fitness update: the tale of the tape

| 8 Comments

Two weeks ago, I decided to shift from the more flexible approach to getting fit outlined in Pam Peeke's Body for Life for Women book to the more prescriptive approach in Bill Phillips' original Body for Life book. I did this after seeing how well the latter program was already starting to work for my husband.

At this two-week mark, I'm pretty amazed by the results. The scale shows a drop of only 3 pounds--from 136.5 to 133.5. But the tale of the tape (as they say in boxing) is more striking. I've lost nearly 2" from my waist, and 1" each from my bust, hips, and thighs. My arms have stayed the same, but I suspect that's because of the muscle being added. I can totally feel the difference in how my clothes fit. Beyond that, I also feel more energetic, more balanced. (Gerald's results have been even more impressive, but that's his story to tell, not mine.)

So, how does it work? It's pretty straightforward. Six days a week you exercise, alternating a high-intensity 20 minute cardio workout on one day with a 40-45 minute weight training routine the next. For the weights, you alternate between upper body one day and lower the next, using a formula for increasing intensity--12 reps at a relatively easy weight, followed by 10 at a higher weight, 8 at the next higher, 6 at the next higher, then 12 at a lower weight followed immediately (no 1-minute break like the others) by 12 of a different exercise for the same muscle group. The goal is to hit a point by the last rep where you absolutely, positively, couldn't do another rep if your life depended on it. (He provides downloadable PDF worksheets on his web site, which makes it easy to keep track of your progress and plan your workout for the next day.)

The recommendation is to do this on an empty stomach, and then to wait an hour afterwards before eating--to ensure maximum fat-burning. So getting the workout done first thing in the morning makes the most sense, and also lets you get it out of the way for the rest of the day.

On the food side, Phillips recommends that you eat 5-6 small meals a day--eating every 3 hours or so. Each meal is supposed to have both a healthy carb and some protein, with the emphasis being on reasonable portion sizes rather than calorie counting. Veggies can be eaten with any meal, in whatever quantity you like. He particularly encourages the use of protein/health bars for the in-between meals, and that's worked well for me. I've become quite the expert on the different brands and flavors, and have finally found a few that I genuinely enjoy rather than tolerating.

The plan allows for one "cheat day" a week, during which you can eat whatever foods you want, and yesterday I indulged in french fries at lunch, and potato chips and a white roll with my burger at dinner. Turns out my body really doesn't like those refined carbs much anymore, and I felt like crap by bedtime. Interestingly, I've had almost no cravings for sweets since starting the program, and wasn't the least bit tempted by my kids' milkshakes and ice cream after lunch.

This is a 12-week plan, at the end of which you can assess where you are and decide if you want to reduce the intensity of the weight training. But I suspect that the dietary changes that Gerald and I are making aren't going to end after 12 weeks. It's clearly improving our quality of life, and that's not just a short term goal. More importantly, this feels sustainable. We're eating foods we enjoy, and we don't feel hungry at all during the day. This is nothing like "diets" I've been on in the past--it feels like a low-level shift in our way of thinking about food and eating.

More updates to come.

8 Comments

I am very proud of you Liz. I can't wait to see the change in progress at SXSW!

It sounds like you are doing really well with the system. Good for you.

You mention your kids having milkshakes and you also say "it feels like a low-level shift in our way of thinking about food and eating." Wouldn't it be good for you to try and get the kids to have the shift in mindset also, so they will be healthy from the start instead of needing/wanting to change their habits later in life like you are doing?

Hi Liz,

I'd like to share with you my experience with BFL. A few years ago, I did "the Challenge". I was very faithful and had great results. However, being an all or nothing type of person, I also suffered from Bill's plan. I took literally the "couldn't do another rep if your life depended on it" philosophy and pushed myself extremely hard. Was I supposed to push until I passed out? If I stopped short of that, then I wasn't meeting the "if my life depended on it" standard. Where was the line between pushing beyond what you think you can do and injury? I did injure myself (my knees with lifting too much weight in squats, and the front of my shoulder with very heavy arm weights). By the end of the 3 months, although I had lost 10 pounds of fat, gained 10 pounds of muscle, was tan and looked great, I had intense sugar cravings and an injured body.

