Cofrin Park

Cofrin Park
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Friday, September 21, 2012

Weight Loss in Men Over 50: Case Study Part I (of II)

I'm doing a case study on weight loss in 2 men over age 50, who utilized vastly different strategies.

Chuck joined a program offered through Gainesville Health and Fitness, using the X-Force exercise machines and a diet protocol designed by Dr. Ellington Darden and his team. (Here’s an article that discusses Dr. Darden’s work:

Richard followed his own weight loss program that he designed for himself.

I am presenting this case study in a Q &A format, because I am offering this weight loss study as a personal story of inspiration, rather than as a template for losing weight. These stories are as much about personal transformation in men over age 50, as they are about weight loss, muscle gain and overall health improvements.

How did they succeed? They made a decision, and from that decision, all the details and success flowed.

Today is Richard’s story. Here is how Richard answered my burning questions:

1)  Richard, you have shrunk since I met you, but in a good way. You look amazing, having reached and maintained your goal weight. How did you do it? What evil magic do you possess?

Ann, it is going to take a little time to answer all of your questions. Some of them I will have to think about to give you an accurate history, as my diet and routine has changed a number of times and is still changing. It is an on going process. No, I posses no evil or magic powers. (Well maybe a little evil) LOL.

I lost 70 lbs in less than 8 months. It mostly took a strong will and determination. I have been told I am stubborn, and I used that to my benefit.

2)  How did you get started?
I started my journey on the 1st of December 2011. I was going through a failed long term marriage. I was very over weight and depressed and drinking too much.

During that period, my 4 year old grandson told me I was fat. I was a heart attack waiting to happen. Had I stayed on the track I was on, I would be dead by now or be suffering with severe health issues.  

The first thing I had to do was stop the alcohol, knowing that it would help reduce the depression and also help me come to terms with the changes that were going on in my life. No alcohol consumption also cut calorie intake. Remember, alcohol is high in calories and is digested before food. It also takes longer to digest and immediately turns to sugar. It does help to do without, but that is to each person’s choice. 

I knew some exercise would help as well.

I began by eating better foods and evaluating the amount of calories I was taking in each day. I bookmarked a site that gave me a calorie chart. I didn't count calories exactly, I just took mental note of my daily calorie intake. I started eating good cereals and real oatmeal and fruits for breakfast. I would eat eggs only twice a week for breakfast. At lunch, I would have hard-boiled eggs yogurt, fruits, even an occasional peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Dinners, I cut my portions and tried to eat before 6:00 pm. In the evenings I would limit ice cream to 1/2 cup before 7:00 pm. 
I cut out white foods completely, at first. No rice, potatoes or breads. Eventually, if I did have bread, it was whole grain (and only once or twice a week.)

I switched to black coffee. Now I can't drink coffee any other way as I find sweeteners make it taste bitter. I drink a lot of water and decaffeinated teas with honey. I switched from sugar as a sweetener to honey. Honey and cinnamon have many health benefits, and I use them on cereal, oatmeal, waffles French toast, etc.

 When I first started to do any exercise it was a type of sit-up: lie flat on your back then lift your lower and upper body off the ground about 6", with hands locked behind head and elbows out. Cross pull the left knee in and touch the right elbow. As the left leg straightens, bring the right knee in and touch with the left elbow. I started with 2 sets of 15 every morning. It took me nearly six weeks before I could get my elbows to touch my knees. Once that happened I knew I was getting somewhere. By that time, I had lost about 25 pounds. That was how I got started.

3)  How did you come up with your model for such success--over 70 pounds lost in less than a year, right?

My goal was to lose 60 lbs by my 60th birthday, which I did, and more. 

 I didn't really try to follow a certain model. I knew from a past weight loss experience I did a couple of years ago, that getting off the heavy breakfasts and trying to eat my evening dinners early was a good start. I also complied with the Dolly Parton idea of smaller portions. But, unlike the last time I got on the weight lose train, I changed the idea of eating dinner from before 4pm to before 6pm. That way I wasn't starting to get hungry at bedtime. The meal time frame also allowed for better digestion. Drinking water would help satisfy most hunger cravings—that’s when determination comes in. Really, after a week or two, the body adjusts and it becomes more routine. 

When I first started, my evening dinners were salads, but not just simple salads. I would use a variety of veggies  and always added a protein. I added hard boiled eggs, tuna, chicken, anchovies or finely sliced steak. Occasionally I grilled a small portion of BBQ ribs, served with a salad.  Go light on the dressing. I use very little salt. I also cooked fish in butter and lime juice. When I felt I needed a change, I bought a new steamer and started steaming my veggies, which I have always liked. Today I eat more steamed veggies than salads. They are so good.

Eating slowly and chewing your food well is also good. You will get full on less food. Stop when you are starting to feel full. Leftovers provided a snack the next day.

Again, as I mentioned in question # 1, I kept a mental note of the calories I was taking in. I wasn't going to try to document every calorie; I kept aware of the approximate amount of calories per serving. I knew I could eat 2200 calories a day and not gain weight. To lose weight, I would have to eat less than that. If I went out for meals or had more calories once in a while, I wouldn't worry about it. I’d make a small adjustment the next day.

