Friday, February 29, 2008


"So, what started it?"

That's the question I got from a co-worker yesterday while we were on our way to another employee's retirement party. (Yes, cake and punch were served and yes I did have some, but more on that later.) As we chatted, I realized that it would probably be a good idea to give a quick account of how we got started and how you probably can too.

Truth be told, this is something I have been thinking about for years, ever since I had stopped really running after getting married. I had been in pretty good shape at a couple of points in my life and now that I wasn't I lamented letting that slip away. Note, I say lamented, not regretted - I found that beating myself up for getting through school, working, becoming a dad, and generally being busy wasn't a good thing. ;) And it never is. So remember that.

The catalyst that finally got me moving was an article that I read on a website last week called A Calorie Counter. It had one piece of information that finally broke down my resistance to starting. It explained a very simple concept that I as an engineer instinctively understand. As an engineer with a background in thermodynamics, I would call it an energy balance. Every health professional and trainer calls it counting calories.

Basically, what comes in has to balance with what goes out and what gets stored. So, 3000 calories comes in and 2500 get used, where does the other 500 go? It gets stored, and in our bodies' case, that storage is called affectionately love handles, spare tires, baby fat, chubbiness, or honey-do-these-pants-make-me-look-fat depending on who you are or who you ask.

It gets stored as fat. Period. That's it. And the reverse is also true. If I only eat 2000 and burn 2500 through exercise, sitting, laughing, playing with my daughter, etc. where did that extra 500 come from? From storage. It has to! It's a physical law called the 1st Law of Thermodynamics. There's not other way around it. Plain, simple, easy. No plans, no books, no gym membership, no personal trainers required. You balance what you take in and you can control weight to have to go up, come down or stay the same.

As soon as I read and understood that, it all made sense! I could do this. It was just about book keeping, and I had gotten good doing that with personal finances over the previous months.

And I'd recommend starting in the same place. Start with A Calorie Counter's Nutrition Articles, particularly The Ultimate Weight Loss Guide. Start there, then keep going.

Now, I mentioned cake. Yes, I did have some at the party - one slice, a little smaller than what I normally eat, and I can tell you, by the time I was done, I was sick to my stomach. Sick physically and sick just knowing how many calories were in that not-very tasty piece of mass-produced cake. It was even worse that night when I got home to my favorite meal and had to worry the whole meal if I was going to eat too much and push myself over my calorie limit. Turns out I was okay because of my decisions not to snack earlier, but it really showed me how not desirable sweets were.

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