What I learned from my BFL experience is that moderation, at least for me, is what is sustainable. Push yes, but not until you just can't move anymore (maybe that's obvious to other people!). Also, most important LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Let it inform you when you've gone far enough and don't let an artificial goal override what your body is saying. My 2 cents for what it's worth.

I am following your story as I'd love to see how you do over time. I hope it works for you.

Thoughtful comments--thanks!

Jarrod, in fact the kids' eating is shifting along with ours--in large part because the food in our house and at our meals is different than it used to be. But I also know that if I forbid sweets of any kind, they'll simply become desirable contraband. The shift has to come from body chemistry, not from external decree, and I know that the best thing I can do for the boys is to set the right example for them. Their habits won't change in 2 weeks, but they will change over time. (Most days my kids are as happy to snack on fresh fruit or nuts or yogurt as they are processed sweets.)

And Leslie, I totally agree about the moderation. I'm probably not pushing myself as hard as Phillips recommends, or even as hard as my husband is pushing himself. But I'm definitely feeling as though this level of effort is sustainable, and that I'm already seeing healthy changes in my body and my mind. (The lack of sugar cravings for me is a huge and welcome change from the past.)

I know from past experience that the critical thing for me is to make this kind of exercise a regular part of my daily routine, and the BFL program is helping me to establish that.

The piece that's different--and better--this time is that Gerald's doing it with me, and that makes it much easier to change the kinds of food available in the house. Last time I was serious about working out and losing weight, I was surrounded by unhealthy foods in the house. This time it's much much easier to make good choices for snacks.

It's good that you've been thinking about their forming healthy eating habits along with you. I just wanted to point out the idea just in case you hadn't thought about it. I would be a much healthier person now if my parents had put effort into healthy eating as I was growing up.

for calf cramps, try calcium and magnesium tabs; the cramps will get worse as you loose more weight. the vegies will help.

dandalion greens mixed with spinach, boiled and softened available at all times, and served with lemon. this is a natural filler that is low carb, and low calorie. have it available if the binges, or polyphagia gets you. polyphagia is often related to a larger than normal carb load with the after effects of insulin spikes: caffiene can contribute to insulin spikes as well.

pure flat leaf parsely salad will accelarate fat burning. a bowl size is filling as well. the taste is a bit off, but can be used for a middle east night; meat balls with cumin is a nice protien load.

--stef

A High-Protein Diet Induces Sustained Reductions in Appetite, Ad Libitum Caloric Intake, and Body Weight Despite Compensatory Changes In Diurnal Plasma Leptin and Ghrelin Concentrations.
Weigle DS, Breen PA, et al:
Am J Clin Nutr; 2005; 82 (July): 41-48

Background: The newer Atkins and South Beach diets promote reduced carbohydrates. However, they also have a higher protein content. Objective: To test the hypothesis that increasing the protein content while maintaining the carbohydrate content of a diet decreases appetite and caloric intake, resulting in weight loss. Design: Prospective clinical trial. Participants: 19 healthy adults who were normal weight to overweight but not obese. The average age was 41 years. Methods: For the first 2 weeks, the subjects were provided prepared, weight-maintaining meals, with 15% protein, 35% fat, and 50% carbohydrate. The next 2 weeks, an isocaloric diet was provided with 30% protein, 20% fat, and 50% carbohydrate. Finally, for the last 12 weeks, an ad lib diet (patients could eat as much or as little as desired of the prepared meals of 30% protein, 20% fat, and 50% carbohydrate). Subjects kept logs of satiety and appetite while weight was monitored. Results: When the diet was changed after the first 2 weeks to the higher protein, lower fat diet, satiety increased and appetite decreased. Weight did not change since subjects continued to consume all the provided calories. However, during the ad lib portion of the study, calorie consumption decreased by 440 calories/day and subjects lost 4.9 kg during these last 12 weeks. Despite a decrease in leptin, appetite decreased on the higher protein diet, suggesting increased central nervous system sensitivity to the leptin. Conclusions: An increase in dietary protein from 15% to 30% while keeping carbohydrates at 50% results in increased satiety, decreased appetite, and significant weight loss sustained over 12 weeks. Reviewer's Comments: The authors suggest it is the increased protein in effective diet regimens that suppresses appetite, not a reduction in carbohydrates. (Reviewer–Alan M. Siegal, MD).

