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Burger Lite. The last twelve months

Posted August 8 by John Birmingham

I stepped on the scales yesterday (for my birthday) and had a pleasant surprise. But first some context. I stepped on the same scales about a year ago and had another surpise, not so pleasant. And really not much of a fucking surprise. It was more a confirmation of what I already suspected. I was a mess.

Some of you will remember that I took the death of my dad pretty hard. It's tipped me into about six months of depression, which had physical as well as psychological consequences.

Before that happened, however, I had other problems. Specifically a couple of the discs in my lower back were starting to grind together, trapping nerves between them. I first became aware of it at a genre fiction festival in Sydney. I was standing around enjoying a drink at the Saturday afternoon cocktail session, as you do, when I started getting shooting pains down my side. Electric tingling in my feet and legs. With about a quarter of an hour, I had to sit down. It was agony to keep standing.

I'd had similar issues over the previous couple of months with my standing desk, finding it more and more unpleasant to remain on my feet for any length of time, eventually returning to just slumping into my chair for six or seven hours a day. It caught up with me in Sydney.

Just over 12 months ago I hopped onto my scales, which are these fancy digital magic boxes that measure not just weight but a whole bunch of other stuff, including, gulp, body fat. Apparently they pass a small electrical current through your body to measure resistance. The current travels through fatty tissue and muscle fibre at different speeds. Or some shit. Anyway the results weren't good. I weighed 98.3 kg and 32.9% of that was fat.

I'll jump to the spoiler. Hopped onto the same scales yesterday and I was down to a touch over 92 kg, but more importantly only 18% of that was fat. I'd dropped about 16 kg of fat and packed on about 10 kg of muscle.

How?

The usual way. Eating less crap, doing more exercise. Specifically I've been doing a lot more strength training. I'd always try to throw some weights work into my gym routine, but I'd never been particularly directed about it. I never really improved.

About nine or ten months back I started working with a personal trainer, a mate from the dojo, Darren Rae, one of our black belts who had switched careers from moving stuff around a warehouse, to torturing fat bastards like me into shape.

We spent the first couple of months, yes months, building up my lower back strength, creating a sort of girdle of muscle mass around the degenerating spinal discs. This had a pretty spectacular and immediate effect on my lower back pain. It mostly disappeared. I still get twinges every now and then, especially if I'm slumped into my chair on a deadline for seven or eight hours a day. But the chronic, debilitating pain seems to have been banished.

Having laid the foundation we then started to build out the rest of my frame and build up some endurance with boxing and kickboxing work. I still have a fair way to go. There's another seven or eight kgs of body fat to burn off and at my age I have to be careful not to overdo it, particularly not with my knees which I trashed many years ago doing hill sprints.

I aim to get back to my fighitng weight by Christmas. But again, I'm an old bugger now, so I wont actually be fighting anyone or anything other than the desire to eat donuts at every meal.

20 Responses to ‘Burger Lite. The last twelve months’

Naut mumbles...

Posted August 8
Nice work JB, this stuff doesn't get any easier.

I have been experimenting for cutting sugar for a month at a time.

It's tough to do both physically and practically, but it makes a serious difference. Especially if you can train in a glycogen depleted state.

The challenge is not losing all the gains when you reintroduce sugar back in.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted August 9
Yeah, I’m not an anti-star fanatic, but I did recognise it as White Death. And I love it so.
My main source of sugar was cups of tea. I’d drink heaps of them during the day, each with one tea spoon. I cant come at tea without it, so I switched out 7-8 cups of Yorkshire Gold for green or Jasmine tea, both of which I dont mind. I dont love them. But I dont mind them either.
That one small tweak took about 700-800 calories a week out of my diet.

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Dirk reckons...

Posted August 8
Congrats JB on the gains.

Maybe riding a bike instead of driving the beast for the small trips in and around Bris might help, but that depends what other kinds of risk using pedlepower would have.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted August 9
I do have a bike but I live in a very hilly neighbourhood and never quite figured out how to work the gears. Instead I walk. I figured that if I walk to my local bar and have two glasses of wine, I’m still in calorie deficit when I get home, up the big hill.

