How An Engineer Looks At Weight Loss
There are two ways to write this blog. One is all positive, happy and humorous. The other is to be real. I’ve wrote both versions. I like the happy one better. I had some funny, “You know you’re fat when…” Foxworthy-isc quips…oh you silly hillbillies with your cornbread! but, to my surprise, weight loss is more than just losing weight, it’s personal. Dad gum…is it personal… Therefore, here we go…a real and unvarnished look at how I lost over 100lbs in two years. By the way…this is a long blog. I’ve subtitled each section so you can skip around if ya wanna.
“How about that! 3 more and that’s a perfect score in bowling! Woot!! Woot!!!” As a Lebowski under achiever, 300 is a magic number. So when my Dr. told me I weighted 297lbs on 10Oct11 heck man, I was happy at my accomplishment! Honestly, as a hillbilly that grew up on a diet of Crisco, Emge lard and deep fried everything and STILL have low cholesterol numbers, I felt great!! Suck it tofu eaters!! I was happy fat. Comfortable in my own skin, I loved to laugh and make fun of leaf eaters, calorie counters…joggers! Get a grip man! Be happy who ya are and enjoy life daddy-o!
My Doctor threw a brick thru my temple of celebration. “Well, let’s see if you cheer this Jimmy Ray… I have to start you on blood pressure pills right now because you are close to stoke levels (he watched me take two pills right there in his office) and I have to monitor you for self-induced diabetes…”
Wait a minute…WTF…but…none of that runs in my family.
As a matter of fact, about the only thing that really kills off Purser’s are bullets and each other. There must be a mistake. I’m healthy… I AM!!! He flipped over the chart and showed me what every engineer needs to see; numbers and histograms based against a benchmark. Oh crap…jokes on me….who’s laughing now.
But that middle thing…self-induced??! You mean there are folks in this world I know personally that have medical problems they could not help ,they do not want and go bankrupt trying to cure and I’m so friggen fat and lazy that…I’m inducing them in myself????????????????????????????????????? Whatta friggen ungrateful piece of crap I am. Given the gift of health and this is what I’m doing with it. Man…Whatta friggen whanker I am.
It’s seven miles from the house to the Doctor’s office. It felt like 700.I’m in a daze. I was standing there in a fog while the world was going on around me. I’d look in the mirror, I didn’t feel fat, I felt healthy, I feel happy with who I am.
I like me…
But this is changing. I’m losing respect for myself. “self induced” echoing over and over again. How can this be? Maybe he read someone else’s chart? I mean, I know it had my name on it…but really? No that can’t be right, but I saw the numbers. My name was on the 20 years of medical history he had on me. As an engineer, I know the dangers of ignoring data pointing to a disaster. No matter how unsinkable the ship is, how secure the walkway appeared to be or the lateral damping of that bridge, etc…data is data. All my life I have always heeded to the advice for other smarter and more experienced than me. As my Dad used to say; “When you’re around folks smarter than you be quiet and you’ve learn something” I’m heading for trouble, no doubt about it. My family, my kids will pay the price for my fatness. No. No I just cannot allow that to happen.
This must stop. F this crap man, I ain’t gonna down without a fight.
I called my Doctor and asked him what it would take to reverse this and have him reevaluate me. He laughed and said; “Well, lose 30lbs and we’ll talk about it” 30lbsOK. I can do that. But how? See working out and going to the gym is not a mystery to me. I played football all thru high school (well, I was on the team I didn’t actually play much…), I was in the United States Navy for 9 years and used to run 7 miles about 4-5 times a week. I just never stuck with it. When I would workout, I’d be so sore I felt worst. I tried to push thru it too, but it never helped much. I’m not a No Pain No Gain kind goober. I’m more of a No Pain…Cool!! kinda Dude. Going to the gym made me feel worse. What was I doing wrong here?
Solve The Problem
Wait a minute…(Sun breaks thru the clouds and a beam of light signs thru the tiny Code Cave window…) I’m an engineer!! I’ll tackle this like an engineering problem and I’ll remove myself from the equation!!!
OK, so the problem to be solved is losing weight. The simplest solution is often the best solution. Let me identify my variables and my absolutes.
Absolutes: Too much weight, 46 years old, full access to a gym, full access to food, 24 hours in everyday
Variables: I travel a lot, Man I love to eat…even when I’m not hungry, excellent excuse/rationalizer
Therefore; weight loss (Wl)= decreased calorie intake (<cal) and increased output activity level (>Sweat) x time (T). I should lose weight keeping this is mind.
Solve the Problem.
