Shadowing myself: Getting fit as I approach my 50th birthday

On January 7th I turned 49 years old. I weighed 325 pounds, was still recovering from knee surgery almost two years earlier, back problems a year earlier, and generally felt closer to 70 than 50.

My wife, Doreen, had been walking at lunch with some of her colleagues at work for some time, and she had decided to make some other changes to see if she could lose some weight as well. Her early success helped motivate me to make a similar decision, and that evening, I decided that I didn’t want to weigh 325 pounds when I turned 50. I decided I wanted to lose 100 pounds and weigh 225 on my 50th birthday.

I’ve lost weight before. A few times I’ve lost 30 or 40 pounds using one dieting technique or another, but eventually I grew tired or frustrated with the big changes or deprivations and went back to my old habits. I also rarely did much in the way of serious exercise in tandem with the eating changes.

Today is July 7th. Six months to go to my 50th birthday. So I got on the scale (which I do about once a week) this morning after my bike ride: 276.9! I’m down 48 pounds from January 7th! Not quite exactly halfway to 100, but damn close.

Here’s a photo from last year’s Rotary Parade in downtown Port Huron in July 2011, and a photo taken today with me wearing the same t-shirt:

I started counting calories, every meal, every day, on the day after my birthday. Doreen was using a web site called MyFitnessPal, which also has iOS and Android apps so it’s easy to track when you’re out. They have a huge database of foods, most added by MyFitnessPal users, and you can add your own as well. When I started using it, I decided to enter the foods I’d eaten on my birthday. When I was done, I discovered I’d consumed over 6,600 calories that day! (That’s not good.) And that wasn’t an aberration; it was a lot closer to a normal day for me.

The program suggested around 2100 calories a day initially. Now that I’m down almost 50 pounds, that number has dropped to 1780 per day in order to lose 1 1/2 to 2 pounds per week. At first, I went over the goal two or three times a week. Now that I’m quite used to the reduced calorie intake, I occasionally go over, but not more than once every couple weeks.*

Probably even more importantly, I joined the YMCA in Port Huron in February and worked out three times a week through early June. I’ve backed off the Y visits for the summer, but have started riding my bike instead. I did a lot of stationary biking at the gym so when I hit the road with my bike about three weeks ago, my legs were already in pretty decent shape. I’m riding 16 to 20 miles three times a week and enjoying it more than I ever have. I track my rides using MapMyRide, another web-based service that also has iOS and Android apps available. It uses my phone’s GPS to track my route, distance, pace and speed.

I feel great! I can run again without worrying about my knee going out or my back seizing up. I have a chin again. I’ve dropped from 44 inch waist jeans to 38s; I just bought some shirts in XL instead of the XXL I’ve been wearing for years. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been this fit. And I’ve got a long way still to go to next January.

I’ve had friends who haven’t seen me for awhile do double-takes. That’s a lot of fun!

Can I get to 225? I’m pretty sure I didn’t think so six months ago. I think so now. But I’m not competing against anyone except the guy I was on January 7, 2012. I’m still not the strongest, fastest, fittest man I can be, but I am beating the crap out of the guy on the couch I was on my birthday.

* Keep in mind, please, that I’m not a doctor. This isn’t medical advice. If you need to lose some serious weight, I recommend you see a doctor first (I did) so you can get solid medical advice. Also, while the calorie goals suggested by programs like MyFitnessPal are based on legitimate medical concepts, you also have to make sure you do eat at least a minimum number of calories each day, which varies by gender and current weight, but is usually somewhere around 1200 to 1500 calories per day. Don’t trade one eating problem for another!

Author: Tom Kephart

Actor, director, writer. Social media guy. Higher ed drone. Sings for beer in karaoke bars.

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