Wednesday, November 30, 2011

WW- Snoopy on Triathlon

Sorry that I haven't written in a while. Right in the middle of my Problems on Weight Loss series, which has the makings for a Pulitzer, I traveled to see my family back in Indiana. The trip put many miles on the SUV and a damper in my blogging. Maybe I'll add the genius of Thanksgiving and the copious amounts of food into the series. Needless to say, I came back at least 3 pounds heavier, all of that earned.

Losing weight, once you really get into the training phase of Triathlon, which is where I am now as opposed to last week when I was in the eating phase, is not that bad. Sadly, triathlon has not come to be enjoyed by the masses, unless you consider an alternative form of triathlon. Snoopy, more than likely, represents the form of triathlon that most Americans will embrace with open arms.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wacky Wednesday- In Honor of Thanksgiving

There are lots of great things about Thanksgiving. Here's what you need to know:
  • Abraham Lincoln issued a 'Thanksgiving Proclamation' on third October 1863 and officially set aside the last Thursday of November as the national day for Thanksgiving.
  • In the US, about 280 million turkeys are sold for the Thanksgiving celebrations. 
  • Each year, the average American eats somewhere between 16 - 18 pounds of turkey.
  • The average weight of a turkey purchased at Thanksgiving is 15 pounds.
  • The average Thanksgiving dinner costs you from 1700-3000 calories (which is mostly impossible to estimate anyway).
  • The heaviest turkey ever raised was 86 pounds, about the size of a large dog.  
  • Turkey has more protein than chicken or beef. 
  • The Pilgrims never ate turkey. They supped mostly on shrimp and venison.
  • Due to selective breeding, commercial turkeys can no longer fly because of the size of their breasts.
  • Also due to the size of their breasts (and in a large divergence from popular desires), male turkeys are unable to mate with their well-endowed females.
  • According to the National Turkey Foundation, approximately 690 million pounds of turkey were consumed in the United States during Thanksgiving 2007. This equals the weight of 4.48 million individuals of average weight (154 pounds); the population of Singapore as estimated by the last census in 2005.
  • The tryptophan in turkey does not make you tired (it's only, at best, a mediocre source of that amino acid).

Best Thanksgiving movie I haven't watched yet:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Weight Problem- Part 2

In my last post, I laid down the ground work for why you and your bathroom scale have actually no idea as to how much you weigh. That's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to trying to lose weight. Now here, in Part 2, the problem gets even more complicated. This one is completely your fault, except that it isn't. 

You and I Are Pigs but We Don't Know How Much
I keep a meticulous record my exercise habits through the efficiency of gps technology. At any given moment on any given day I can tell you about my workout. If you have some time to kill, feel free to ask. I can ramble on about all sorts of data. My Garmin is a god and I worship it diligently. I look at the numbers, paces, times, training zones, efforts, hill profiles, and whatever else I can squeeze out of the device. There was even a time that I recorded how I felt during the workout and what my mood was like pre and post. (I read somewhere that elite athletes did that and I have delusions of grandeur. I am past that now.)

There is a high probability that the "Calories In: Calories Out" theory of weight lose/ gain is dead on. Should you consume more calories than you burn, you gain weight. Should you burn more than you consume, you lose weight. The most common way to get calories into your body is through your mouth (there are other ways to get calories into your body but I'd rather not discuss them at this time). This equation is flawed in many ways. Currently, I'm going to focus on the misgivings of the products side of the formula...

The second big problem about weight is how little data we actually have about our dietary habits. I couldn't tell you exactly how many chips I ate out of the bag. I'm pretty confident I ate at least half of the bag. What was the weight of the chicken breast I cooked for dinner? The serving size says, '1 chicken breast' yet a brief look in the bag will tell me that not all chickens have the same sized breasts. I have no idea if that was the fowl version of an A-cup or a DD.  How many ounces of rice did I just consume? Am I supposed to measure that pre or post cooking? How many grapes? How many cookies were in that sleeve of thin mints (because I know I ate them all)? Nobody eats just 4 thin mints in a single sitting. I'm pretty sure that science has already proven that.