There can be no excuses. I know the data so I am now accountable. So I started researching exercise that burns calories. If I read an article that tried to sell me something, I discarded/discredited it. I discounted all articles from celebrities and celebrity trainers. Truth is, they ain’t like us regular folks. Their job IS to look good and they have access to time, money and resources I do not. So of course they get results in 6 weeks or less. Whatever, man! I have a job, a family and other stuff. Fitness is NOT my life it’s a small, small piece of it. Comparing them to me is like putting mag wheels on Prius. Dumb and unrealistic. After cross checking, verifying sources, ensuring accurate peer reviews I found some good stuff on Live Strong and WebMD that all seemed to say the same thing…cardio and diet.
I hate both of those. Wait, this is not about me, this is an engineering problem. I am not in the above equation.
Solve the Problem.
As an engineer, I have to identify the weak link in the structure. That would be my 46 year old knees/ankles. Although, they didn’t bother me, I thought that excessive 297lbs slamming into the ground from running would be damaging. Therefore; 10 minutes on the elliptical and 10 on the bike in cardio mode. I’ll break ‘um up so I don’t get bored. Now, I enjoy lifting weights BUT I hate being sore.
Solve the Problem.
Look Dude, get real you’re 46, you’ve missed your shot to be muscle beach Jimmy Ray. Maybe next time around… I’m gonna have to do this for the health of it. Muscles get sore due to lifting a lot of weight you’re not used to causing micro-tears in muscle fibers. It’s called DOMS Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness. It’s biology crap that’s about as interesting as watching a 8mm slideshow of your mother in laws trip to the Grand Canyon in 1961 with Aunt Edna and 98,000 other people that apparently you met at your wedding 25 years ago and of course should remember through the beer fueled haze of one awesome day.
Where was I at? Oh right soreness and how weight lifting sucks. So to keep the soreness (DOMS) away, I reduce the weight lifted, increase the amount of sets and decrease the interval between sets to keep my heart rate high.
Keeping it simple, I picked three machines I actually like doing. No free weights or machines that look like I need a PhD to operate, just three and only three simple ones. I used machines because they work best with my body discipline. They isolate muscle groups and would ensure I can keep a proper form with slow and fluid movement. If I see myself jerking, banging weights or trying to qualify for the Indy 500 per set, decrease the weight until I can control it. As much as I’m a social media hound, there will be no Facebooking or Tweeting that crap. STFU Jimmy Ray…you created this problem…now you solve it.
It’s Time to Hit The Steel
With my plan in place, on 17Oct11 I checked my ego at the door and walked into the Pleasant Prairie RecPlex. I’ve owned a membership there for 10 years…used it maybe 5 times. I am a morning person, so at 5AM I’m at the gym. I’ll work out each T day. (Tuesday, Thursday and SaTurday). I’m not there to socialize, talk or hang out. I’m an engineer and I’m on the clock to Solve the Problem. Eyes front, focus on your work. Every Saturday I weight in to chart my progress to see what adjustments I need to make. This is a VERY important part. Every engineer worth their salt keeps records of progress. A goal without a written plan is just a dream.
OK…that’s the first part…
OK Sir, Cake or Death?
Diet is next and that’ll be a piece of cake…but the cake is a lie….
Solve the Problem.
I never ever cut myself off of food. I ate all the time. Anything I wanted, as much as I wanted. While research pointed to eating five small meals a day was the best that really didn’t fit in my lifestyle. So here we go…three meals a day, no snacking, no fast food (good bye Popeye’s and In N Out, man it sure was a good run) Breakfast is a healthy light meal. I normally ate 2-3 bowls Lucky Charms or Coco Puffs. Now, it’s a banana, a bowl multi-grain Cheerios. Lunch is an Apple, a Kind Bar and small pack of Almonds. Supper is one plate of whatever is served (no seconds or fourths…). This is my problem not my families, so I’m not getting all self-righteous and making the family pay for my silliness. No dessert, no more sweet…sweet ice tea (man that one hurt), no more chips, no more bread, no airline pretzels, no cookies, no ice cream, no more candy, no more doughnuts, no more bagels, no soda, no sports drinks, no more listening to my iPod for yard work etc…that is just for working out only, no more kringle, no more cream puffs or paczki and…gulp…no more beer or cigars, no wearing my cap backwards (request from wife)….man….
This also went into effect on 17Oct11. No tapering or weaning off. I’m an all of nothing kinda Dude. It’s amazing the effect food has on your head. My brain kept telling me I was starving, I was in a pissy mood (but hid it…for the most part…my road wife Robb and my actual wife may have a different version…) man alive I was miserable, I really was. I thought being sore would be the worst.
Not. Even. Close.
