Two Months on Eat To Live

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I’ve now been on the Eat to Live plan for two months and a day. Total tally: I have lost 33 pounds so far. I started at 211 pounds in late June, I weighed 178 pounds this morning. At the 5 week mark when the plan loosened up and allowed me to eat some meat and other things prohibited in the first part, I weighed 185 pounds. So, I lost 26 pounds the first five weeks, and 7 the next three weeks. I can live with that. One of the questions for me would be whether I would continue to lose weight, stall out or even gain weight when the plan changed. That I am still losing is plenty good for me, whatever rate it is at.

If you look at the chart, it is pretty easy to identify my birthday. For one whole day I allowed myself a bacchanalia. The next morning I weighed 7 pounds more than the previous. That isn’t to say I put on 7 pounds of fat. I pigged out but didn’t eat 20,000 calories that day (nor could my body actually store that much in a single day.) I’m pretty sure most of that weight is the result of allowing myself lots of salty foods that I would normally avoid or eat in moderation. The Crafty Rooster trip with lots of bacon-cheese chips and french fries, beers and burger is not a meal I eat as often as I used to but once in a while is fine.

Right before my birthday, I went in for a routine checkup which included the standard blood work panel for a guy of my age. For every panel of my life, my total cholesterol has been low (usually low outside the normal range.) However, my HDL cholesterol is usually even lower than that, and my ratio is always too high. This time, for the first time ever my ratio was in range. This seems like a wild success to me. My blood pressure is lower than when I started, my weight is back in the range of a 24 year low for me. By all the empirical data I have, everything about this plan has been a rousing success.

Just this week Derek Colanduno of Skepticality posted a link to a blog article refuting Eat to Live. Derek himself called the diet “woo”, and the article by Adele Hite seems to want to “blow the lid” off this plan. In paragraph one she makes a big point that she’s never read the book. Then she rejects the claim that 100 calories of broccoli has more protein than 100 calories of steak. She points out that he cited older sources so using the more up to date references means that broccoli only has 75% as much, not more. OK, fair enough. However, the main point he was making is that eating less meat (no meat for six weeks, modest amounts after) will not mean that you consume catastrophically low amounts of protein.

From there, she goes on about how you can’t get all the amino acids you need just from broccoli. This is a valiant slaying of a straw man, refuting a point exactly no one makes. In the book (the one she has never read) Fuhrman does not advocate eating solely broccoli. He advocates eating a variety of leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, beans, raw unsalted nuts, avocados and other foods. This is specifically to make sure you get all the nutrients that your body needs – amino acids, vitamins, minerals, etc. I think if the skeptic community wants to take on this eating regimen as “woo” based on a misunderstanding of the recommendation by people who haven’t read the book, that’s a bad idea. When I watch people I respect with a knee-jerk condemnation of something on a really shaky basis, it weakens the brand and means I am going to be slower to believe the next alarm.

If you think that recommending eating mostly salad and vegetables while limiting the amount of sweets, dairy, grains and meat that you eat is a bizarre fad diet, I don’t know what to tell you. Is there anyone who finds this a controversial weight loss plan? I don’t have a wealth of data points on this, but I don’t know yet of anyone who has bounced off of this plan or had bad results. I know that I am now 7 pounds under what I considered my best case outcome and still losing. I couldn’t be happier.

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Weight and Health Update

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Not only have I hit my 18 month weight low recently, I have actually gotten down into the vicinity of my weight loss circa fall 2012, when I was qualifying for a health insurance rebate. I have no cash incentive this time, I’m just doing it for me.

I started swimming on July 1st. In the month of July, I swam 15.9 km in just over 10 hours. In August, I swam 20.7 km in 11.3 hours. Including the first few days of September, I have swam 43.2 km since this whole thing began.

I’m feeling good, and looking good (self-reported data.) This is not a casual, auto-pilot process. I still need to think about every meal and really carefully examine the amount of carbohydrates I eat. I believe that I will just need to do this for the rest of my life because whenever I don’t, my weight gets out of control. I am fighting some bad habits and some really bad genetics but I think I can at least fight them to a draw.

