalculating my protein intake based on my protein shake epiphany. For now, I stay on this new course, hoping that the next BodPod assessment — maybe in July — yields happier numbers.

Day 238 - side

Day 88: Numbers game

Day 88

  • Weight: 132.6 lbs.
  • Workout B: 16 minutes, 47 seconds; next: new workout plan, Dec. 3
  • Total inches: 122.0
  • Protein: 129 g (4 g over target)
  • Calories: 2,102

Numbers are everything, and yet, don’t always matter.

This dueling set of principles has been the heart of my calorie counting for the past 3 months.

I count the calories every day, weighing every morsel of food. I’m currently shooting for 2,100 calories a day, but will probably go up to 2,200 in December, since my weight has been flat all month.

But I can’t weigh everything. When I dine outside the home, I have to guess. I’m pretty bad at guessing weights and sizes. But I try anyway.

And unless the calories per portion are printed on the packaging, I have to guess there, too. The Internet helps, but any number of sites will give different estimates.

I learned working at Southern Living about how trying to present nutritional information in recipes was a tricky proposition. Readers look for good data, but it’s hard to calculate perfectly. Burning food in a lab isn’t the same as burning calories in cells.

So even that recipe data can be flawed. What’s a numbers guy to do?

Be consistent.

My calorie count for my protein shake won’t be right every day. The size of the banana and the amount of peanut butter varies. But in the long run, it’s mostly right.

My portion sizes of pizza, chicken or taco salad are measured, but again, not perfect. As long as I measure the overall trend (more muscles, more pounds, more total inches), I’m OK.

The fun part about calories is making it a game. I can easily hit 125 or more grams of protein each day. Getting calories to the right number is more complicated.

I have any number of foods I can use at night to zero in on 2,100. And I don’t mind varying portion sizes. I am not cursed with hunger, so eating less on any given day isn’t a problem. I’ve even balanced out high-calorie days with low-calorie days.

It’s mildly annoying to have to weigh food several times a day. It’s mildly rewarding to hit the target number over and over.

I still pretty much eat what I want. Right up until about 10 p.m., when all accounts are settled.

The numbers are my friend, pushing me to keep going and keep tabs on progress.

Day 64: When numbers mean more than your (expanding) gut

Day 64

  • Weight: 134.0 lbs.
  • Workout B: 20 minutes, 28 seconds; next: Workout A on Nov. 9
  • Total inches: 122.1
  • Protein: 125 g (1 g over target)
  • Calories: 2,104

We live in a world of predictive models.

Smart statisticians can program computers to guess your spending habits, your traffic-avoidance patterns and your browsing preferences. Numbers are at the heart of sabermetrics, the method of putting together winning baseball teams with the most effective players at the lowest cost.

(No, I haven’t read or seen “Moneyball” [aff. link], but it’s on my list.)

Using statistics to measure the value of each player flies in the face of “gut,” used by club owners and managers for decades. But it works, and every team uses it in some part of its decision making.

Numbers are at the heart over the recent kerfuffle about FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver’s high-profile blog tracking election forecasts for the presidential and other races. His track record has been solid in 2008 and 2010, but recently, pundits have questioned his model for the Obama-Romney outcome. We’ll know the answer in 4 days.

Most of Project Bulk is pure numbers. I use a slew of measurements, but I have a limited data set: 64 days and growing.

Sometimes, the numbers tell me I’m doing fine. Sometimes, my belly distracts me from the numbers. Sometimes, the numbers frustrate me.

In several cases, I have used charts and graphs to understand the patterns. This has helped me more than any other tool in this experiment.

(Surprisingly, the daily photos have not helped me much. Call it inhabitant bias: I see myself every day directly and in the mirror. While others can see the external changes, I am not as keen an observer, a type of blind spot.)

My guide, “The 4-Hour Body” [Amazon | iTunes aff. links], has helped with a few formulas, but a lot has been simple trial and error. For example, I started with no calorie measurement. I then measured starting Sept. 15, and soon after, set a daily goal of 2,500 calories minimum.

After more pounds of fat added in October than September, I decided to tweak the formula. My best guess is to try a 2,000-calorie minimum. I’ll need to see how this affects my weight through Nov. 15 and readjust if needed.

The challenge is not predicting the outcome. The challenge is building the predictive model so that I can understand if and when I’ll reach my goals: toned upper body, 13.6 percent to 16.3 percent body fat. (At my current weight, I would have to convert 14 pounds of fat to muscle.)

I enjoy the number crunching. Each day brings me new figures to create my ultimate figure.