I’d be on conf calls and all I could hear was hungry hungry hungry hungry hungry hungry…and hungry hungry hungry hungry hungry hungry…. But I knew people could live for 28-35 days without food so this was a mental game. Come on…just a taste…a little snack….NO!!! you have an important call coming up, you have to be on top of your game…No! Hungry…growl growl…Just chew it up and spit it out…no…I, I, am losing…yeah…that’s it…climb those steps to the kitchen…this is your job! You have to be ready at all times…please…I can’t go on…have a small bowl of cereal it’s just one….I’m slipping…I’m losing…I can’t…if I can just hold out for 5 more minutes…OK.. I did that five…now start config’ing a router or do anything to keep busy. Oh my goodness! Are you kidding me? I was playing this game and I was fading fast.
Solve the Problem.
OK brain, you can suck it! you want something to think about…then I pulled one of my old college textbook “Calculus for Engineers” off the shelf (by Donald Trim…it has a Roller Coaster on the cover which I found actual very apropos) and when I started the hunger games, then I started doing Calculus problems over and over and over again. As a matter of fact I got so good I started tutoring my son, then him and his friends, than a whole group of high school kids were filing into the Code Cave for tutoring. They thought I was some kinda math wizard. Truth is… man, I was just hungry.
Is this where and why the other workouts failed? Kinda makes sense to me. If I work out yet still eat my normal amount of food my body is already used to a certain amount of calorie intake. Working out burns that off so I eat more, my body gets used to that , then I stop working out because I’m sore, feel worse, salmon are running, still mad about the cancellation of Firefly, whatever yet still eat a workout amount of food….fat city. Hmmmm….
It’s Working…it’s Working!
I stuck with it and slowly I stopped dreaming about food, my stomach stopped growling and the head having been abused with Bessel/Legendre functions just finally gave up. Oh it took a few months for sure. Each day was a little easier…just a little… measured by a Planck length but easier. I slowly got used to my new lifestyle. I’d have my gym clothes laid out in the morning, so when the alarm went off, I fumbled to the bathroom, dressed, grabbed my iPod and heading west to the gym, waking up as I pumped the crap out of that elliptical.
The data was proving that it was working. Each Saturday I watched the scale get lower and lower. 297à290à280à270…Then…yes then I moved the big block on the scale…wholly crap just typing this I remember that feeling of surprise… I wasn’t sore at all. I wasn’t tired either. Other than my wife and kids, I never told anyone what I was doing. Our TechWiseTV video editor Erik was the first person to notice. I just blew it off with yeah…a little and I changed the subject. Then our camera Dude Steffen said as I was changing out of my dry suit on a dive in San Diego “It looks like someone put your head on someone else’s body…are you working out?” I keep increasing my times on the elliptical and the bike, then the levels, adding sets (not much weight) to the machines and slowly as time passed I needed smaller pants and shirts…A tight size 40 waist became a 34…XXXL shirts became lose fitting XLs. Then others started noticing. I’d get emails from folks asking…”Ummm…Are you OK?” I know what the question they are not asking… However, the answer is no. There is nothing going on with me medically to cause this weight loss. Mentally, weeeelllll…. Anyone who decides to practice engineering for a living has to have some kinda psychosis going on…
I am now fully assimilated and reprogrammed. Waking before the alarm, scraping frost on the car windows, then snow, then ice, then leaves, watching wipers dance across the windshield…GO! GO! GO! The RecPlex staff started giving me the nod as I walked in now they call me by name as I do them. GO! GO! GO! Keep that heart rate in the cardio zone, never wait for machines. If someone was on my machine I needed next I immediately went to the next one or even adding a bonus machine working out until mine was free. No excuses. Keep moving forward. Keep that heart rate in the cardio zone. GO GO GO !!! Solve that Problem. Auto pilot engaged.
I noticed a few other side effects I honestly did not expect. I fit in airplane seats better, I don’t take Advil at night anymore. I used to take 3-4 for just aches and pains. Heck I thought it was just part of being 40. Not anymore. I don’t want a nap in afternoon, I don’t wear out shoes like I used to. My arches don’t hurt. A podiatrist told me I had Plantar Fasciitis. Not anymore. I sleep great and don’t have sleep apnea issues anymore . I used to have to take Viagra to bring the thunder. I thought it was just a sign of being 46 and I needed to start looking at Corvettes. Nope not anymore! When it’s supper I eat everything on the plate. And oh mercy do a take a (or actually leave) a load of friggen craps now! And when I do, it’s like record setting long turds that make me smile truthfully! Hey Mario, stop messin’ around with Donkey Kong and racing go karts and get your tail in here and unclog this toilet! I’m not a muscle bond Atlas so not much chance of me being on the cover of Muscle and Fitness…maybe Goober Weekly though. I did tone up and that’s cool. Man alive by the power of Gray Skull do I have the energy now! Although I am cold all the time!
