After what seemed like an interminable amount of time towards the end, my body fat loss contest is over. I didn’t win (though it looked like I actually had a chance towards the end), but I was very happy with my results. The winner was calculated by who had the highest percentage loss divided by their starting percentage. Since my starting body fat percentage was 33.7, that’s a pretty big number to divide by. I did actually lose the highest percentage of body fat, but the calculation put me in third place.

Looking back, I had some pretty lofty goals as to what I wanted to achieve. I hit my target for overall weight loss and then some, and was very close to my non-stretch goal for percentage body fat. I did lose nearly a pound of lean body mass as well, as I found first hand what is true for most people – it is extremely difficult to both lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. But of my weight lost, less than 10% was lean body mass – and over 90% was fat. So not bad at all.

Here are my starting, goal, and actual stats:

height: 5′ 3+3/4″
weight: 140 lbs
lean body mass: 92.9 lbs
fat body mass: 47.1 lbs
percentage body fat: 33.7%

Main Goal / Stretch Goal:
weight: 134 lbs / 132 lbs
lean body mass: 94.9 lbs / 97.4 lbs
fat body mass: 39.1 / 34.6 lbs
percentage body fat: 29.2% / 26.2 %

weight: 130.4 lbs ==>  -9.6 lbs
lean body mass: 92 lbs ==>  -0.9 lbs
fat body mass: 38.4 lbs ==>  -8.7 lbs
percentage body fat: 29.4% ==>  -4.3%

When I started out, I think my daily calories were too low, and I was restricting myself from indulgences too much. I didn’t make wonderful progress to start. The changes that resulted in finally moving in the right direction consistently were 1) eating more calories, 2) adding some more indulgent foods back in, 3) more ‘natural movement’ workouts (walks and hikes instead of cardio machines), and 4) longer workouts. Once I made these tweaks, things started happening. I know that graphs aren’t typical fare on a food blog, but I am a physics major/career software test engineer, so I found these quite interesting. All of these graphs are a 7-day rolling average, with polynomial trendlines added. You can see very clearly how when my caloric intake increased, and I started to increase the duration of my exercise (also burning more calories), my weight started to go down. The exercise graphs look a little wonky, but I think the reason is that whenever I did long hikes, the calories and duration were way up there (most of the hikes I did have an average grade of 10-20%, so they burn quite a few calories). And on weeks that I did more weightlifting, the calories and duration were lower.

Daily Calories
Note: My scale showed me 1.4 lbs heavier than the ‘official’ scale did. Hence the ending rolling average weight of about 132 in the graph below.


Exercise Duration

Calories Burned

So, the bottom line conclusions that I’ve drawn from the experience: If you try something for several weeks, and it’s not working, shake things up a bit. No one thing works for everyone. You have to find what works for you. And often that means varying things fairly often! Find whatever exercise(s) you enjoy doing and will keep doing. If something doesn’t feel natural (like a lot of cardio machines), then you probably want to limit your time doing that, or better yet, find something else. And lastly, eat healthily, and don’t eat too much, but don’t deny yourself completely from having something fun once in a while. It will keep you going without feeling like you’re sacrificing everything. And remember – tomorrow is a new day, you can start over as often as you need to. Just don’t quit!

I’m just about done with week ten of my summer body fat loss contest. And I’m kind of ready for it to be over. But there’s about three weeks and a couple of days left. I had started to get kind of discouraged after hitting a plateau for several weeks, so I decided to make a few changes, just to shake things up a little.

First I decided to be a little more lenient on what I eat during the week. I started letting myself have some good chocolate a couple or even a few times a week. I stopped focusing so much on how many grams of fat and protein I was eating, and just looked at the over-all calories. (Since it’s become ingrained over the past couple of decades for me to eat lower fat and mostly non-processed foods, I just depended on that to keep the fat down, and I knew I was still getting more protein from the yogurt, cottage cheese, and lean meats that I continue to eat regularly).

For exercise, I was getting tired of my lower back being sore after a good cardio workout at the gym, so I decided to try switching to more intense ‘actual’ activities like more hiking and longer walks. As a result, my back has definitely appreciated not being subjected to repetitive movements on equipment that doesn’t seem well suited for my body mechanics. (Of course in the winter when it gets dark right after work, I’ll be back in the gym doing this, but it’s summer right now!)

Cragmoor-Hardscrabble Trail

Cragmoor-Hardscrabble Trail

After making these changes for a couple of weeks, I’m finding it’s a little easier to keep motivated about the contest (but I’m still ready for it to be over), and I’m a bit more pleased with my current results to date. If I can trust what my scale told me this morning, I’ve lost six pounds, and about three and a half percent body fat. I took my measurements and compared them against ones I took sometime early this year or late last year, and I am down 4+3/4 inches when I add what I’ve lost for bust/waist/hips. So THAT definitely makes me happy.

Fern Canyon

Fern Canyon

So three more weeks, and then I can get back to doing more of a food blog than a diet and exercise reporting blog. But I am planning to keep many changes I’ve made overall. So 22 more days! Look for a final body fat loss report after August 20th.

Fern Canyon to Bear Peak

Fern Canyon to Bear Peak

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