As if to further complicate the problem, the manufacturers don't really know how many calories are in their products either. Are the Girl Scouts of America a reliable source of culinary accuracy? (Because we all know that the kid who knocked on my door selling cookies has a hand in making them). Look at the picture of the thin mints. Drool a little bit. Then look at the number of servings in the box. "About 8". See the problem? They don't have an exact number. Eating the whole box (which I, um, may have done as recently as yesterday) gives me 'about' 1280 calories. They don't even have to common courtesy of sharing the margin of error. 

Since you and I suck so much, digital technology wants to help. There are so many programs out there that will accurately calculate your food intake for you. At a simple glance, there was more than 300 iPhone apps (that was all I had the patience to calculate). There are many more options available on the internet, all of them awesome. But, each of these require constant attention and multiple inputs on a daily basis. That means, in order to honestly, and correctly, identify the number of calories floating around in our bellies at any given time, we have to log our gluttony 3-10 times a day. We have to count how many chips. We have to weigh our beef. No wonder the old lady couldn't find it.

Even with digital technology, there are flaws in the system. Look at the calorie information on an apple as reported by This is a great resource with incredibly accurate information. I have an Gala apple packed in my daily lunch. I have absolutely no idea how many grams are in my apple. Further, I don't know how much of the apple I have to eat in order to get 74 calories of a 152 gram pomme. How much of the top and bottom? How close to the core? Even with meticulous recording, I suspect the error could be as great as 7 calories in the apple. That doesn't seem like much until you realize that equals 10%. Ten percent is a significant number in terms of size.

I have a call out to Garmin and we are working on a deal. I already own the FR310xt watch. I have 2 wireless Speed and Cadence sensors for my bikes. I have the Ant+ wireless data transfer device. I am looking in to getting the Footpod sensor. They have available a bathroom scale which will wirelessly transfer your weight straight to the internet. They are powermeter compatible, including their own radical Pedal Sensor. My contact was about none of these. I want Garmin to develop a "Food and Beverage Intake Sensor." The idea would be that I would strap this thing on and it would automatically record how many food and drink calories I am consuming in a day. I envision a device that would be embedded in your mouth near your glottis or surgically implanted near your esophageal sphincter muscle. I have not solved the how-can-I-change-the-batteries- in- the- device conundrum just yet. Garmin seemed rather pessimistic on the phone and wanted me to get an interest vote before they put the forth the funds in Research and Development. Please let me know.

Even in the best efforts, we honestly have no clue as to the number of calories we swallow on any given day. At best, we can get a rough estimate. Even though the Calories In: Calories Out concept is a pretty good gauge of whether or not we will lose weight, we can't get accurate information on the Calories In part of the equation. There's no accurate way (unless Garmin comes through for me) to gather that information. Phew, that's the gist of my 2nd big problem with this whole weight lose scheme.

(Please be advised that there are, in my calculations, 5 big problems. At least, that's as high as I can count, so I doubt I'll be researching for whatever number comes after 5. Keep in mind that after I lay down the problems, I am going to lay down some solutions.)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Weight Problem- Part 1

Last week, the BIL shot me an email. As you may know, I have started on the endeavor to shed a few pounds in a venture to get down a respectable race weight. The BIL wants in on the action. In a bit of frustration, he wrote to share what an awesome training week he had (which was true) and to announce that he had actually gained weight.

Now, undoubtedly due to my poor reading skills and my manliness desire to fix all problems even if they aren't a problem, I decided to shoot back a 10,000 word essay on the plight of shedding pounds. The BIL was in awe. Mostly because I am a fantastic genius of a writer I had pounded out so much content to answer a question that wasn't asked. He reminded me of something in his response of which I need constant reminders due to the pea-size of my brain: He already knew all of that.