Doccs asserts...

Posted August 21
Walking makes your legs lean -but the middle not necessarily.
Steps don’t translate well to calories.

If you’re training that’s better but cycling is good as well.

As my fitbane tells me -I walked the Nile and back ....

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Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted August 8
Glad it went well.

You have a weird arse birthday ritual in my opinion.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted August 9
It is a little odd, yes.

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insomniac ducks in to say...

Posted August 8
I wish I had done as well as you. I'm stuck around 115 and I have no idea what percentage of me is fat. I have lower back issues too and it's paradoxical that exercising actually makes it better.

With a standing desk I was told that you need to alternate between sitting and standing on a regular basis, ideally every half hour. Now when I work from home I always stand, and when I'm in the office I always sit.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted August 9
The back pain is a killer. It demotivates you for anything other than eating lots of donuts. It was a little frustrating working only on my lower back strength for months, but it did finally start to pay off.

she_jedi mumbles...

Posted August 12
Apparently you can get standing desk stools (yes, it's exactly as irrational as it sounds) but it means you can remain active and engage your core muscles and legs muscles and lean while using your standing desk. They have a low back profile to force you to sit up properly, and you can rock or wobble while you're working and engage muscles differently throughout the day:

https://au.varidesk.com/en-au/products/standing-desk-chair-varichair

This might be an option to keep your different muscles groups active and take some pressure off your back?

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted August 12
By odd coincidence I've just come off two hours of standing desk usage without problem.

she_jedi ducks in to say...

Posted August 12
Wonderful! *Virtual high five*

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jl mutters...

Posted August 8
Excellent! Makes me feel like a piker.

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beeso asserts...

Posted August 9
The really interesting thing I've found is hitting what seems to be my body wants to be its natural equilibrium. I am sitting at 82kegs and 16% and I don't think it would be healthy to reduce my intake any more (fasting twice a week). I could completely cut the red wine and coffee I guess, but I don't see the trade off worth it.

Instead i'm trying to learn a few athletic skill that keep me playing around physically at home outside of structured training, the boys are trying them as well and it is good fun.

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she_jedi asserts...

Posted August 12
This is a great result JB, very inspiring. At Easter I took up reformer Pilates, and I'm now doing 4 sessions a week (Mon - Thurs, and then I recover over the weekend). I've not weighed myself, and I'm not sure if I'm seeing any results in dimensions yet, but I'm definitely getting my flexibility back, and I feel a lot stronger and capable. I shattered my right ankle about a decade ago, and my balance was shot after that, but that's definitely improving.

My main issue has been my hips and lower back being stiff and painful (hello office job!) and both have improved out of sight. Now everything hurts because I'm exercising, not because I'm sedentary. I'm still calling it a win.

I remember after my first session, I rolled over in bed the next morning and my abs all went "OH HAI!". I'm still finding muscles I didn't know I had lol.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted August 12
Yeah, Pilates is supposed to be great. I can't come at it, because I'd just want to be at a jujitsu class, but I hear it's really good for core and flexibility.

she_jedi reckons...

Posted August 12
It's brilliant, and it's a way harder workout than one would think, although it's easy to scale to your fitness level and flexibility. Every now and then a gym junkie will rock up to give it a go and they stagger out after a 45 min workout wondering WTF they just went through lol.

insomniac mumbles...

Posted August 12
I had an osteopath once who just had his hands fingers up underneath my back as I was lying down, apparently doing nothing, but the next day I'd be aching as if I'd done something much more physical.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon puts forth...

Posted August 13
As i get older i appreciate tales of people able to make gains like that. (still in the 40-50 bracket age wise and in the lower end of the 90-100 weight bracket). I discovered over the weekend that playing with the kids in the snow (all weekend) reminds you that yes there are some muscles in there and over there and that one round the back you don't think of often . . . and don't you even think of limboing under the snow jackets drying out hanging from the door lintel.

she_jedi reckons...

Posted August 13
That makes me ouch just reading it!

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