The Effects of Low-Carbohydrate Versus Conventional Weight Loss Diets in Severely Obese Adults: One-Year Follow-Up of a Randomized Trial.
Stern L, Iqbal N, et al:
Ann Intern Med; 2004; 140 (May 18): 778-786

Background: The obesity epidemic has resulted in a million-dollar industry for proponents of the low-carbohydrate (low-carb) diet. Physicians have been hesitant to jump on this bandwagon because of presumed harm to lipid parameters and thus cardiovascular risk. Objective: To compare data at 1 year regarding weight loss and lipid parameters between patients on a low-carb diet and those on a low-fat diet. Design: Randomized trial. Participants: 132 persons aged >=18 years with a body mass index (BMI) >=35 kg/m2. Methods: 64 patients were randomly assigned to follow a low-carbohydrate diet plan consisting of A High-Protein Diet Induces Sustained Reductions in Appetite, Ad Libitum Caloric Intake, and Body Weight Despite Compensatory Changes In Diurnal Plasma Leptin and Ghrelin Concentrations.
Weigle DS, Breen PA, et al:
Am J Clin Nutr; 2005; 82 (July): 41-48

Background: The newer Atkins and South Beach diets promote reduced carbohydrates. However, they also have a higher protein content. Objective: To test the hypothesis that increasing the protein content while maintaining the carbohydrate content of a diet decreases appetite and caloric intake, resulting in weight loss. Design: Prospective clinical trial. Participants: 19 healthy adults who were normal weight to overweight but not obese. The average age was 41 years. Methods: For the first 2 weeks, the subjects were provided prepared, weight-maintaining meals, with 15% protein, 35% fat, and 50% carbohydrate. The next 2 weeks, an isocaloric diet was provided with 30% protein, 20% fat, and 50% carbohydrate. Finally, for the last 12 weeks, an ad lib diet (patients could eat as much or as little as desired of the prepared meals of 30% protein, 20% fat, and 50% carbohydrate). Subjects kept logs of satiety and appetite while weight was monitored. Results: When the diet was changed after the first 2 weeks to the higher protein, lower fat diet, satiety increased and appetite decreased. Weight did not change since subjects continued to consume all the provided calories. However, during the ad lib portion of the study, calorie consumption decreased by 440 calories/day and subjects lost 4.9 kg during these last 12 weeks. Despite a decrease in leptin, appetite decreased on the higher protein diet, suggesting increased central nervous system sensitivity to the leptin. Conclusions: An increase in dietary protein from 15% to 30% while keeping carbohydrates at 50% results in increased satiety, decreased appetite, and significant weight loss sustained over 12 weeks. Reviewer's Comments: The authors suggest it is the increased protein in effective diet regimens that suppresses appetite, not a reduction in carbohydrates. (Reviewer–Alan M. Siegal, MD).

The Effects of Low-Carbohydrate Versus Conventional Weight Loss Diets in Severely Obese Adults: One-Year Follow-Up of a Randomized Trial.
Stern L, Iqbal N, et al:
Ann Intern Med; 2004; 140 (May 18): 778-786

Background: The obesity epidemic has resulted in a million-dollar industry for proponents of the low-carbohydrate (low-carb) diet. Physicians have been hesitant to jump on this bandwagon because of presumed harm to lipid parameters and thus cardiovascular risk. Objective: To compare data at 1 year regarding weight loss and lipid parameters between patients on a low-carb diet and those on a low-fat diet. Design: Randomized trial. Participants: 132 persons aged >=18 years with a body mass index (BMI) >=35 kg/m2. Methods: 64 patients were randomly assigned to follow a low-carbohydrate diet plan consisting of

Julie, so far I've found that I like the Luna bars best, as well as the "crisp" versions of the Pria, EAS and South Beach bars. In general, I like the bars that are crispy rather than chewy; I don't care for the texture or flavor of most of the chewy ones.

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This page contains a single entry published on February 6, 2006 9:20 AM.

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