Therefore, my homework assignment off to the BIL was completely wasted until I had this fantastic idea of sharing it with the general public, I.E. You. But, I am going to you a favor and break up the content into manageable pieces. So, here's part 1 in it's embellished entirety:

You and Your Bathroom Scale Suck
One problematic fact about your (or mine or anyone's) weight is that their is no efficient way to measure it. I know, you have a bathroom scale. Step on the flat piece of plastic, wait a second or two, and magically a number appears that will mark your emotional state of being for the day depending on its size in relation to the last time you stepped on. Mine even takes measurement to the next level: it offers a body fat percentage should I ask it politely. Oddly, with this space aged built-in technology, my scale is repeatedly off by 5 pounds as compared to the doctor's office. 

(Not that I would know this, I am a male and don't go to the doctor all that often. However, the Wife is not inflicted with the Male Ego gene and therefore will go to the Dr for her regularly scheduled appointments, physical, obgyn, and now PT for her ailing knee. She has ample data points showing our scale is consistently heavy by 5 pounds. And, like any smart guy in a relationship, I have learned that it's best not to argue the point. She's probably right.)

The scale is not the problem. It is calibrated to measure the pull of the Earth's gravitational field on your body mass mighty nicely (or in my case n+5). You (or me or anyone) are the problem. Our weight fluctuates throughout a single day for a large number of reasons. The main one is water retention. We can't always predict when our body is going to retain water or shed it. There are a few things that we can do to manage our water, such as eating/ avoiding salty food, reading semi-entertaining blogs, exercise habits, stress levels, medications, etc. 

When you weigh yourself at one time and then re-weigh at a different time, you take a gamble on your current level of water retention, which shows up nicely on your scale. Water is a rather heavy molecule. One glass is 8 ounces which is half a pound. You bladder can hold up to about a pound of water. But, this doesn't take into account the excess fluid floating around in your blood, stored in your muscles, embedded in your fat layers, hanging out in your belly, or missing from your brain.

Why I am so focused on the single, most abundant chemical in your body? For one, water is somewhere between 57-75% of your body mass. That's right, you are mostly a saltwater environment ripe for fish to develop an ecosystem. For two, the other major chemicals, commonly referred to as organics, are relatively stable. Your body fat, protein, and carbs are rather consistent in terms of body mass. No amount of exercise will decrease your fat by one pound in a day. No amount of weight lifting will increase your body protein (which we call muscle) by a pound in a day. However, drinking an abundance of liquid can drastically increase your scalar numbers. If that drink is alcohol-based, your body's defense system will send all available water to battle the booze resulting in a net-loss of pounds. The problem is that you aren't any less fat. Or, in the case of the ethanol-soaked goodness, you might actually be more fat than when you started drinking.

Still, you and I are both creatures of habit. Everyday we hop on the scale wanting the number to be different than the time before and think that we have accomplished something when the number is smaller. This method of measurement is destructive in nature. Our weight naturally changes throughout the day, mostly based on our water levels despite how much we hope it's due to a change in the gravitational pull. Our true weight, the one we want to change, remains hidden at all times. We cannot really measure it without that pesky water getting in the way.

Don't worry, it's not all for naught. I will tell you how to measure and get the results you want (though I doubt you'll actually want to do it). The bathroom scale will play an important role in the process, but you'll have to wait until I get down rambling on about the problems before I get to the solution. 

(Keep in mind that the BIL got all of this in one full swoop. You are getting off easy).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wacky Wednesday- On Becoming an Adult

Does any one remember the first time you realized you were an actual adult?

I'm not talking about paying full price at the movie theater or amusement park because they define adulthood as older than 4. Nor am I talking about stealing daddy's booze to have a grown up party. Going off to college doesn't count for much (you still have to steal beer only this time it's from somebody different). Only now there's a good chance someone has the pictures to prove your lack of adultness.

I remember the exact moment when I realized I was an adult. I was on the second real job of my life (currently, I am in #3) as a youth director for after school programs. I was having one of those deep philosophical conversations that you could only have with a couple of 12 year olds. We were thinking deep thoughts on paying full price at the movie theater about moral responsibility. I forget why we were on this topic, but I remember the next 2 lines as if they were spoken this morning.
Me: "I can't just pack up and go to Hawaii."
Kid: "Sure you can, you're an adult."

