What it takes to lose it

As of this morning, I weighed 200 pounds. That’s the least I’ve weighed since the early 1990s. At one point in the late 90s, with the stress of running a business and two small children, I weighed as much as 250, but I’ve slowly chipped away at that over the years. By the 2000s I was pretty steadily in the 220s. For someone my height (6′ 1″), the BMI calculator says 250 counts as “obese,” while 220 is just “overweight.”

There’s no question that, at 220 pounds, I was overweight. Last April, I began blogging about fitness over at Daily Monthly. I weighed 225, right around where I’d been for the past decade. I felt like I was in okay shape, but I’ve always thought I could do a little better. This summer I decided I would train for a marathon, and the first part of the plan was to get down to a weight of 200 pounds by December 1. I’d then run the Thunder Road Half Marathon in Charlotte on December 11, and look for a good marathon to run in the spring of 2011.

By the beginning of August, I weighed about 220, and I set mini-goals of losing five pounds a month. The first ten pounds came off fairly easily as I ramped up my training for the half-marathon. I was running nearly 30 miles per week, and just eating a salad at lunch and cutting back on snacks seemed to be all I needed to do to lose weight.

But by early October, progress stalled. Even as I began to increase my mileage, I couldn’t seem to lose any more weight. I’d feel like I was starving during my runs, and despite the fact that sweets had been banished, I couldn’t resist the urge to snack on whatever I could find around the house. Some days I was so hungry I got dizzy. I missed my November 1 goal of 205 pounds, weighing in at 207 on November 2. Finally, by the 7th, I was down to 205. During November, I boosted my mileage again, to over 40 miles per week. The pounds were coming off easier, but Thanksgiving loomed ahead. On Thanksgiving morning, after a long run, I weighed in at 199. But I knew there would be temptations everywhere all weekend long. I couldn’t resist leftover pumpkin pie for breakfast, or cookies throughout the day. By November 29, even after another 10-mile run, I was back up to 202. But we were out of pie. On December 1, I still weighed 202. I ate light all day, ran 6 miles, went to Pilates class, and ran another 4.3 miles this morning. Weighing myself as I stepped out of the shower (after hydrating and eating breakfast), I was finally down to 200 pounds. Here’s a chart of my weight loss for the past 3 months:

I’m sitting here typing this post wearing jeans I could barely squeeze into last year. The only way they stay up is with a tightly-cinched belt. On cold days, my running tights sag low on my hips. I’d replace them, but I simply can’t imagine switching from a size L/XL to S/M.

Even so, I still have a bit of a gut. Remember those can you pinch an inch? TV commercials from the 70s? I can still pinch well over an inch. But at least it’s not the 3 or 4 inches of abdominal fat I used to be able to grab.

At this point, however, I’m only about halfway through my plan to run a marathon. I’ve run half-marathons before, but never a full marathon. After my half-marathon 10 days from now, I’m going to be adding on even more miles, peaking in March at 70 miles per week. I don’t plan on “dieting” during this time, but I’m going to try to keep eating healthy foods, and we’ll see what happens. Even at 200 pounds my BMI is 26.4, which counts as “overweight.” To count as “normal,” I’d have to get down to 189. I’m less concerned about that than I am about putting in enough miles while staying injury-free. I’m registered for the Big Sur Marathon on May 1.

This is not a lifestyle I will be able to maintain over the long run. I’m deliberately cutting back on my writing and other work while I train, and I may have to cut back even more in the spring. But hopefully I’ll be able to use the discipline I’ve gained during this period to keep my weight at a healthy level. I won’t stop running, and I may even do another marathon or two, but on May 1, I expect to be the fittest I ever have been, and I don’t think I’ll ever be fitter. That’s fine with me. One good marathon is plenty for a lifetime.

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4 Responses to What it takes to lose it

  1. Yoder says:

    Way to go, Dave! That’s one impressive training schedule—the thought of 70 miles in a week, even as the training peak, makes my knees hurt.

  2. Dave says:

    Thanks, Jeremy.

    So far I’ve done as much as 44 miles in a week with no ill effects on my knees, so here’s hoping that continues. The main problem with so much training is just how drained I am for the rest of the day. For now I deal with that by doing long runs on Sundays, but as I start doing more mileage, I’ll have some pretty long runs even on weekdays.

    [BTW, congrats on your Seattle Marathon performance. My goal is to run a 3:30, and you’re already there!]

  3. MJ says:

    Congrats on all the work so far Dave. That weight loss is impressive. It seems you have taken a sensible approach thus far and there is no doubt that you can the goals you have outlined.

    As an avid runner myself I the thing about training that drains me the most is not the actual running it is the extra sleep, extra calories (much less of a problem), and general fatigue that can sometimes set in. I started training for Ultra’s this past year and did a couple of 4-5 hour runs which really ruin the rest of the day.

    Look forward to hearing about how the training continues to go.

  4. Murfomurf says:

    Congratulations! You have established an excellent habit with your running! I’m the type who can’t keep a good habit going although I can stop bad ones in their tracks! DOn’t be overly fond of the that number “26.4”. There is no proof for the individual that 26.4 is any worse than 25- you can deprive your muscles of the ability to recover if you don’t eat enough protein, and you might need to stay at 26.4 to feel healthy, rather than hungry and deprived. Wow- I’ll be watching this space to see if you do the marathon! No heart attacks, OK?

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