Monday, February 29, 2016

First experience of hanging in my hammock (PCT d - 79)

After the strong and chilly wind didn't let up at all on Saturday, I finally managed to get out for a 2.4 mile walk on Sunday morning (thanks, Traci!) It was just in my own little neighborhood but it was up and down some steepish hills, including the once-intimidating Buttercup Hill (200 feet tall) at the end of my street. It was hard going, so I know that I'll have to spend several of the next 79 days working on climbing steep hills. I had my backpack on, with about half the stuff that I'll be taking with me to Oregon in May. It weighed nearly 14 pounds.

First time putting up the hammock, lessons learned
On a different tack, I finally got to try out my hammock at the Vigilante campground near York today. It took a couple of goes to get the angle of the dangle correct. The big takeaway from the whole experience was that I need to practice tying proper knots. Evidently, all those YouTube videos I watched didn't help enough. I need to tie so many of them myself, using real rope or cord, that it becomes second nature.

The whole hammock setup was much smaller than I had imagined but, once I'd made some adjustments, it was pretty comfortable. Getting in to it was amusing. Getting out again was like something from a slapstick movie.

Now (on Wednesday) to order the last major piece of gear, my down quilt, and I'll be all set.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

February target reached! 321 lbs (PCT d - 80)

Back in early February ( I published a list of revised goals, or target weights that I wanted to achieve in the coming 16 months.

2/27/2016321321 **
I was a day late (hence the ** in the table above) but I DID IT!! 
320.6 lbs (145.4 kg)
Dotted line is my actual values
Now, onwards and downwards to the next target - 312 pounds by the end of March, then 303 pounds by the end of April, breaking through 300 before my hiking trip to Oregon.  

As you can see from the chart, the dotted line shows the ups and downs of the last month, including a couple of weeks when little progress was made, but I continued to do the things that have been successful for me for the past eight months: a low-carb diet, more modest portion sizes, more exercise - in short, the very title of this blog, "Eat Right, Get Out Of Breath". 

I also came to the realization, recently, of something that I kind of knew already, which is the important role that drinking water plays in a successful weight loss regime. I had been trying to avoid the "sucralose and acesulfame potassium" in the water flavor enhancers, so I had stopped buying them. There being so few other tasty but calorie-free alternatives, I had inevitably as a side-effect, reduced my water intake. Once I started using the flavor enhancers again, and my water consumption reached "new normal" levels, the weight started to come off again. I'll have to do a separate post about water consumption. 


Saturday, February 27, 2016

322 lbs (PCT d - 81)

322.6 lbs (146.3 kg)
At this morning's weigh in I tipped the scales at 322.6 pounds, another recent new low. Onward and downward! 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Almost got all my gear for the hike in May (PCT d - 82)

With my new Osprey Aether 60
My new backpack arrived on Tuesday morning, so I went (walked!) to pick it up after work that day. I will be test driving it with extra weight inside over the next few weeks, trying to simulate hiking conditions, and getting used to the adjustments and fine tuning. There are lots of straps and loops and such. There are some that I'm not even sure of their purpose.

I put my sleep system (hammock/bug net/rain tarp) in the bottom of the pack, and added some extra bulk and weight to the top part to give it a better shape and more realistic weight. Then I tried it while walking to work. It wasn't bad - pretty comfortable. Since I'll be carrying it all 100 miles of the hike, I've got to get used to carrying it when I'm walking around town too.

Now, the only two things missing are my down quilt to keep me warm at night, and a DeLorme inReach Explorer GPS locator and communicator for use in an emergency and to help send our location on the trail to our friends and family back home who will be able to track us on a special website.