A Disturbance In The Force
When I look back at pictures of me, I didn’t feel as fat as I looked. I felt great and I was happy. After the weight loss I’ve been able to do things I couldn’t before. Now I’m a licensed open wheel race car driver, I started rock climbing, I’m working on my class A skydiving license, I’m a Rescue SCUBA Diver, I ran in my first Tough Mudder in September, I started aerobatic flying again plus I have a couple a things on the horizon I want to write about later. Weight loss opened a world that wasn’t available to me. People even treat you differently.
I didn’t realize just how personal this would be. Gaining weight involved a lifestyle and habits I gradually developed over time that I really didn’t know I had. No it was not as simple as hitting the gym a few times a week and cutting back on food. The head games were tough man and that was hands down the most difficult part. I’ m sure a bunch of workout routines will work for folks. The problem is none really prepare you for the mental aspect of it. This required an about face on my lifestyle and retrain myself into a new one. My recommendation would to be to stick with it. Don’t get caught up in the minute details like cardio first or weights first or stretching between this or that. Your mind is strong and a real tricky son of a gun. Be honest with yourself, only YOU know your truth and if your cheating or cutting corners. Adm. Gracie Hopper said it correct all those years ago; “Garbage In, Garbage Out” Fight it and push thru. Too me, I’m not training for the Olympics (or anything really),so that level of precision is not gonna matter just get up on the machine and start working it. Heck hire a trainer if you need too. It’s money and time well spent. Be consistent, Measure your results, write it down, be patient and give it time and STFU. Folks don’t want to hear you talk about it all the time on social media sites or at parties. Don’t reach out for validation from others, do it for you. Do it for the health of it. It’s only you on the scale and hearing the lab results. You keep you going on when everything says stop.
The Greater Good…
So Jimmy Ray if don’t want the attention, why are you posting this..huh.!!huh!!! why!! why!!! Great question and there are two answers. First many folks ask me how I did it. Look, I’m nothing special. I’m just a regular Dude. I took no supplements (other than a Centrum Silver) no fad diet crap or try to sweat off the weight with sauna suits (which is very dangerous). There is no secret or alien Area 51 hacked data I have received from underground sources. I kept it simple and keep on keeping on…x3 a week without excuse. Whether I travel anywhere in the world or I’m on vacation, I get my butt out of bed, hit the gym, then start my day. This is honestly what I still do. Second; is a true selfish reason. Now that I put this out there, I have to stick with it. This post holds me accountable.
Look, I’m not a trainer or a fitness guru. I don’t read any of the fitness mags, websites or even care. I don’t not judge anyone’s workout routine or give advice. I’m not qualified to do that because I just don’t know. I do know what works for me. For the health of it baby, for the health of it. I continue to fine-tune and adjust my routine to be challenging and fun. As my body adapts, I modify. I do this by looking at my heart rate. If it is below 139-142 BPM, then I up a level or add another set. Simple. As an engineer, I have a ton of other complicated stuff in my day to day. My workout is my escape, my doorway to simple. I really enjoy it too! It’s fun and I never feel like I’m “crawling out of the gym” Why complicate it and ruin a good thing? My Doctor is very pleased with my lab work. He says I have the lab work of a 20 year old man but the baldness of a 48 year old one…so…there’s that…
Keep ‘um Flyin’
So here I sit in Barcelona Spain 17Oct13; my two year anniversary on the start of all this. I just finished a workout in a crappy hotel gym. My lifestyle has changed for sure. Yep, I read labels now. I don’t understand most of the stuff on them and see just how silly a serving size is (marketing…). I really look at fat, sugar grams and calories Like any good engineer, I love numbers and track and plot my workouts with Six Sigma precision. I know something the cost me 500 calories wipes out 35 minutes I did at level 14 on the elliptical. Is it worth that? If yes, munch away. I eat plenty of rabbit food as well as fruit and found a real taste for stuff I used to turn my nose up to. Eating healthy and traveling is tough. I normally go to the market my first day in a town and buy fresh fruit, juice for breakfast and sometimes other meals depending on location. When I pack my clothes the first thing laid out is my gym clothes. I pick hotels based on their gym or distance to a gym. I’m up to 2:30 hours in the gym of cardio and weights. My original goal has not changed at all. I’m still Solving the Problem and doing everything I initially designed. I use a Polar heart monitor (FT40) now to ensure I’m always in the cardio zone and now I actually mentally solve and think thru my work day while working out. Heck man, I mentally wrote this blog working out then came back to the Code Cave to put it on paper. If you see me in the gym, I not being a stuck up dickweed ignoring you, I’m just deep in my head…
Solving the Problem.
Jimmy Ray Purser
Trivia File Transfer Protocol
Buddy Ebsen “Jed”of The Beverly Hillbillies was cast as The Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz but had to drop out when he discovered he was allergic to the silver make up.