Off my ASS for the SSA – The beginning

Today is the first day of my weight loss challenge with JT Eberhard. I’m already a day ahead, because JT is spent all day driving to his new home in Columbus, OH. Victory is mine! …Of course, he’ll probably more than make up for it with all the calories he burns unpacking. Hm.

Anyway, this isn’t going to turn into a weight loss blog, but I will, however, update you on my progress every Saturday, mainly so you can yell at me if I’ve been slacking off. For those who are concerned that I’m going to be frantically starving myself in an attempt to win a bet…don’t worry. I like food way too much to do that. And the goal isn’t just to lose weight – I live way too sedentary of a lifestyle, and I want to get in shape. I mean, my 64 year old father is infinitely more active than I am – he golfs or plays tennis every day. I mean, that’s great for him, but I shouldn’t be winded walking up hills at age 23.

My goal is to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week, since anything more than that 1. Isn’t healthy and 2. Isn’t sustainable. I’m going to adopt three basic healthy habits (though for more, totally check out Greta Christina’s Fat Positive Feminist Skeptical Diet):

1. Reduce pop consumption. No drinking pop while in lab or class, and no buying pop at the grocery store. I’m not strong willed enough to remove it entirely, but it’s better to have it be a treat at an occasional dinner than a staple.

2. Bring lunch to work at least 4 out of 5 days of the week. We have a cafe in our building that’s delicious, but it’s also totally fattening. Not only will this be healthier, but I’ll also save money.

3. Exercise for at least a half hour every day. I’m kind of a hermit and hate people watching me at the gym, so my two weapons of choice are EA Sports Active 2 (in the mail, recommended by a friend) and Dance Dance Revolution. I used to play DDR a ton in high school. In fact, me not playing it is pretty well correlated with me gaining weight. I played a half hour today, and man, do I suck after not practicing for so long. I’m motivated to exercise just so I can start scoring As on Heavy again.

Also, totally need to remember to wear my sports bra while playing. Didn’t really have boobs when I used to play…ouch. Quickly vetoed the idea of recording myself playing as proof, as much as some of my readers may enjoy that.

I bought a cheap scale too. The scientist in me is already annoyed by its accuracy and precision, but it’s good enough. I really just wanted to be able to make a nifty graph, because I’m kind of a nerd about data. And before any “never ask a lady her weight” nonsense starts, I’ll just tell you. Partially because I don’t give a damn, and partially because I want to track my progress here.

Starting weight: 186.4 lbs
Goal for SSA SoCal con: 175ish

To put that in perspective, I was 165 when I started college. I could have stood to lose a few pounds even then, but I was also two cup sizes smaller, so it probably cancels out.

I can’t wait to put all the weight back on via alcohol once I defeat JT. Mwahaha!


  1. says

    Another dietary move you could make is start watching what you consume that has high fructose corn syrup in it. That stuff is terrible for you since your body doesn’t know how to process it and just converts it to fat. Cutting out the soda is a great start. At my heaviest this past year I was at 176 and I’m currently sitting at 155 thanks to no soda, minimal potato chip binges, more veggies, and Kung Fu. I’m hoping once I start grad school that I’ll be able to lose an additional 15lbs and be down to 140, which was what I weighed when I was in high school. It’s awesome that you’re looking to better yourself health-wise. I’ll be cheering you on all the way.

  2. says

    Love DDR! I am also trying to work exercise back into my weekly routine, maybe 3x/week and using DDR to make it fun. Heavy, huh? Any tips for a girl who is stuck on standard? :D

  3. says

    Best of luck, Jen. Sounds like you’re doing this sensibly. I hope that you continue to apply these best practices AFTER the competition ends. I used to weigh what you weight now; I’ve since maintained a weight of 121 lbs (cutting back calories & increased exercise FTW) for 3 years now. I love being more active. I hope you enjoy it too.