Between us, Birdie and I have pretty much everything else we need now. So, the challenge in the next 12 weeks will be to test ourselves and our kit as much as possible before we go, so that there as few bad surprises as possible, and we can enjoy the beautiful scenery (trees, trees, and more trees; and a few mountains, and lakes) of southern Oregon.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

No longer a prisoner of my own mind (PCT d - 85)

I've spoken, in this blog and elsewhere, of the fact that I'm tackling my 100-mile hike in May "because no-on told me I couldn't". So, evidently, I had already grasped the concept that one's own mind can trap one, or set one free. Thus it was that I had a revelation recently. After comfortably walking 10 miles a few days ago, and six miles last Saturday, there's really no need for me to think of my radius of operation, or my circle of influence, being so small (only as wide as the distance I walk to work each day - 0.75 miles). 

Freeing myself from that stinkin' thinkin', I can see now that practically ANYWHERE in town is within my reach. From the South Hills, I can walk to East Helena, I can walk to the west side, or to the north valley. With this new freedom, I decided to skip my usual ride to the swimming pool last night, and walked there instead. It's only 2.0 miles from my apartment, but I would never have thought about walking there before. In my head, it was always too far away. I didn't walk home, though (come on! It's uphill). In between, I swam for a solid hour, which felt really good. As I was doing so, it occurred to me that it's now possible to get up earlier, walk to the pool, swim for 30-40 minutes in the morning, and still walk to work. Nice! I used to go to the pool at 05:00 every weekday morning anyway, back in 2014 and early 2015. 

I even contemplated how I had allowed myself NOT to climb the hillock outside my apartment ("Buttercup Hill", I think it has been called, back in the 1970s). It's a 200 foot, very steep hill, which I was somehow frightened to climb until three months after I'd moved in. As soon as the snow/ice and soft mud are no longer a problem I will be climbing it on a regular basis now. 

So, it goes to show, if we impose limits on ourselves we can be pretty effective prison warders. We can hold ourselves back from reaching out and trying, from pushing ourselves to our boundaries and beyond. Without these self-imposed walls, the anything is possible!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

My life - in text messages (PCT d - 88)

It occurred to me recently that if I ever fell over and banged my head, losing all of my recent memories, one would easily be able to recreate my life by looking at the text messages from my phone. Unfortunately, the messages are all to different people, so no one individual gets the whole story, but between them all, they all get pieces of it. So, when I say to you, dear reader, "I can't remember if I've told you this before or not", it's true. I probably can't.

Saturday was a great day. Apart from not having to go to work (always a bonus), my English football team - Reading FC - won their FA Cup 5th Round match, which means they get to play in the next round in the second week of March. I shouldn't entrust my happiness to the fortunes of a soccer team, I know, especially a team with such crappy league form (16th out of 24 teams, having won only 9 of 31 league matches this season). But, today they beat a Premier League club by 3-1, finally reaching their full potential and playing together really well.

I had recently had success, too, with a little computing hobby thing that I was working on. At you can see the results. I bought a new Raspberry Pi recently. It's a low-powered, single-board computer for $35 that can be used for learning programming, or for cool home automation projects (which is what my first Pi is doing), or this new one is taking the transponder signals from airplanes that are flying above Helena and feeding them into a huge database (ADS-B flight tracking), so that I and others can see the call sign, origin, destination, height speed and direction of planes in our area.

Yesterday (Friday evening) I went to a Helena Bighorns ice hockey game, which was exciting (even though the team from Helena lost 2-3 in the LAST SECOND of the game). Beforehand, I had dinner at a local 24-hour restaurant (Shellie's Country Cafe) without realizing that Friday and Saturday evenings are their Prime Rib evenings. I hadn't had prime rib in ages, so I treated myself. The plate was as large as a car tire, and the steak was massive. Having, therefore, pushed the boat out so far, I figured I would treat myself and have some lemon meringue pie too. I haven't had anything like lemon meringue pie in eight months now, and it tasted pretty good, but I was WAY TOO FULL afterwards, and it was reflected on the weighing scales this morning 😢 .

