Health, Fitness and Exercise

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Trigger-alert: I am overweight, this post discusses my own issues and challenges with my diet, my self-image and my exercise regime.

Is this fitness?

In my, seemingly eternal, battle to lose weight I was recently quite pleasantly surprised to hear that my resting heart rate is 64 bpm which despite my fears, suggestions that I’m actually fairly fit (and yes, I’m aware that it’s not that simple a ratio but as one of many indicators I’m taking it as a good sign, small victories and all that).

Yet, despite that little boost to my ego, I’m still not happy with my health. I may be reasonably fit but that doesn’t hide the fact that I’m also overweight. Clinically, I am obese, a word that pulls in many emotional and negative connotations so I tend to stick with overweight (but not fat).

I’m tackling this all with the understanding that there is no quick fix here.

Tracking Food

I know why I’m overweight – ohh hey, here’s a secret, most people know why they are overweight! – but simply knowing why isn’t enough. Obviously it helps to understand and I’ve slowly put some practices, mental and physical, in place to help myself but even knowing what I’m doing wrong doesn’t stop me repeating my bad habits.

My diet isn’t too bad, I use portion control for the most part and try not to binge eat too much but I’m an emotional eater so need to watch myself when I’m running out of emotional energy or get too stressed (note to self: February 2014 is your textbook example of what NOT to do).

I know should cut down on eating fatty foods (hello pizza, burgers and chips) and I’ve recently started tracking everything I eat, good and bad, and that has already helped; not so much the data I’m collecting but the act of logging everything is a constant reminder so that when I next go to buy a Mars bar, I know I’ll need to log it… guilt can be a powerful ally!

Focussing on fitness

My weight is the main thing I need to change as it is putting strains and stresses on my joints, isn’t doing my blood pressure any good and, largely because I don’t like the way it makes me look. I’m pretty comfortable with my size on the whole, I’m just over 6’ tall so I ‘carry it well’ but I would feel a lot more confident if I could shift a few pounds.

A quick note. I’m just over 40 years old, I grew up with the imperial measuring systems – feet and inches, stones and pounds – but increasingly any interactions with health care professionals are (rightly) in metric. I’m 186cm tall and weight around 105kg.

I’m a goal oriented guy so to give myself a kick to get regular exercise I’ve set myself a goal of running 400km over the course of this year. It’s achievable, my knee should cope with it (I have a longstanding issue with my left leg that I am tackling with physio but which limits the distances I can run) and so far I’m pretty much on track despite only managing one run in February but, as I accounted for some downtime when setting the goal, I’m still confident of hitting the target.

But I need to exercise more and right now I’m trying to figure out what to try next.

Which exercise is right for me?

I like playing sports. I like being outdoors. I have never really been a fan of the gym as it’s the antithesis of the previous two points and, if I’m honest, I use that as an excuse not to go. I need to stop that but, as Winter turns to Spring I wonder if I need to bother with that right now.

At present I play basketball once a week for about 90 minutes (we have the court for two hours but play in rotation), and at present I’m managing about one run a week on average. I will start cycling to work again in a few weeks time too, or even just go out for a wee spin now and then. I’ve signed up for Pedal for Scotland, and I’m also aiming to spend a week cycling to Tollcross (about 50 mins cycle each way) during the Commonwealth Games.

Trends

If I can keep up the running and cycling those exercise activities, plus basketball, should give me enough cardio exercise so I need to look at other areas to get more exercise. That’s where the fun begins, which of the many current ‘trends’ should I try?

The choice is endless, the list above is purely off the top of my head. Of them all, I’ve tried the 7 minute workout and might go back to it (better the devil you know), but if I can find an outdoor, local, Bootcamp I might sign up for that too.

Ultimately, things like CrossFit and P90X look too easy to ‘fail’ at, so my mindset (I don’t like to fail) will put me off them for the time being.

One item not on the list is Yoga. I’ll be honest and say it gives me the fear! I know I need to improve my flexibility and that it would help but finding a class that I think suits me has proven tricky. Or is that just another set of excuses?

Mind Over Matter

Ultimately I know that, as cliched as it sounds, I’m the only person that can make a difference to my weight. I have high blood pressure and get weighed as part of my attendance at the hyper-tension clinic every few months. I’m on medication to keep my blood pressure low but to get the dosage of that lowered, and so decrease the chances of my liver and kidneys getting screwed over by the meds, I need to do more to lower my weight.

My weight has been, for the last year, consistently just over 100kg. It peaked at 107kg and, unfortunately has never really headed back down the way. The challenge is to break the 100kg barrier and keep it below there. The first marker will be to get to 95kg (just under 15 stone) which will be significant as I don’t ever remember weighing anything other than 15 stone something or other … apologies for the metric vs imperial switching.

That 100kg line is proving a difficult one to break and I know it’s all down to my mental approach. I know I need to be patient and that over time the weight will drop, I know that weighing myself once a week and seeing 1kg lost is healthy and sustainable but that part of my brain is continually fighting against the heft of historical data that states “you are overweight”, and the longer that fight goes on, the harder it seems to be to break.

Fighting my own image

I am overweight. I will state that clearly even though I don’t like admitting it. I don’t like failing and being overweight is a very obvious and physical reminder, every single day, that I am failing.

Part of me knows that I should make peace with this, accept who I am and find a way to be comfortable with my body shape. I know I will never be a chiselled god with a rippling six-pack but I would like to be a different shape. I’m happy with most parts of my anatomy, I’m fairly confident I’ve got good legs, I just wish the “beer belly” wasn’t hanging above them.

So, I need to mix things up. I need to change things, really change things. Push myself and stop finding easy excuses (ohhh how easy this is to write!).

At the moment I’m considering revisiting the 7 minute workout. Whilst it is a ‘fad’ and evidence suggests that it’s not actually that effective on it’s own, I’m hoping that building the habit will be what benefits me in the long run, creating a mindset of ‘healthy’, and a lifestyle that supports that aim will finally see me affecting the change I’ve long desired.

I’ve past my 40th birthday, for so long a distant marker by which I’d have all this figured out. I haven’t. I’ve failed. But I’m not going down without a fight!!