Monday, May 2, 2016

Weight and Fat

The original purpose and reason to start walkng back in September 2012 was to recover from a pinched Sciatic nerve in July which left me flat on my back for most of a week and unable to sit, stand or walk for very long for a month.

I spent that August walking short distances and recovering, before starting 2-3 miles walks. The back specialist then said surgery wasn't an option, which he didnt' recommend anyway as the relief from most surgeries are short-lived and leave a lifetime of lingering effects on the vertebra.

I've since had a MRI on the lower back in May 2015 (first in July 2012) and the (different) back specialist (specializing in sports injuries and the like) found more degeneration of the lower vertebra, normal for an aging back, but found the compression to have improved, still there but far less.

The fact then I had no pain was a surprise but attributed to the walking. But that's not the point with this post. It's about losing weight and fat. In July 2012 I weighed around 190 lbs, and for a 5' 9", early 60's man, you can imagine it was a lot of "extra" weight, aka fat.

At the time I didn't realize I had gained so much weight and fat. In June of 2006 I weighed about 155 lbs. I was running 15-20 miles a week and hiking 1-2 weekends a month. But then I reduced the running and hiking while taking some medicine for a medical condition.

The combination of the two lead to the weight gain. I had a clue of somehing wrong with the Sciatic nerve in June 2011 with my left leg went numb for 6 weeks. I had enough feeling to walk but not much else, but it went away and life continued.

So when I started walking I had no idea how much weight and fat I could lose or how fast it would be since all I was doing was walking. I stopped training with free weights for fear of hurting the back. But over time I noticed I was losing weight, so I upped the miles to 8 per day, 20+ days a month.

It wasn't until I reached 160 lbs I really noticed the differences in the body, mostly losing fat. This is where it started being interesting how and where on my body I lost fat. It's nothing as they advertise or write about losing fat with this or that training method or device.

In fact, quite the opposite. I lost most of the initial fat from the intramusclar and outer (skin) fat in the legs since that's the muscles walking uses. But then I started to lose fat around the body, such as the arms, hips, etc. everywhere except the chest and abdomen.

I learned the last place I lose fat is the chest and stomach, and even that's been uneven at best. When I thought I had lost most of, if not all, of the fat in the legs and around the body last year, I began to lose the fat around the waist (top of hip bones) and the chest and abdomen.

Until I got to about 145-150 lbs when I started losing fat in the legs and around the body again. Not fat I regained but fat that was still there. Not a lot, but enough to be obvious there was fat there before and not there now.

This has left most of the fat left on the chest and abdomen, and it's begun to come down again, but not very fast for two reasons, one obvious and one I learned of late. The first is the simple fact, I'm walking less miles per trip and less miles every month, so the distance isn't there to lose more.

Second is that with less weight it takes fewer calories to walk the same distance even at the same pace (14-15 minute per mile pace). So I'm not burning enough calories every trip and every month to keep the pace of weight and fat loss as before.

While some some would argue I can increase the weight I carry in the backpack, which is the plan for this summer, to add 5-10 lbs (free weights or water) or add miles to the trips. For now, both aren't possible with some health issues which allows me just enough to walk 6 miles with 10-15 lbs in the backpack.

The third is that I've learned that my metabolic rate has likely dropped due to the lower weight and better fitness level. This means the body needs fewer calories to work. This includes the basal (rest) metabolic rate (BMR), so overall I'm burning fewer calories, less coming from the fat I still carry.

This means after getting to near 140 lbs, it will take a lot more trips and miles to lose the last 5-7+ lbs of fat I want to lose. In additon, I'm also battling my genes. Yes, those pesking things which determines how much and the distribution of fat your body wants to normally carry.

Research has established it's easy to get to your "normal" body fat and weight level, but it's harder to get below it, so you have to exercise more or harder for each pound than being above your normal body weight and fat level. It's also easier to regain the weight and fat if you stop or don't keep the pace for losing it.

When you pair your genes and physiology losing weight and fat below the normal level takes a lot more work and/or time. This is showing as the rate of weight and fat lose in the last year, and especially this year, has slowed taking more miles per pound.

And almost all the rest of the remaining fat is on the chest and abdomen, the most visible part of me, or anyone for that matter, so it's my goal for the summer to work on that by my 67th birthday in the fall, to lose most of, if not all, of the remaining weight and fat.

I'm not focusing on the weight specifically, that's the result of losing the fat, so focusing on losing the fat will lose the weight. I plan to use walking trips in May to test the body for the summer walks here. But I know when I get there I can't let up, or my genes and body will simply add it all back.

So I also have to plan for the longer term trips and walks to keep the fat off and the weight where I want to be. It's been surprising as I've gotten to 140-142 lbs, how good overall I feel. The goal is to be  135-138 lbs which should keep the fat to the minimum and be able to manage any fat or weight gains.

And that's the last issue against the effort, simple age. The older you get past 60, the harder it takes to stay fit. The weight will take care of itself, I fight to fight my body just aging now on top of the rest of the issues against me.

In the end, it really just boils down to one thing, said by the back specialist, "Just get your ass out there and walk as far as you can as often as you can, and add a backpack and weight when you can." That I can do and keep doing.

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