My world had changed at that exact moment. I was officially an adult with all of the honors and responsibilities entitled to that position (who still couldn't go to Hawaii). And it took a 12-year-old middle school student to point it out to me.

In case there are any others out there confused about your adulthood status, here's a list of adult behaviors. If you find yourself relating to many (or, in my case 19) of them, there's a good chance some 12-year-old looks at you like a grown-up too.

1. Sometimes I'll look at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.
2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.
3. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.
4. There is great need for a sarcasm font.
5. How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?
6. Was learning cursive really necessary?
7. Map Quest really needs to start their directions on # 5. I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.
8. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.
9. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind-of tired.
10. Bad decisions make good stories.
11. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren't going to do anything productive for the rest of the day..
12. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don't want to have to restart my collection...again.
13. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page technical report that I swear I did not make any changes to.
14. I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.
15. I think the freezer deserves a light as well.
16. I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Light than Kay.
17. I wish Google Maps had an "Avoid Ghetto" routing option.
18. I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.
19. How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear or understand a word they said?
20. I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars team up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers and sisters!
21. Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.
22. Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, finding their cell phone, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey - but I'd bet everyone can find and push the snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time, every time.
23. The first testicular guard, the "Cup," was used in Hockey in 1874 and the first helmet was used in 1974. That means it only took 100 years for men to realize that their brain is also important.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

2012 Season- Week 1 a Success!

Now that training has officially begun, I've noticed one thing... The weather is being quite cooperative. I have this sort of mental block against cold weather biking. I hate it. November tends to be risky, at best, to get out of the basement and on to the pavement. Running, not so much. I will run in the most adverse of conditions and get along quite happily. Stick my feet to the top of a pedal and certain criteria must be met, most of them temperature related.

I have promised myself that this year, 2012, I will put in my time and do my work, regardless of the weather. Just to remind you, here is what I have planned for a regular week of training.

Monday= Optional Run in the morning. Weights in the afternoon.
Tuesday= Medium distance run in the morning. Bike in the afternoon.
Wednesday= Hill run. Bike medium in the afternoon.
Thursday= Sleep-in in the morning. Long run in the afternoon.
Friday= Sleep-in in the morning. Weights in the afternoon. Optional Bike in the evening.
Saturday= Bike/ Run brick session
Sunday= Long ride with an optional (and short) transition run

If you are a regular reader, you'd know that I suck at planning. I have all of these hopes and dreams which seem to get crushed in the face of reality. Making a plan is really risky business for me as it rarely comes to fruition. But, the numbers don't lie. Here's what the data show:

That's right, I nailed it. In the first week of training, I hit all of my required workouts and one of my optional workouts. I logged about 29 miles of running. I rode for about 5 hours and 45 minutes. I am feeling quite proud of myself.

To further my surprise is some of the individual data. For example, on my Tuesday medium run, I wanted to average 7:30 per mile pace. I set out on a 6.5er. I ended up with this...
Not too bad. On Thursday, I wanted to control my pace and average 8:00 per mile for the long run. The actual data:
I guess the 2 days sort of balance each other out. Tuesday was 4 seconds over pace. Thursday was 4 seconds under pace.

So, how about my biking. This is a tough one as I am on the trainer for most of the time. Trainer riding is significantly different that outdoor riding. Plus, I keep the resistance on the trainer dialed in at a tension greater than the real world. The data I am going to show you is based on my Sunday long ride. I set out for a 2.5 hour ride with the hope of holding an average of 18 mph, giving me a distance of about 45 miles. Here's what really happened...

Well, you can't plan them all perfectly. Further, if it hadn't been for that killer hill/ headwind/ stoplight laden road/ pansy of a rider in that last 3 miles (see profile at the very far right), I would have been over 20.  In hindsight, I may have been a bit overzealous. That pace, 19.8 mph, is about the same as my Syracuse 70.3 race pace. I may need to tone it down a bit in the basements to come if I am to survive the winter.