Nearly 13,000 steps walked,
or 7 miles
After last Friday's successful 10 mile walk, I know I have to keep up the momentum before I go hiking 100 miles in seven days in May, so I arranged to go on a long walk with my friend Traci. I walked to her house (3 miles) then walked 3 miles more in her neighborhood. It was good, but my legs were tired after I sat down at the end of it. Also, she's a bundle of energy who is capable of walking at a much faster pace than my dawdling 2.6 miles per hour. Still, I did it. Now I just need to keep challenging myself to do more of these 5 and 6 mile walks, and eventually some more 8 and 10 mile walks, until they become almost second nature. There are 88 days until we leave for Oregon, so there's time to build up my strength and endurance.

If I walk to work and back on any given day (0.75 miles each way) and do an hour on the treadmill at the gym (2.5 miles, let's say), that's about 4 miles or so. After throwing in a mile more for other incidentals, I can sometimes manage 10,000 steps per day, but only on a couple of days per week. My objective now is to regularly exceed 12,000 steps in a day, like I did today.

It's all A LOT better than a year ago, when I was such a slug that I could barely reach the end of the driveway without being out of breath. Walking just one city block was a major ordeal at the time. I remember not wanting to go to Helena's fantastic annual Symphony Under The Stars because it involved walking a few blocks. Now, I have so much more energy.

I keep saying to myself, now that I'm getting fitter, "I wish I'd started doing something about my health sooner than I did". More than that, too, I wish I had never allowed myself to get into the shape I was in the first place. But, it is what it is. I'm doing it now - one small step at a time. I have the support and encouragement of a great team of friends who all help and support me in different ways. If you are reading this blog, there's a good chance you are one of those, and I sincerely Thank You for all that you have done.

Some of you who are reading this blog are on your own journey to better health. I salute you for grasping the nettle and doing it, even when you're tired or hungry and simply don't want to. Don't give up! It's worth it! You're worth it! It's worth the fantastic feeling that you get when you can wearing clothing that's "normal"-sized. It's worth it when you can bend over to tie your shoelaces. It's worth it when you can walk or swim or do other exercises that you haven't been able to do for years before.It's worth it when you catch yourself checking yourself out in the mirror.
Self checkout
I know that I personally still have a long journey ahead of me. I've been living this new lifestyle for eight months now, and it'll be another 16 months before the transformation is complete. I'm still morbidly obese at 324 lbs (well, 329 pounds after that pie yesterday!), but I'm definitely headed in the right direction.

Meal Measure portion control tool
My sister, living in Singapore at the moment, recently pointed out this product to me: a Meal Measure portion control tool (

Within each of the three smaller holes are graduation marks to indicate a half cup measure of food. Filling the hole up to the top is a full cup. One is designated for fruit, vegetables and starch, and the bottom, open hole is for protein, all according the USDA My Pyramid suggestions. I'm going to give it a go and see how useful it is. 

I was reminded of a blog post I'd made a few weeks ago in which I was talking about the need for cosmetic surgery after losing substantial amounts of weight, when a friend pointed out that the TLC network has a TV show called Skin Tight, that deals with exactly that (  OMG! That's some scary sh*t right there! I knew it was a real problem, and it may be one that I'll be facing, myself, in a year or two's time. Before I contemplate any kind of surgery though, I would want to prove to myself, and a potential surgeon, that I can keep the weight off for a year or more (although I'm sure some cosmetic surgeons [not all] are probably more interested in the income than in a patient's welfare). 

