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!

Boulder Flatirons

Boulder Flatirons

Starting this coming Monday, I will be taking part in a three-month body fat loss contest with some of my coworkers. Since I’m still trying to lose the extra 5 or so pounds I added over the holidays (that would be the late November through early January holidays), it seemed like a perfect time for a little extra motivation.

The initial and final weight and body fat measurements will be done using hydrostatic weighing (aka underwater weighing), which is one of the most accurate methods of measurement. We have a lot of very fit people at my company, so it should be an interesting contest.

My food plan for the summer is to really focus on nutrient-dense food, avoiding empty calories as much as possible, and making sure I have a good balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates (unrefined grains and fruits and vegetables). And summer seems like the ideal time for that with such a variety of fresh produce available. I still plan to eat out and have fun once a week, but definitely have a lot of room for improvement for the other 20 meals a week.

In terms of exercise, I’ve had some trouble with tendonitis in my knee and some lower back pain, so my goals are to work on strength training (especially my physical therapy exercises for my abs to help take stress off my back), and slowly increase my cardio workouts so I can avoid any overuse issues. I also plan to vary the type of cardio I do to minimize this type of risk as well.

I’m a bit nervous to see what my starting percentage of body fat is, as I know without a doubt that it’s increased since I last had it ‘officially’ measured nearly 20 years ago. While my BMI is in the normal range (on a scale of underweight/normal/overweight/obese), judging by the values I see from my body fat measurement scale at home, I fear I may actually end up categorized as obese in terms of body fat. Which really speaks to how a person’s weight measurement really doesn’t tell you much about the quality of that weight in terms of lean body mass or fat.

So we’ll see – I’ll post my starting and ending percentage body fat, and do a few posts during the summer as to how things have been going. I’m excited to get started!

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