One thing that really helped was living alone. It's harder to do a weight loss program if two people are living together and one wants to eat one way and the other doesn't. That is partially why my weight loss attempt failed in 2010. This time, on average, I was losing about 2 pounds a week. 

Even though I wasn't doing an exercise program the first few months, I was active. Home remodeling and maintenance burns calories. I take care of both the inside and outside of my home, despite my disabilities. Of course, I also now have about a 45 minute exercise routine.

I lost 70 pounds in eight months, and plan to stay at my goal weight of 170 lbs. Recently, I was sick and went down to 165. I was too thin and needed to put the 5 pounds back on. That took over a week. So, maintaining can be a challenge—not to gain any back, but also not to lose anymore.

I have had to re-evaluate my eating habits because of the exercise program and my other activities that burn more calories. 

I can't really say I followed any certain model. Common sense eating has a lot to do with my success. I have tried not to deny myself the treats I enjoy: ice cream, fine dark chocolates, cake and pastries. That is where moderation and discipline come in. 3 truffles are about 230 calories, so go from there. Know the calorie content and moderate. I know stopping at 3 truffles or 1 small slice of cake or 1/2 cup of ice cream can be hard to do, but that's where the will power has to kick in. Eat them slowly and enjoy them. You are not denying yourself, just limiting the amount. 

4)  What changes did you make along the way?

I have made many changes along the way. As you well know, I have been through a very lengthy and somewhat messy divorce. So many of the changes in my life were necessary for me to be able to be a functioning person. I knew I had to become the person inside of me that needed and wanted to be a healthy and fit man. I wanted change. I just kept my mind on the fact that losing weight, for me, meant better health.

It was a matter of giving up little things here and there. At times, I would get frustrated because I would want to lose more and my body was saying no. That is part of the process. Again, quitting alcohol was a major player. It has major calories and if you drink a little you are gonna say screw it, and eat until you are pigged out. It was just like when I quit smoking—if I had a drink, I’d say “screw it,” and continue to smoke.

My weight loss process wasn't a science; it was more of an understanding and included the WILL to do it. Yes, I have added exercise to it, but most of that was after I got under 180 lbs. I was getting too scrawny, and except for the sit-ups, I really didn't do much else (which was my plan.)

When I was still over 200 lbs, I remember you talking to me about doing some weight training. I would tell you that I would add weight training when I was ready. Even now I don't go over board on it. I feel that at my age, I want to be strong and toned for a man of my age. I am in it for my health, and not to compete with anyone. 

5)  What was your routine? What is it now?

You sure do ask a lot of questions LOL. You are making me think, that's not like me.
Before I decided to lose weight I didn't really have a routine. I just did what I wanted when I wanted and ate what I wanted.
When I decided I wanted to get healthy, I knew that calorie intake, portions, and early evening meal times had worked for me before. I have stayed with that routine. It has worked. My body has become very accustom to it. It was a challenge for a while, but is just everyday normal now.

The exercise routine I follow today:
I start with neck, shoulder, arm and hand/wrist stretches. Then I work my way down to some hip, hamstring, calf and foot stretches.
1st of 3 sets of floor exercises, which include 2 different types of sit-ups totaling 200.
I get on all 4's for back leg extensions. That is my 1st set of floor exercises.
Next to the dumbbells:
Triceps, 10lbs each arm, separately.
Bicep curls, alternating arms about 20 lbs.
Triceps 2 handed behind the neck,20 lbs.
Then I go outside and do the long bar, 60lbs: 10 behind the head presses, 10 curls, 10 over head front presses.
I repeat the process for 2 more sets. This takes me a little less than an hour. 

I have just started riding my bike again in the last 2 weeks. Biking is something I can do that doesn't kill my feet and leave me in more pain the rest of the day. I have worked my way up to about 10 miles. It’s so good to get out in nature with all the miles of paved and natural trails surrounding where I live. I would go nuts if I couldn't get out in the woods and enjoy nature. I saw 2 deer the other day. COOL! 
When I return home, I shower and meditate 20- 30 minutes. Meditation helps me spiritually. I try to meditate twice a day, however, I don't let it dictate my life.

I still have my disabilities and injuries to deal with, but I am 60 years old, and I played hard, so I pay for it. Life is still GOOD!

6)  Do you find it difficult to maintain?

No, it has become a way of life for me; I am very adaptable, so now it is just the way I live.

7)  Do you take supplements or medications?

I take daily, Centrum 50+
Vitamins B1, B complex, C, E and fish oil.

8) Why did it work for you this time? 
I believe my determination to succeed was key. I also found it easier to do, living by myself.  Diet is a misused word, it is Greek for "how you eat". So with that said, everybody is on a diet. When you change the way you eat, you change your lifestyle for the better.

Richard's before pictures:

Richard's after pictures:

If you have any questions for the guys, please post them in the comments!