I had spoken in this blog before about having a couple of opportunities in April to test my hiking gear in real-world situations. One of those will be here in Montana, but our state doesn't lend itself too well to outdoor sleeping above 38 °F in April. Few other nearby states do (not Washington or Oregon or Idaho, nor Wyoming or Colorado or the Dakotas). Really, the best bet is going to be in Utah. I was e-mailing another friend recently who has been to some of the national parks in Utah, and it sounds like that might work - except for the obvious logistical problem of getting there! That might be solved now too. Since I deliberately took time off work during National Park Week ( when the usual entrance fees ($30-40) are waived, it's a great opportunity to see some spectacular countryside (iconic stone arches, for example) as well as stress test my backpack, hammock and down quilt, cooking equipment, shoes (and feet) and other clothing, and everything else that I'll be using four weeks later near Crater Lake. I haven't really looked at Arches or Canyonland National Parks fully yet, or any of the other state and national parks in southern Utah, but it'll be a great experience, I'm sure. I just hope there are places to hang a hammock! 

I'm sure there was more to tell, but that'll do for now. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

324 lbs (PCT d - 90)

324.2 lbs on Thursday
At this morning's weigh in I tipped the scales at 324 pounds, another recent new low. Onward and downward!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

80 pounds lost in 8 months (PCT d - 92)

324.8 lbs, a new low,
the app on my phone says
It was on June 16th, 2015, exactly eight months ago, that I signed the lease on my current apartment. I had mixed emotions about it at the time (it's a long story that some of my supporters know). Since then, I've chosen to follow a very low carb diet, and I've been walking increasingly further distances. Last Friday I walked 10 miles in one go, something I hadn't done in the previous 10 years. In May of this year, I'm going to be walking 100 miles in seven days, down by Crater Lake in southern Oregon together with my daughter. It's a huge adventure, involving months of planning and preparation. I'm feeling really good right now about our prospects for success.

When I first moved in to the new place, I weighed 405 lbs. I had a hard time walking up the hill from work to meet the landlord and get the keys to the apartment. These days, the ¾ mile walk is much easier. As we look forward to the spring/summer and the warmer weather, things will only get easier and better from here. At this morning's weigh-in, I tipped the scales at 324.8 lbs (147.3 kg), 80 lbs less than eight months ago.

There's still a long way to go - probably another 17 months - but I'm going to do it! I will succeed!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

First test of shoes and feet and legs ** PASSED ** (PCT d -95)

I took Friday off work in order to do the first significant test of my readiness for the long hike in May. I had planned to walk 15 miles from my apartment in the South Hills to Sierra Rd in the north valley (7.5 miles away) and back again. In the end, I managed 10.3 miles in four and a half hours, which was okay.
10.3 miles in four and a half hours
Knowing a week beforehand that the weather was going to cooperate, I waited until the sun came out to melt any traces of black ice that might make conditions slippery. I set off at 09:00. The first break came at 4 miles, when I stopped at the Natural Grocer to buy some bananas (for energy and potassium), chocolate macaroons (tasty and no too carb-laden) and a couple of flavored drinks. I already had a couple of bottles of water with me, plus a few Mozzarella sticks.

Averaging about 2.5 miles per hour until lunchtime, I made it to Sierra Road in three hours. A leisurely lunch followed, then a slow start to the journey back. As the bright sunshine came out, and with a couple of short breaks, I made it to the area around Custer and Montana Avenue before deciding to stop.

Physically, I felt like I'd managed well. My thighs could tell that I'd just walked ten miles. My feet felt good - no rubbing, no hot spots, no blisters, no aches, no discomfort. The shoes and socks performed well. First test ** PASSED **!

It was also a test of the longevity of my phone's battery and the performance of the UnderArmor MapMyHike+ Android app. With the Wi-Fi and cellular data turned off, only GPS was still on. I did play music non-stop for nearly three hours and the battery went from 100% down to 62%. I took my Anker Astro E5 battery pack with me and re-charged the phone to 75% while eating lunch. On the way back into town I listened to an Audible audiobook (a biography of Albert Einstein, which was serendipitous given the science news about the confirmation of gravitational waves, something that Einstein had predicted in 1916).

325.2 lbs - lowest in a long time!
On Saturday morning, I'm doing okay. The muscles can still tell that they've had a good workout, but no trauma, no strains, nothing adverse. Stepping on the scales this morning, I was at 325.2 pounds, the lowest I've been in a very long time.