Plus, as a warning to the BIL, I lost 1.5 pounds this week. Still want to wager?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fascinating Events of the Last Week

First and foremost, I just got back from a trip to New Jersey. I can hear you now, "Why go to NJ?" 99% of the time, I'd be right there with you. However, the volleyball team in which I coach had their Divisional Playoffs. In case you were wondering, we won! My ladies did not lose a game the entire weekend and swept the skills competition. There's proof of their awesomeness on the right.

With that trophy marks the end of the fall season. Translation- an extra 10 hours per week have been freed up. What will I do with all that extra time? Conveniently, the 2012 triathlon training season coincides with the conclusion of my coaching responsibilities. Since I have pre-established a training routine and been logging roughly 7 hours of exercise per week, I am now ready to structure a bit more. The week marked the first official week of training towards Ironman Lake Placid, next year's edition.

Plus, the Banter-in-Law has challenged me to a fat-off competition in response to my recent Wacky Wednesday post. The odds are slightly stacked in his favor in this endeavor. And I am saying this with the greatest deal of respect and love for the BIL... Should he become an overachiever in the weight loss category and I match him pound for pound, I would need to sacrifice a limb in order to keep up. My competitive brain sees this as an option, depending on what/ how much we wager. But my emotional brain is seemingly opposed to the idea. So I am trying to come up with a system of comparing apples to fat. If anyone has any ideas as to a system that isn't solely focused on total number of pounds, please let me know. Further, if anyone wants in, leave a comment and I'd be happy to accomodate.

Next on the list of exciting Banter news is that we bought a new house. The new place has some distinct differences over the current place...
-First, no stairs. It's a full ranch as opposed to the split level. You'd think that with my fitness goals and desires that stairs would be welcomed. Nope. Good riddance you repeated 6-8 inches of agony. (Insert "that's what she said joke" here ______)
-Second, I am increasing my lawn mowing responsibilities by a manner of 8 fold.
-Third, no neighbors in front nor behind. Left and right are a significant distance away (see #2).
-Fourth, my commute to work has doubled.
-Fifth, and possibly the most exciting, is that I can bike for many miles without encountering a single stop light. No more training bogged down by that devil feature. Gotta love that.

After meeting with the lawyers, signing about 14 trees worth of paper, looking at the bottom line cost of the house after the interest has accrued over the term of the mortgage, and forking over more cash than seems appropriate, we now are in possession of 2 homes. If anyone is interested in buying a well maintained, energy star efficient house that is guaranteed to make your calf muscles strong, please let me know.

P.S. I now know what I am going to be doing with that extra 10 hours a week freed up from coaching.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wacky Wednesday- Weight Loss Ideas

I'm pretty sure that Weight Watchers reads my blog. Two days after I posted about the Bar, they sent me a coupon. Everyone wants to help.

What's really surprising is how efficiently the post office found my house.

I'm not sure I want to start counting points just yet. I could end up like this guy (you know, obsessing over every detail)...

So this got me to thinking about other ways, techniques, or strategies that could help me lose weight. I did some research.

I could try eating beans...

Or, perhaps I could change my bathing habits...

Ooh, it's possible that I could upload this to my iTunes library...

I got it! I'll start smoking...

This last one is the concept that freaks me out the most...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Bar

This is a tough post for me to write. As you read, keep a few concepts in the forefront of your mind.
  1. The post is about me
  2. I am mostly idiot
  3. I know very little (which, I think, is significantly different than number 2)

I consider myself a brave man. I don't mind spiders, snakes or the closet monster. I used to be afraid of girls but haven't tested this one in a while. Yet, there are some things, phobias if you will, that wreak havoc on my soul.  Articles like this one scare the crap out of me.  If you're too lazy to read the article (and I applaud this laziness), allow me to sum it up. People are getting fatter. This statement is multidimensional. Not only is the average person getting fatter, but the percentage of fat people is growing. More than 2/3 of the American population is considered obese and the numbers are climbing. 

