Scott's Column
Lose 35 Lbs. in 4 Months, New Gaming PC

October 1, 2010
By Scott Lewis

I have been very busy this past month, so this is another light edition. However, I mentioned that I built a new PC before going on vacation. Also, I want to report a purely non-technical item about that vacation... a fitness plan... or how I lost 19 pounds in 2 months... and am still losing weight for a total goal of losing 35 lbs. in 4 months.

Current Topics:

New Gaming PC

I wanted to get back into computer games. However, when I built my last PC I did so with media in mind, not gaming. I went with a decent video card, but nothing for current games at the time. That was over 2 years ago, and on a strict budget. So it is no surprise that that computer can't play current titles.

I initially thought I would just get a killer video card and put it into my existing computer. But a strange this happened. I used Microsoft's Bing shopping search to look for the video card. Prior to the end of July, if you did this you were presented with discounts vendors would provide when you purchased from their sites off the Bing link. This was part of a Bing rebate program.

As it turned out I could receive a 10-12% rebate on my order from TigerDirect. While on their site I poked around on some computer components I wanted... if I were to build a PC. The prices were very attractive. With the Bing rebate plan ending at the end of July I thought "why not" and I ordered all the parts to build a killer (killer for me) gaming rig.

Here are the components I bought from TigerDirect:

Gigabyte P55A-UD3 motherboard                          139.99
Intel Core i5-570 CPU                                  199.99
Corsair XMS PC12800 Memory (2x2GB = 4GB)               130.99
Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB SATA-6G Hard Drive     99.99
XFX Radeon HD 5850 1GB Video Card                      299.99
Ultra X-Blaster Black ATX Mid-Tower Case                39.28
Ultra LSP550 550-Watt Power Supply                      35.71

That's a total of $945.94.

Obviously the Radeon HD 5850 was the big ticket item. As I write this, I just deposited my Bing rebate check for $113.52. Which means this PC cost me $832.42. Not bad for a very good gaming machine. So far I have installed Crysis, Far Cry 2 and Starcraft II as my modern games. Each runs flawlessly with graphics set to their maximum. Granted, I am still running my old monitor with a resolution of 1680 x 1050, so it is possible these games may need a little tweaking when I get a 1920 x 1080 (or better yet a 2560 x 1440) monitor.

I wanted to get a Antec Black case, but the cheapest I could find at the time was $120 with a power supply. So I cheaped out and got the no name brand items lists above. So far so good.

Of special note... I selected this motherboard because it supported USB 3.0 (I already have an external USB 3.0 drive) and SATA 6G. This is twice as fast as SATA 3. This also dictated the WD SATA 6G drive. You cannot believe how fast this computer can copy files from the SATA 6 drive to the USB 3.0 drive. It is amazing.

I still have my old PC. I am having trouble with it booting. I think it needs a keyboard or monitor attached to boot. I have tried to power it up and connect to it through Remote Desktop, but it is not working. It was working when I first did all this, but now I have my current PC tucked away behind my desk so nicely I don't want to pull it all out... even to play around with connecting the old computer up to my keyboard, mouse and monitor.

My next steps are a KVM switch and a bigger monitor. But that will have to wait until my credit card recovers from the summer trip to Florida. Don't expect any more new hardware this year. 


The Fitness Plan

A little over a year ago I actually thought about writing a book on working out. It was going to be call Working Out By The Numbers with a sub-title of The Math of Gaining or Losing Weight. I had about 15-20 pages written, including the formulas to calculate your body fat percentage and lean body mass (obviously one can be derived from the other with your actual weight). I even used the formulas on myself.

At that time I weighed 235 pounds, and had a body fat percent of 21.3%. In other words... I was carrying around 50 pounds of fat. With that part of the book complete I needed to start writing the exercise parts. I knew what to do. I lifted weights for 6 of the 8 years I spent in the Air Force (on my own, not because of the military). I entered the Air Force at 170 pounds, and left at 215 pounds. I was not exactly lean, but I was not fat either. I looked like a football player.