Hammock arrived in just two days

Eagle's Nest Outfitters Reactor hammock kit
Wow, my hammock arrived just two days after being ordered! It came via FedEx Ground from Colorado. All the pieces together weigh just 5 lbs. Now I just need to pick up my backpack (rucksack) when it gets here, and buy the down quilt and I'll be ready for the coming backpacking/hiking season. Cool!

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Ordered my "sleep system" today for the big hike in May (PCT d - 99)

ENO Reactor hammock system
I've been eyeing up the Eagles Nest Outfitters (ENO) OneLink Reactor Hammock System ($245), but that includes the Reactor hammock (with a 20" wide pocket for your insulated sleeping pad), Atlas straps, ProFly rain tarp, Guardian bug net and stakes. I ordered mine today. It should be here next Tuesday. I'll be testing it at the next opportunity. 

Given the location that we'll be hiking in (state and national forests in southern Oregon) in May, there should be LOTS of trees to use, and lots of mosquitoes..

Monday, February 08, 2016

First test of PCT readiness will be this Friday

I'm looking forward to the warmer weather this week (high 40s °F and into the 50s°F on Friday), and my first chance to test myself with a long-distance walk in Helena to see how intensive my next three months of preparation have to be. I've taken the day off on Friday so that I can do 15 miles in one (long) day. I won't have my 25 lb backpack on. It probably won't be here on time (being ordered from the Base Camp in Helena). Still, it'll be a good test of how my legs and feet stand up (!) to the pressure. 

I'm also looking forward to getting some more gear; a new backpack (rucksack) is on its way, and a can of bear spray to deter the black bears (although ground shipping will cause that to arrive a few days later). A couple of backcountry practice runs in April will be a full "dress rehearsal" for the real thing which starts with a two-day train journey on May 18th. The next thing for me to acquire will be my "sleep system" (hammock, bug net, rain fly, tree straps and pegs), followed by a lightweight down quilt (only 1.7 lbs!), and then the train tickets. Then it'll just be a few small things ("Kleinigkeiten" as they say in Germany) and I'll be ready. 

Now I really need to start stepping up my muscle-building (weight lifting) exercises to shape and tone the muscles that are hidden under my slowly-diminishing rolls of fat. I want to be able to close that Gore-Tex jacket before I leave! 

326.4 pounds (PCT d - 100)

326.4 lbs today
326.4 pounds (148.0 kg) after a good weekend. Onward and downward! 

I saw an interesting YouTube video yesterday ( which suggested that diet was more important than exercise in reducing weight, on the grounds that a single candy (chocolate) bar is 200+ calories, but the effort required to burn 200 calories through exercise is really high. It's far easier to NOT eat the chocolate than it is to run vigorously for 30 minutes. 

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Revised targets, new "end date" (but it never really ends)

I was writing in an e-mail to a friend recently: "...another 120 pounds in 418 days (twice the weight in twice the number of days) would still will put me at 208 pounds by the end of March 2017. That's okay - I'll take that. That pace would put me at my ultimate target (178 lbs) by the middle of July 2017, eight months later than I wanted, but still a LOT better than if I didn't do anything except sit on the couch all the time, and eat the way I was doing before."

Having previously published some target weights, and failed to hit the latter ones, I have revised my aims and come up with a new path to success; one that is more realistic, if somewhat longer.

My new Gore-Tex jacket, doesn't quite fit 

Under this new plan, I should be below 300 pounds by the time we leave for Oregon at the end of May. I'll be approximately 242 pounds by my 50th birthday at the end of November, and I'll reach my ultimate goal by mid-July, 2017. The transformation will have lasted two years at that point.

Even when I was at my lowest in recent times, when I was living in England for the year from 2006 to 2007, I was only ever at 280 pounds (having started that 10 month period at 360+ pounds).