Where's the fear? I am not afraid nor disgusted by excessively high BMIs on other people. It's my own that I am concerned about. When I have this conversation with one of my co-workers, she accuses me of not understanding the 'emotional' side of eating. B.S. I like to eat. I eat a lot. I have been blamed for numerous other people's weight gain simply because they try to match my appetite. I eat everything.

I think she doesn't understand the emotional side of working out. Trust me, and the Wife can attest, I get quite grouchy if I haven't exercised in a while. That's probably one of the main reasons she supports my triathoning. Better for me to be gone for a couple of hours out of the day than spend the next few decades with a grump of a husband. Plus, my exercise addiction counteracts my eating problem.

I have a 'theory' about the actual cause of the obesity problem (okay, it's really more of a hypothesis as I haven't tested it yet.) I call it the Bar. The Bar itself is arbitrary and dynamic. However, I believe it to be quite real even if it only lurks in your subconscious. Simply put, the Bar is the maximum weight you will accept before you get disgusted with yourself. It may be a weight on the scale. The Bar can also be abstract. It may be the self you see in a picture that wholly conflicts with your residual self image. Finally, you decide to make a change. You've stepped over the Bar and it's time to come back.

When I start getting closer to the Bar, I decide that I want to lose weight. Then I make the mistake of sharing this with friends and family (see number 2 above). They're supposed to be supportive and help me achieve my goals, right? Friends tell me that I look fine (it's not about looks for me). My mom actually accused me of being too thin (her Bar is set much higher). The 166 BMI is 23.8 for my height. BMI=25 is overweight, which coincidentally is 175 pounds for me. I set the Bar long before I knew this (see number 3 above). Yes, I know that BMI is not a perfect measurement and that I have some muscle mass that skews the numbers. It's my Bar and I set it.

Despite my marriage to the kitchen, I have never been overweight. I've been active my whole life. I refuse to join the 68% and growing number of Americans. I am consistently + 7 pounds of my high school graduation weight after nearly 20 years (crap I'm old). I've set my Bar at 175 pounds. I let myself slip once after my second marathon, taking the recovery period a little too seriously. I was literally freaked out when that number appeared on my scale. I am currently sitting at 166. The problem is that the scalar number has had a positive slope for a couple of months. I am slowly creeping towards the Bar and I don't like it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wacky Wednesday- Thoughts on Evolution

As Winter Training season is rapidly approaching, there's something that's obviously been lacking in my life recently... Bad Movies. That's right, the summer kept movie watching to a minimum. I actually put my Netflix account on hold for a few months as more and more time was spent outside. Now that I am running out of daylight, the queue is back up and running.

Recently, I was sent a copy of "Creation". This flick re-pairs Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly. They met during "A Brilliant Mind" and were phenomenal. They are/ were married (I can never keep up with Hollywood Gossip). As a science teacher, you can probably see why this movie appealed to me. It's about evolution. It's got a monkey on the cover. It's got an A-list hot chick as headliner, of whom I've been drooling since Labyrinth. I was hoping there would be a nice fight scene between the evolutionists and creationists. What I got was the mental angst experienced by a soon-to-be-published Charles Darwin. Darwin, as you know, was a triathlete. I will probably be showing this movie to one of my biology classes. It is not something that I would recommend as a pump-up movie whilst doing high intensity interval training (which is fodder for another post).

But, while I'm on the topic of evolution, there are a couple of other images that come to mind, which I'll also be sharing with my biology classes. I re-discovered the first one while searching for funny Simpson's tombstones for last Wednesday's post. It's the Simpsons take on evolution. No matter how many times I've seen it, it still makes me laugh.

I find this amazingly similar to a picture taken from Chuckie V's blog. If you are unfamiliar with Chuckie V, that's a shame. He's a former professional triathlete and current coach. He's quite brilliant. He's also a bit outspoken which makes his blog quite entertaining as well as educational. He's got a picture somewhere in there that is hitting home a bit too hard lately (again, new post fodder).