Three Sizes Down

PFP is proud to share a weight loss story from our own gym member Phil. Weight loss journeys are often portrayed as incredible feats. We as a society tend to focus on the outcome of such journeys – like being three sizes down. But those going through them know all too well it isn’t an easy process.

Three Sizes Down

As of the end of October, I’m now wearing clothes in a Large size. At the start of last December, in the same brand and line of clothing, I was wearing XXXL.

In the same time period, my waistline has gone from 48″ to 40″. I’ve dropped 68 pounds in weight (just under 5 stone; about 31 kg). I’m 42 years old and my profession is sedentary (computer work).

There is no magic diet, no trendiness. Just work at the gym with highly competent trainers, combined with counting what I eat, trying to aim to keep it balanced. For the last part, the MyFitnessPal app is all I’ve used. It was recommended by Alissa, of Pittsburgh Fitness Project. The other digital app I use is the Health app (part of iOS) for just tracking weight & body-fat & BMI over time.

What’s Important?

I can’t say that one part of the combination is more important than any other, so I’ll just recount the parts.

I’ve been working out with Tom Duer, of PFP, for many years now. I’m asthmatic and he’s capably handled that. I’ve unfortunately normally been either traveling for work or on call for work and unable to safely schedule time for myself on those weeks. In combination, I’d train two to three times a week, for probably half the weeks of the year, scattered about. It wasn’t consistent, but it helped build up some strength and stamina while improving my technique from “non-existent” to “not too bad”. I went from wheezing every time I did anything strenuous, to “occasionally needing to use the inhaler”.

I’m now working a job with no on-call and no travel, so I can schedule a time to be at the gym, consistently. Three times a week. This led to the novel experience of asking about taking a break for one week, “Is it really okay?”. Yes, a week to recover every now and again is not a bad thing. 🙂

My Problem…

This got my strength up, but still hidden deep within layers of fat. My problem was my appetite and that various diet attempts had left me deeply hungry or even in physical pain. I couldn’t push my calorie intake much under 3000 calories a day. I’d tried the MyFitnessPal app and kept it up for a while but my OCD won out with my frustration at being unable to be precise. This did at least give me experience with it, and gave me the chance to reflect and learn to let go; so that when I picked it back up, I could go with “meh, close enough”

In December 2017, I was ill with one of those flu-type bugs going around. I lost 10 pounds. That’s happened before, I’ve always put it back on afterward despite my best efforts. This time, I got lucky with timing and saw my Primary Care Provider (Doctor, GP) in early January for my annual checkup and he suggested an appetite suppressant medication. I was skeptical, “Do those really work, aren’t they all snake oil?” and he assured me that modern prescription weight-loss drugs do seem to work. My doctor did check that I was getting regular exercise and was reassured by my description of PFP and its approach.

As an aside: beware of insurance for blood-work panels for weight-loss baselines, as they’re not covered even under some Gold level insurance plans. That was $1000 I won’t get back. 🙁 Talk to your Doctor _carefully_ about such matters.

The Side-Effects

I experienced probably every side-effect listed for the medication. Around 25 days in, they got severe, to the level of “seek immediate medical attention for this allergic reaction”. I did, I ended up almost mainlining Benadryl for a week to recover. So I didn’t get to take the recommended second month of the medication, but between the illness and one month, it was enough.

I’m not a medical professional, but my layman’s understanding is that if you don’t eat enough food, your body can enter a kind of hibernation mode, where you store more energy and diet attempts become counter-productive. Here’s where MyFitnessPal started to shine while I was on the medication: by tracking what I was eating, I could see “that’s only 700 calories for the day, I _have_ to eat more” and get myself up to 1,200 or more calories and keep my body working more or less normally.

After leaving the medication behind, my appetite returned but … at much-reduced levels! Two months of restricted intake had worked. Working with PFP’s nutritionist, we set a goal of 2100 calories a day initially, later dropping to 1900; that’s low, but knowing the framework it’s in keeps me from obsessing and I don’t worry too much if I go up to 2100, 2200 calories some days: it’s not a break or a cheat, it just means that I’ll lose weight more slowly than I might.

Where I’m at Today

At this point, working with Tom and then Sandor at PFP started to suddenly reap dividends. I am now three sizes smaller. And I had to spend more money on new wardrobes, so would defer for as long as possible so that my summer wear would last through the summer, which it just barely did without becoming ridiculous. Our delayed onset of cold winter had me going clothes shopping at the end of October. In the store, I optimistically grabbed some Large clothes to try on, in addition to XL; I was berating myself a little for getting my hopes up. But I figured if I didn’t try then I wouldn’t know. But the Large fit better and the XL were too large. Happy Dance time!

I continue to track my nutrition. November has not been an easy month. I have not lost weight at all this month, which ends the streak. But I haven’t put _on_ weight either, and I’m optimistic for the coming few months. This year’s snow clearing has progressed more rapidly, with less sweat and suffering. I’m actually happy with how I look. Further, I’ve realized that part of the reason I wasn’t engaging in social hobbies so much was a lack of self-confidence caused by body image issues. As I’ve moved towards a healthier weight my confidence has come back. And I’ve started taking lessons and classes and to have more fun, in topics having nothing to do with health.

My goal remains the same as when I first started working with Tom: to one day be able to bench-press at least my own body-weight. I don’t care where in the middle the figure meets, as long as the numbers match. I’m getting ever closer.

-Phil Pennock

PFP Is Here to Help You!

While your fitness goals, injuries, health history, and path in life are unique to you, personal trainers here at the Pittsburgh Fitness Project can guarantee that we hold you accountable when it comes to reaching your goals.  As part of this process, we have instituted monthly fitness assessments for all clients so they can track progress, reassess goals and add new ones.

Schedule your free fitness evaluation today by clicking here!  Let’s get started.

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