I bought a new lightweight Gore-Tex jacket recently which is just a tad too small for me at the moment. My plan is to fit in to it properly before the big hike.

The title of this blog post includes the phrase, "...but it never really ends", which is an acknowledgement that this lifestyle change is going to have to become a new permanent way of life if I'm going to keep the weight off once I've lost it. I never again want to be in a position where I can't walk 100 yards down the road, or can't bend over to tie my shoe laces, or don't have the energy to get up off the couch after work to dig weeds in the garden or the myriad of other things which I am slowly regaining the ability to do.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Checking out locations for my April gear test

Being so inexperienced in the ways of hiking and backpacking, I really appreciate my friends who have done it before and are prepared to make suggestions for me. One such idea was a venue to go at the end of April when I have a few days off work and I want to test all of my gear (and my physical body) before tackling the 100-mile section of the PCT in Oregon the following month. It's the Bear Trap Canyon wilderness, on BLM land near Ennis, Montana (about 8 miles from Norris).

It is reputed to have very mild weather, so the third week of April should be fine. It's well before the busy fly-fishing and whitewater rafting season, and before the warmer weather that allows too many rattlesnakes to come out. I guess I'd better get myself a snakebite kit, just in case. The route itself is about 9 miles long but can only be accessed from the northern end by hikers (access from the south was closed to all but rafters), so the round trip could be up to 18 miles long. With Norris Hot Springs being so close, this is looking pretty attractive.

Friday, February 05, 2016

329.2 pounds (PCT d - 104)

329.2 lbs (149.3 kg) today
After a couple of weeks of bobbing up and down between 332 and 335 lbs, I've finally broken through the 330 pound barrier. Onward and downward!

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

331.6 - back on the wagon (PCT d - 105)

331.6 lbs, a new low (recently)
After a month of bobbing up and down, the 'losing' trend is finally continuing. I'm down to 331.6 lbs now. I missed my end of month goal, but I'm okay with it, since I am still losing weight overall.

There are only 105 days to go until we leave on our Pacific Crest Trail adventure. As weather and road/trail conditions permit in my neighborhood, I'm trying to transition from working out at the gym to walking/hiking "in the real world". At the end of March I will drop my gym membership altogether (which will save some money). I'm trying to increase the amount of muscle and strength-building that I do, using the elastic resistance bands that I already have at home. I wake up earlier now to do that. 

We are also slowly acquiring more and more of the gear that we'll need for a successful adventure. Earlier this week we ordered new backpacks (rucksacks) and my daughter got her own head lamp. I also have a new lightweight rain jacket coming, since it was on sale for $40 less than the normal price. Holy cow! That stuff is still really expensive though! My "sleep system" (hammock, bug net, fly sheet to keep the rain off, tree straps and ground pegs) will be $245. A lightweight duck or goose down sleep bag or quilt will be c. $200. The train tickets to Klamath Falls are about $140 each, each way! But, it's going to be an epic adventure, and worth every penny! 

I'm still largely avoiding excess carbohydrates, but not cutting them out altogether. I had my first slices of pizza in seven months yesterday. Today's lunch was a baked potato with chili. The portion sizes are much more moderate then before. I've found it really difficult to keep an up-to-date food journal. Maybe I'll try an electronic one instead of a paper one soon. I'm getting plenty of protein and green vegetables. I'm avoiding peas and corn. I'm temporarily given up on giving up stevia as my sweetener of choice. Using raw honey as a natural alternative to artificial sweeteners wasn't working for me (I stopped losing weight when I did that). 

As soon as I can, I want to take a whole day to walk 10 or 15 miles, just to see where I'm at in my preparations, and see if I need to step up my training. Then, in a month or two, I'll do it again but with a 30 lb backpack on. I've got a couple of Fridays booked off work in April so that I can go further afield and test the rest of my gear before we set off on May 18th. More details about the 100-mile hike can be found here: