Body Fat %
My friend Linda keeps pestering me to update the numbers on the Tale of the Tape which lives in the right margin there under the fun stuff, just before you get to the things I like on Amazon. I’ve been putting it off because it’s kind of a chore. I don’t know squat about html code, and adding columns to a chart is about as complicated a task as I can pull off in my ignorance.
This timetable starts three years ago. Before cancer. Before the nut house. Before unemployment. I was in terrible shape and I knew it. I couldn’t fit in a theatre seat, my pants were size 60, and the bottom button holes on my dress shirts were torn out where my gut had busted through them. Mrs P told me about a gym near where she worked. They were having one of those New Year’s Resolution specials. I decided to go for it. I joined the gym. I started blogging about it. I lost almost 50 lbs and got into the best shape of my adult life. Then in August, everything went to hell. You know the story.
So, skip ahead two years. We’ve been through a lot in the Pennsy house since 2008. I got depressed and quit going to the gym after I lost my job. As a result, I had gained the weight back by the time I got sick. I was back in the fat pants. I couldn’t climb stairs. I was on the highway to a heart attack when a detour took me through Cancerville. You know that story, too.
The numbers are a little distorted because they don’t account for all the time I spent getting fat again, and they don’t really follow what cancer did to my body, but there are a couple of things that stick out.
I’ve lost over a hundred pounds. That’s cool. But if you look at my lean body mass, you’ll see that I’ve lost almost 40 pounds of muscle since my peak in July ’08. That’s the cancer. Well, the cancer treatment, actually. All that time I spent in bed, feeding through a tube, my body was sort of eating itself. And not just the fat: it also ate the good parts.
The small changes are hard to evaluate. I can tell that my arms are less muscular than they were, but there’s been a lot of fat lost too, especially in my upper arms. My legs are a little hard to judge because I’ve been running a lot and working them pretty hard in the weight room. They still feel flabby to me, but I can also feel hard muscle building underneath. It isn’t surprising that my neck is shrinking. They cut a big chunk out of it. It doesn’t show in street clothes, but when I press weight over my head, there is definitely a hole where my neck and right shoulder meet.
The big changes are exciting, though. Thirteen inches lost in my waist. I’ve gone from size 60 last January to 46 now. The hips (butt) are a lot smaller. I can tell those two numbers are changing every time I put my hand in my pants pockets. We just sent a lot of giant pants to the Salvation Army. Some fat man is going to be very happy. Eight inches lost in my chest? Bye bye, man-boobs. They’re not exactly gone, but I think I could appear shirtless without getting an R rating any more. In spite of the lean body mass loss, I’m please that my body fat percentage is still shrinking. That will speed up as I start building more muscles.
Finally, I’m really glad about a couple of the “invisible” numbers. First there’s my resting heart rate. 64 is awfully good for me. Better than the 87 I started with. The BMI is sort of a bogus number based only on height and weight, but the insurance companies love it. The good news there is that I’m mearly “Class Two Obese.” What a happy day it is to discover you’re no longer “Morbidly Obese.” And just imagine how I’ll feel when I finally break under 30 and I’m just “Overweight.” Maybe I’ll buy a cake.
One of my favorite numbers isn’t on the chart at all. When I was admitted to the hospital for depression back in 2009, my blood pressure was 205/168. The nurse took it three times. “That’s pretty bad, huh?” I asked. She nodded. “I can’t explain why you aren’t having a heart attack right now!” The BP is now a cool 122/70, and the doc says if I keep working out, we’ll have to start tapering off the meds soon. Losing a couple of pills a day? That’s a number I’m going to like a lot.
There are lots of things the numbers don’t tell you. They don’t tell you how much weaker I am than I used to be. I checked out my old weight room routines and it’s hard to believe I could ever move that much iron. The numbers don’t tell you how great it feels to donate my fat clothes and put on shirts I haven’t been able to close around me for three years. And they don’t tell you how good it is to be alive. I don’t need a chart to show me that. Not anymore.
I hate that it took cancer to get me back on the right track, but I don’t intend to get back on the cardiac road anytime soon. The Fat Man will be running on a different path, I promise, and for a long, long time.