Anyway, back to the book. I never got motivated to do the workouts or the "diet" to lose the fat and gain back some muscle. NOTE: I use the word "diet" loosely as I don't think of it that way, it is just easier to say to others. For instance, "Sorry, I can't eat that cake, it is against my diet." In reality the diet is just eating with proper nutrition.

With the lack of motivation I stopped writing as well. Even if I had finished the book it was looking to be no longer than 40 pages. It didn't seem likely that I could write enough to actually fill a book. So I stopped. Besides, who is going to by a fitness book from a guy out of shape that can't take his own advise? I even deleted all my notes from the book (a big mistake).

Then a strange thing happened. I planned a trip to Florida to take my sons to Star Wars Celebration V, a 4 day conference with Star Wars nerds. Loving the chance to make fun at something, I made my own Star Wars/Star Trek T-Shirt with the cast of Star Trek in the words of Star Wars. I had this T-Shirt create in size large, even though I wear extra large.

I now had motivation. I could not look like a fat slob in front of Star Wars nerds with this shirt (I ordered 2 so I could wear it on 2 days of the even). I spent January through June lifting weights as hard as I could with my home gym (and later the apartment gym, I moved out in April as part of Life 2.0). I did not care what I ate during this time. The goal for the first 6 months of the year was to gain as much muscle as possible. My weight did not change much, as I probably exchanged muscle for fat. I do not know exactly how much I weighed near the end of June, because I did not have a scale.

At this time I switched to eating right and adjusting my workouts for leaner muscle mass. Two weeks after this change in direction I discovered that they keep a scale in the operator's room where I work. I weighed 234 pounds. I can only guess I weighed somewhere between 235 and 240 pounds two weeks earlier. But that is a guess and we won't have any of that here.

The weight loss goal was to get down to 215 pounds (what I weighed when I left the Air Force in 1994). I failed. I reached 218 pounds by the time I left for the trip to Florida, and then returned from the trip weighing 217 pounds (I used the gym at the hotel to maintain my muscle mass).

The week after the trip I did reach the 215 pound goal. I lost about 20 pounds in 2 months. But the story does not end there.

I waffled for a couple of weeks while my weight settled at 214 pounds. Then is the middle of September a new incentive came to me. A friend is going to have a Poker Game/Costume Party on Saturday, October 30th. I immediately thought of wearing a Superman costume to show off this new body. But there are no good Superman costumes that will really look good, and show off my own muscles. I was even willing to rent a high quality costume. I could not find any worth renting either.

I did come up with a costume that will be even harder to pull off than Superman. I cannot tell you what it is yet, because it has to be a surprise for the party. I would hate for the host to read this and know what I was coming dressed as. Also I have to wonder if it will totally suck. I will give you this one hint about the costume... I ordered theatrical contacts for it.

The new goal is to get down to 200 pounds. I am guessing here, but I assume I gained about 5 pounds of muscle from January to June. That puts my lean body mass at 190 pounds (up from 185 a little over a year ago). This is reasonable considering I gained 2 inches on my chest and 3/4 inch on each arm by June.

At 200 pounds with a lean body mass of 190, that puts me at 5% body fat. This is lean. As I write this I weighed 210 pounds on my last weigh in. I am leaner now than when I left the Air Force. I actually see a six pack developing, which is weird because I never work out my stomach. I always worked out base on how I would looked with a shirt on, not with a shirt off. Besides, what was the point of working my stomach if it was covered in a bunch of fat.

Next month I will report if I made it to my 200 pound goal, and I will reveal what the costume is. I will also tell you what I did for exercise and diet to lose 35 pounds in 4 months. This time the word diet is accurate as it was rather drastic, going beyond just eating right and portion control. It really was a specific diet.

I don't know if I will ever start that book all over again... but I am motivated. All it took was a goal... even if that goal was to look intimidating to Star Wars nerds, and then to impress some friends at a costume party.

The key is how to maintain this new body without some weird incentive.



That's it this month. Wait till next month when the "goal" for my weight loss is revealed. Hopefully with pictures.