What I’ve Learned About Dancing and Dieting So Far… Part 1: Dieting

So a few months back, I decided to try playing Dance Central to lose weight, and for the first two weeks it worked like a charm! I lost a fair bit of weight (close to 10lbs), and checking on my electronic scale it wasn’t all water weight. Pretty awesome! What’s more, it proved out my theory that if you’ve got a lot of fast-twitch muscle fibers, dancing is a pretty solid way to go to get exercise – about the only thing comparable might be interval training.

Now, I’d be lying if I said I was able to keep it up long term. I got a cold, and unfortunately, after a couple of days out of commission, I just kind of forgot to get back on the horse. Well, now I’m back and dancing again… and it’s time for an update on what I’ve learned in the interim.

Right now, I’m 182lbs. A couple of years ago, after the birth of my daughter, I was 216lbs. (Sympathy pregnancy weight, I swear). What did I do to lose it?

Well, not exercise – although that helped massively when I actually did it for two weeks. Truth is, I’ve not really exercised all that much over the last year – the majority of this has been diet changes. What I did was:

Coffee with Cream & Sugar; Evan Swigart from Chicago, USA

  • Cut out sugar in coffee, and try to avoid bread and potatoes – more successfully with the bread than the potatoes. This worked to get me down to about 203lbs. (Even then, though, I was still sneaking chocolate. Hi, I’m Simon, and I’m a chocoholic, even though it’s really bad for me[1])
  • Cut out half and half in coffee. This alone led to me dropping about 1lb/week in weight, from 196lbs down to about 185lbs. I did a quick back of the envelope calculation… that half and half was worth about 1lb/week in calories – I drink a lot of coffee, and used two little serving sachets of half and half in each cup. It doesn’t seem like much, but it made a huge difference. Now I just use whole milk at home, and 2% at work. This was, by the way, a ridiculous revelation.
  • N-Acetyl Cysteine supplementation. The jury is somewhat out on how exactly safe this is, but given that I’m pre-diabetic (fasting blood sugar sits around 115, A1C level hovers between 5.7 and 5.9), and it can be used to treat diabetes, high cholesterol, and a few other things (as an antioxidant)… I figure it’s worth the risk[2]. In fact, it’s coming into vogue as the Best Thing To Take When You Have A Cold, because it nearly nukes the fuzzy-headedness symptoms and speeds up recovery – mix it with Zinc, and you’ve got a pretty potent combo for the common cold. It seems to work as an anti-inflammatory, and accelerate weight loss. To be honest, I have no idea how it works, but it definitely seems to help for me. Try it at your own risk.
  • A mostly Paleo diet. Not too hard to do, to be honest, because I cook nearly everything myself except when I’m at work, and I’d already discovered that if I don’t stick to a diet like that, I end up losing about 3 hours after lunch with fuzzy-headedness and wanting to sleep. That post-lunch dip? I think it’s a myth that we’re supposed to have it. If I eat the right things, I don’t get it.

I’m not saying that exercise doesn’t help – and I’m not saying I’m sedentary either (my Nike+ FuelBand hits at least 3000 points a day, unless it’s a weekend and I’m being really lazy and just watching TV). Just that I didn’t actually switch up my routine any in terms of actual physical activity. That’s changing this week, and I’m back on the horse.

So that’s where I stand right now, and thanks to some early warning signs of what might be the beginnings of heart disease, I’m starting to get more exercise. So Dance Central, for a minimum of 30 minutes a day is part of that. I already do a fair bit of walking around the Microsoft campus during the day (for meetings, and to get some away-from-desk time), and quitting smoking again for the 10th time this year (hey, it’s nearly 2013 – how time flies!) should help, but Dance Central will take it over the top until I start going to the gym when my membership kicks-in in January.

Next time: What I’ve learned about the mechanics of dancing – for geeks who have two left feet.

[1] I’ve mentioned my medical theories in the past on this blog, regarding the herpesviridae class of viruses, and how they may be the cause of a bunch of diseases. Well, part of the reason I got so interested in them is that I figured out every time I each some chocolate, I’m pretty much bound to get a coldsore. This is because of the high arginine content. Now, arginine’s not bad for you – you need it – but it also fuels the creation of more viral particles. And in my case, because I have the apoE3/4 genes, it’s probably worse than for most. But still, I crave the hell out of Cadbury’s. Damn my English upbringing!

[2] There’s actually only one study I’ve seen which says it’s actually bad for you… that’s one which shows it may exacerbate peripheral artery disease… Although that’s only a single study in rats, and hasn’t been replicated since it was published about 6 years ago, and other papers have pooh-poohed it since. So theoretically it’s safe, though this is yet another time where I wish I had my own fully equipped medical research lab.

About the author

Simon Cooke is an occasional video game developer, ex-freelance journalist, screenwriter, film-maker, musician, and software engineer in Seattle, WA.

The views posted on this blog are his and his alone, and have no relation to anything he's working on, his employer, or anything else and are not an official statement of any kind by them (and barely even one by him most of the time).

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