  4. says

    Don’t move your feet back to the center once you step, practice hitting 8th note patterns (like up left down, up left right, etc) without using the same foot two times in a row.That’s all I got – I can only do some songs on Heavy, I’m not that good :P

  5. says

    You’re sure that scale you bought is even slightly calibrated properly? Meeting you at TAM8, I would have said 160lbs, tops, had that train of thought entered my mind. Nor would I have thought you needed to lose any.The body image crap you women have to endure is, well, crap. :-P

  6. says

    Haha, yes – I was at the health center about a month ago (thought I had strep throat) and they weighed me in at about 185. Though I was about 5 pounds lighter at TAM.I don’t think I look overweight because it’s pretty evenly distributed, but I can tell looking in a mirror naked. And you’ll just have to take my word for it :P

  7. says

    Hey, it’s more than I can do. Figured I’d try to get any secrets I can ;).I don’t do the moving back to the center thing anymore, but the combination of not using the same foot for two steps and just getting my mind to read the notes fast enough are probably key!Good luck on your goals! We’ll be cheering you on.

  8. says

    Since you’re a lady who likes science, I suggest you check out stuff by Gary Taubes. I’ve lost over 70 lbs since reading his book “Good Calories, Bad Calories” (although I sighed exasperatedly every time I thought about the name). It is a thorough, exhaustive look at the science behind weight loss, in the best traditions of science journalism. He’s apparently got a brand new one called “Why we Get Fat” that’s supposed to be less science, more readability.

  9. says

    My starting weight: 227, goal for the year 1 to 1-1/2 lbs / week for the entire year = 149-175Tracking system: (the daily plate is good too but I’ve been using fitday for a long time and my “custom foods” list is kind of long). It makes lurvely graphs.Food changes: already drinking diet soda / pop; change to water to save money; go home for lunch instead of lunch out at least 3 days/week. (reduces doggy pile cleanup too); pizza only once a month, thin crust, with chickenExercise: oh poopy that’s part of it. 1) less time on the computer (oh poopy) 2) less time watching TV (poopypoopypoopy) 3) adopt a dog that can actually go on a long walk 4) bike the rails-to-trails path 5) punch & kick the crap out of Bob:…Ultimate exercise goal: go back to krav maga, or start karate

  10. LadyAtheist says

    p.s. does your uni have an exercise physiology program? Ours has the whole Star Trek setup that scans your body and analyzes your percentage of body fat. They also have the dunk tank for that but I like the Star Trek scan! The part I don’t like is where they show you YOUR ENTIRE SKELETON and where the fat is on it. Pretty cool except the part where the fat is!

  11. says

    Men have a hard time knowing what women really weigh, because we all lie. :)People think I weigh 30 pounds less than I do. Partly because I’m tall, partly because I really am big-boned. My ideal weight is actually the same as my sis-in-law, who is 4″ taller, because her bone structure is so much slenderer.

  12. torero1 says

    Besides wishing you good luck, the only thing I can do is condemn you for using imperial standards, what’s up with that?

  13. says

    Jen, I’ve found the website is an excellent resource. They let you track daily calories based on your weight-loss goals, and they have a neat motivational feature, too–at the end of the day, it tells you how much you’ll weigh in 5 weeks if you keep on track. They have an iPhone app, too (of course).Best of luck.

  14. Ben says

    Just to motivate you, I’m going to be that smug guy who was born skinny and only weighs 150 despite being 6 ft. Your hate can fuel your exercise. ;P

  15. says

    I think diet sodas are disgusting. Rather drink water :PI supplement my cravings for sweet beverages with juices.

  16. loreleion says

    I used to feel that way before I switched. Now I can’t stand the sweetness and viscosity of regular soda. Feels like drinking syrup to me.

  17. Azkyroth says

    I have the same response and I’ve found vanilla coke zero to be drinkable.I also have a weird experience where it seems like there’s a filter in my stomach that’s only slightly permeable to plain water but that soda goes right through. I wondered if it was a pH thing so I tried adding lemon juice to water. It worked okay but became too much of a hassle.

  18. Leeny says

    Watch out for juices too! Even too much natural fruit sugar can be stored as fat.Also, since it’s been awhile since you played DDR, careful about your knees and lower leg muscles. Watch out for shin splints and knee pain, since your weight distribution is different. If you get problems, maybe pair it with a leg workout.

  19. Annie says

    Good luck Jen. The whole thing sounds fun and sensible. I’m not a cola drinker, but this might be a helpful tip. If you buy Coca Cola from a Latin American food store, it is often imported from Mexico. There, they use real sugar instead of corn syrup as a sweeter. MUCH tastier than regular coke, and much harder to find. Might be a way to limit consumption, but give you a real treat when you do imbibe.

  20. James says

    Jen have you tried riding a bike? Ride to school, ride to the grocery store. It worked for me 10 years ago and is still working today.

  21. says

    Have you tried drinking tea? It’s cheap, readily available, and (well, IMO) delicious. And you can make it a little sweet without it being loaded with sugar. Although I’ve always been a tea drinker, I really stopped drinking soda almost completely when I started drinking tea at the same times (e.g., restaurants, picnics, etc) instead. After awhile, soda actually tastes pretty gross most of the time–I still have one on occasion during a hot summer day, but when I see other people who drink them with every meal it sort of shocks me. I can’t imagine drinking something that sweet all the time anymore, especially not with food. Also, I’ve read that juice is kind of so-so as a replacement for soda, because what makes fruit better for you is that it’s full of fiber to offset the damage wrought by the sugar. So if you take a beverage that’s just the sugar in fruit minus the fiber… you may be back where you started at soda. Not totally sure about this, but something to watch out for. If you can offset your soda cravings by eating an orange instead of drinking juice, that might be more ideal. Okay last annoying kathysplaining thing. The site Just Bento is great if you’re going to start taking lunches to work: she has recipes, tips on meal planning, weight loss, etc.–good stuff. Another good tip as someone who used to take lunch to school during undergrad years is–make something big on each of the weekend days, like a casserole or chili or a bunch of soup. It’ll last you at least half the week and save you a lot of time and hassle from when you get home after a long day at school and are like “EFF COOKING!” Slower cookers are also great if you’re a student–just chop up a bunch of crap and throw it in there, so making dinner only takes you about a half an hour.

  22. says

    I once lost 20 pounds (and gained it all back) in four weeks by doing nothing other than walking 30 minutes daily, drinking no soda (water and 2% milk only), and only getting fast food on a friday as a “treat” (all other food was “healthy”-er and cooked at home – a lot of baked fish and chicken, with rice and vegetables, mainly).I honestly didn’t feel deprived, and got fairly used to drinking water (such bland stuff – but great on a hot summer day here in Phoenix!). I’m not sure why I stopped; part of it was that after the 20 pounds, I couldn’t lose anymore. I suppose I could’ve exercised more, but I didn’t really have the time in the day to do it without cutting into time I spend coding or working on my robotics projects. Between that, and the fact that cooking at home takes a lot of effort, money and patience, I fell out of the routine.Then my wife and I moved, and old habits came back. Now, I just try to limit my intake, and do stuff outside on occasion, maybe take a walk now and then, and just quit worrying about the weight; I may be heavier, but I am satisfied with my life and overall happy. That’s all that really matters to me.

  23. Charon says

    That’s not really true, about HFCS. Yes, fructose probably isn’t great for you, but HFCS only has slightly more fructose than table sugar (sucrose) or honey. And substantially less than agave. My guess is that people are so freaked out about HFCS because it has the word “fructose” in the name, and they don’t realize that sucrose is 50% fructose. But perhaps I’m giving them too much credit…http://www.sciencebasedmedicin

  24. Charon says

    Seattle is pretty bike-friendly, so I’d recommend this too. Of course, there are hills, so it may be hard to get _started_ riding, if you haven’t ridden in a while (depending on where you live – if you can commute on the Burke-Gilman, you’re set, because it used to be a rail line and is thus pretty flat). UW offers little classes in urban biking every now and then as well, if your commute requires fighting the cars every now and then (but again, Seattle drivers are much better with cyclists than most places).

  25. says

    I never learned how to ride a bike. This is so amusing to my friends that it has become a running joke, and it took me a long time to figure out if you were being a smartass or not. I’m going to assume not :P

  26. says

    Something that worked for me: Before getting another serving of food I would down a big glass of water and wait 5 minutes. If I was still hungry I’d go for it, but most of the time it was just thirst. The extra water not only helped me in lessening hunger pangs, but its also good for a lot of other health reasons. Good luck… rock it!

  27. says

    Good luck Jen – as a receptionist I certainly sympathise with the sedantry job thing. (and my favorite hobby is reading, so I’m usually sat down somewhere).My only suggestion is that your exercise needs to be way more hardcore. I recently lost 8kgs (I think that’s around 17 pounds), over a period of about 6 months. I have a reasonable diet and a normal metabolism (not too fast, not too slow). But to achieve this I had to cycle 20 kms (around 12 miles) in around an hour, five to six days a week. One of the amazing things about weight loss is how hard you have to work in order to lose weight – your body really wants to keep it, especially if you’re a woman. I was flabbergasted at the sheer effort it takes. The exercise industry, including gyms, tries to sell the concept that weight loss only requires a little bit of effort. It doesn’t – if you’re really going to do it right, it’s bloody hard. I think one of the main reason people fail at weight loss is because they don’t take this into account – they think that something that could be described more appropriately as ‘activity’ (such as wii fit) is exercise.

  28. says

    I tend to lose weight fairly quickly when I add any activity to my life. I started going to the gym every other day for a bit in the spring of 2009, and lost 5 pounds in a couple of weeks. And whenever I’d start golfing in the summer, I’d shed 10 pounds. Problem is I don’t go to the gym or golf that much anymore :P

  29. says

    I enjoyed that article. Thank you. However, if you do limit your intake of HFCS and don’t attempt to replace it with another sugar substitute then you’re better off still. When I started looking at what I ate I just happened to notice a lot of what I intake has HFCS. I reduced those foods in favor of more veggies/fruits as snacks. I’ve still got a long way to go before I’m where I want to be size-wise and diet-wise.

  30. James says

    Smart ass no. Did not know you were bicycling challenged. Still recommend riding though. Charon is right Seattle is bicycling friendly and except for few cold snaps you can ride year round. It is not to late to learn.

  31. J. Mark Pierce says

    Alright, I’ll up the ante….I’ll go $4 a pound if you’ll just friend me on Facebook…

  32. Moose says

    Good for you Jen.Rooting for you-and also looking in the mirror…UGH.Think I’ll join you as well…

  33. Lindsay says

    Try just carbonated water with a little fruit juice. Great thing about mixing your own is that you can wean yourself off of the super-sweet taste of soda by adding less and less while still enjoying bubbly goodness. I drink just carbonated water and a little lime juice now, and it’s great!

  34. Mara says

    My scientist hubby couldn’t stand the inaccurate scales either, so he bought us a shipping scale (it cost about $100, though). It’s still only accurate to within half a pound, but it’s better than the cheap scales.

  35. says

    I dropped 40 lbs over a few years. These are some things I learned along the way1. Eat five small meals a day. This keeps your insulin level and metabolism up.2. Weight train. Buy some weights. Research some basic exercises. Many people ignore weight training, but it’s important. working with weights build muscle and muscle burns more calories – even when you’re not exercising.3. Many overweight people start to workout at home and when they become comfortable join a gym. The gym offers social support to healthy habits.4. It’s far easier to drop weight while you’re young. The older you get that more diffficult it will be.

  36. Garrown says

    I would second these suggestions. I gave up soda several years ago and now the taste of it makes me gag. Tea is the way to go. I brew my own from loose leaf but tea bags work in a pinch(if you must).

  37. says

    Awesome suggestion! We’ve been drinking so much carbonated water (in an effort to reduce soda intake) that we’re looking into getting our own gizmo to carbonate at home, which would be a huge cost savings.

  38. Greta Christina says

    I totally believe you about the bicycle, Jen. I didn’t learn how to ride a bicycle until I was in my twenties. (And I still don’t know how to drive a car.)

  39. Hans says

    Best kept secret of the UW IMA (gym): the fourth floor. Inside of the indoor track are two workout areas which have a nice mix of cardio, weights, and grad students (we all struggle to keep our svelte figures of yesteryear, when weekends were yet free). I loved it when I was a grad student at UW. Best of luck in any event.

  40. MPH146 says

    I had good results with the Atkins diet. After spending 6 months EVERY day after work in the company gym (30 minutes bicycle, 30 minutes weights), and not losing any weight OR any inches, I gave Atkins a shot (I stopped hitting the gym). I lost about 3 lbs per week until I had lost 50 lbs. But I couldn’t lose any more than that. That still put me 50 lbs above what I had weighed when I graduated from Purdue in 85, although being a 215 lb 6’2″ man wasn’t too awful 20 years later.But the problem is trying to stay on Atkins long term. If I was still single (or away from home as I was when I did the above), I could do it.Andrew Hall’s suggestion #1 is on target. The Atkins diet is designed to keep your blood sugar from spiking, which results in overproduction of insulin, which turns sugar into fat (and makes you lethargic – that’s what causes the sugar crash, and over the long term tends to make you diabetic, along with other problems). Also, supposedly if you go about 4 hours while awake without eating, your body (which evolved as a hunter/gatherer that had to keep looking for food instead of just hitting the fridge) goes into “famine mode”, in which it assumes that because you haven’t eaten, food must be scarce, and to survive a famine your body will try to store as much fat as possible (not sure about this “famine mode”, I’ve only seen a couple of mentions of it).Good luck with the diet, and if you’re seriously cycle challenged, you do know that there are 3 and 4 wheel pedal powered devices available, right? Although they tend to be expensive, perhaps you could afford a used one.

  41. Charon says

    Oh, absolutely. They add sugar to just about every prepared food, it seems… and that’s the real problem. It sounds like you’ve made some good decisions – it’s the people who think they’ll miraculously lose weight and get healthier if they replace HFCS with agave gram-for-gram who irritate me.

  42. Charon says

    Actually cold is never really a problem in Seattle*, though there are days when you’ll want a lightweight balaclava (which you can get for ~$10 at REI). Riding in the rain takes more willpower, but if you get rain gear (cheap rain pants actually work better than expensive breathable fabrics, for biking short to moderate distances) and fenders, and get in the habit of riding, you’ll be fine. Join UW’s Ride in the Rain challenge for motivation (I’d wager your department has at least one team, if not more).And James is right that you can still learn to ride. I had a friend learn to ride for the first time in her last year of college.*I lived there for 7 years, and there was only one winter when it was really icy for a couple days, and then there was Snowpocalypse 2008. But if it’s too icy or snowy to ride, I can guarantee that the buses won’t be running well either, if at all. And the campus will be closed.

  43. Mike1325 says

    You’ve got a good plan. When I was your age a much older person (similar to my age now) told me the key healthy living — If you want to be active when your old, stay active when you’re young. Good Luck

  44. Azkyroth says

    Neither do 80+% of Sacramento residents.If not knowing actually stops you, you’re already doing much better than they are. >.>

  45. J. Mark Pierce says

    I did months ago…..didn’t want to lose my place…you’ve got my full name…I’ll re-request though….go ahead and lose a bunch, I don’t mind donating…..

  46. says

    I never replied because I stopped requesting friend requests from readers, and deleted readers I previous accepted. But I’ll make an exception when money’s going to a good cause :P

  47. J. Mark says

    Thanx…I’ll see what the damage is on Feb.19th, then put it on plastic…. Hope you win….

  48. Gus Snarp says

    I grew up in Florida calling it “Coke”. As in, “What kind of Coke do you want?” “Oh, I’ll have a Dr. Pepper.” I was on a road trip through Ohio with a friend from Texas and we stopped at a fast food joint at a turnpike service area and the guy behind the counter asked my friend if she wanted a pop. She got all confused and said, “What?!?!” I think she thought he was offering to punch her. I looked at her and said: “He wants to know if you want a Coke.” Now I’ve lived in the Midwest long enough that I can comfortable call it “pop”. It occasionally freaks me out though.

  49. Gus Snarp says

    Cutting out pop is a great move, cutting alcohol is good too. If your building has multiple floors, I recommend eschewing the elevator in favor of the stairs. Anything under the fourth floor should be accessed by stairs, for sure.I know it’s totally unhealthy, but I once had this terrible virus and could barely eat for a week and lost about twenty pounds and it took me decades to gain it back.

  50. says

    You got stairs at that grad school of yours? Use ’em! Back in my undergrad days I took the stairs between classes in the three story building where most classes were (it was a small college). Dropped major weight. Probably the fittest I’ve been until I took up cycling in earnest in my early 50s.(Edit: Looks like Gus Snarp and I were thinking the same thing at about the same time).What else was I going to say?….oh, yes. I’m old – when I see DDR I think “Deutsche Demokratische Republik”.…Ah, how I miss the Cold War. :)

  51. JM says

    Golfing and going to the gym take time. If you integrate more movement into things you *have* to do (walking or biking to work, for example), it’s easier.

  52. Gus Snarp says

    This reminds me of an article I read about why people on Okinawa tend not to be overweight and have low incidence of heart disease. Aside from the large amount of seafood in the diet, they said there was a tradition of stopping eating before you really felt full. A short time later as the food digested you would feel full. So different from the American way of eating. I don’t know how accurate any of this is, but I would think the glass of water has a similar effect. Partly it fills your stomach a bit, but also it give you time to digest a bit and realize that you’re not really hungry anymore.

  53. KD says

    People have some really good suggestions. I found watching what and when food was going into my mouth really helped. I asked myself if I wanted or needed the food (especially if it wasn’t so good for me) and limited the processed sugar. I also brought snacks to work. That really helped because by the time I got home at the end of the day I wasn’t starving and shoving whatever was on hand into my mouth. So yeah, watch the sugar, watch the portions, snack and the exercise thing works too (I just don’t like to admit it because I still find excuses not to). Good luck!

  54. Lindsay says

    My boyfriend gave me a carbonation system for Christmas. It is like the best thing ever.

  55. J. Mark says

    Hi Jen…I just joined the SSA. The SSA Con. in Feb. is only 150 miles south of me, so I may try to attend, at least one day……that way I could hand you your weight loss winnings in person….

  56. J. Mark says

    Now that you’ve friended me on FB, is there some way I can just revert my postings here back to just “J. Mark”?

  57. loreleion says

    No, that is a very reasonable and healthy goal, but more than two pounds per week is an unhealthy goal. And yes, you can break that down into small time periods and make it sound silly. (Jeez Jen, only 4g per hour? Sounds like a real challenge.)

  58. Michael Makovi says

    I’m 5’7″ and weigh around 150 or so, but I eat 3000 or 4000 calories per day just to maintain my weight. (But before you curse me, my diet is mostly rice and beans with a LOT of olive oil. We’re talking about 1000 calories a day each of rice, beans, and oil. So it’s not like my enough-food-for-two diet is an orgy of hedonism.)

  59. says

    LOL! There are just so many ways I could respond to that! However, none of them are even PG-13, so I’ll simply leave it at agreeing with a nice distribution. ;-)P.S. Is there away to get disqus to notify me of replies to comments so I don’t find them a week later, or am I out of luck because it’s identifying me via twitter instead of email?

  60. says

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