When I was younger, I desired a swimmer’s body. Never mind that with my morphology and genetics that was basically impossible, it was my ideal. Now I have accepted that I can achieve kind of a Dave Grohl build – beefy middle-aged guy who isn’t fat, isn’t super muscular but just solid. I’ll take it.

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Fat Times

My friend Derek Coward posted over the holidays a wakeup call he had about how fat he has become. I’m in a similar boat. I was working out at the gym over the summer, and at some point had my routine broken and stopped going. There was not a week between August and December that I didn’t think about going to the gym or talk about going or even think “I’m going tomorrow.” It just never happened.

On January 2nd, I went back. I weighed myself and got my own wakeup call. I was 249 pounds, which is 4 pounds more than the heaviest I’ve ever weighed myself at. Besides, I have decided that size 38 is the fattest pants I will own. I refuse to buy size 40 because I feel that’s the point at which I have given up. This is my fire break, the point beyond which things must not progress.

I worked out on Friday and Saturday, and then again yesterday and today. I’m 4 for 5 in the new year. I have my routine set of doing long amounts of cardio on one day, lifting weights (via machine) one day, and swimming the third. I’ll do that routine six times through in a week if it happens, but I won’t be sad if it happens at least 3 times. It is the nature of my personality that it is easier for me to exercise a lot than a little. If I do it every day, it is a part of my daily life and routine. If I do it every other day, then it is always a question of whether today is the day or not, when is the day, what do I do? I’m not good at moderation, so easier for me to go all the way than dip a toe in.

I took a photo of me in all my 249 pound glory on Saturday. Conceivably I might post photos of my progress as a way of forcing my hand publicly to keep at it. At the least, I plan on blogging once a week with my progress. I find working these things out in public to be helpful for keeping the self-pressure on. I don’t know about the photos. Even for the intarwebs, it might be too much horrible in one place.

As a point in time, I weighted 247 today. If I have a fault in this, I weight too often. I’m an engineer, I want data. I know better than to over-interpret it. Drink a 32 ounce water and you’ve gained 2 pounds. Pee, and you’ve lost it back. If I can maintain a steady pound or two a week over the long haul, I’ll be quite happy. I’d like to get back to the 200 pounds I was at shortly after grad school. If I get there, I’ll think about going for the 165 that was me at graduation from my undergraduate program. Send encouragement and/or brick bats. Just don’t send candy.

Week 18

Forgot to post this last week. This morning I was at 224 pounds – two pounds less than two weeks ago and 22 pounds down from baseline. I’m getting even a little farther under that 228 plateau that I was stuck on for so long. I did actually do a little strength training this week, trying to improvise a reasonable routine out of some training bands. I did do some more bike riding than usual last week, and am generally getting more excercise. With this new job I’m riding to the El stop which is a little farther, and then walking farther to the office after I leave the train. All in all, my days have more physical activity in them now than they have in a long time.

Life Amongst the Ravening Automobiles

One of the big things that kept me from adopting a bicycle-centric lifestyle was my complete debilitating fear of riding on the streets with cars. I could do it in Portland because of the nice fat bike lanes and because there were so many bikes that one could take safety in numbers. In Evanston even riding from the house to the Metra station, I would go through the neighborhoods rather than ride down the busier Central Street (busier, but not busy in any absolute sense.) Somewhere recently, I just lost the fear. Just this morning, I rode down Central without panic, even when giant trucks sped by and I only had 24 inches between the parked cars and the traffic. I think I can do this. Note that the fear has not been replaced with recklessness – I still have a very healthy respect for this swiftly moving large pieces of metal hurtling past. I can just deal with it now.

For a little added fun, although it was hot and muggy when I left the house, the temperature dropped steadily over the 10 minutes of my ride. Halfway there, it got downright chilly and had that feeling of imminent rain. I started belting out Toots and the Maytals “Pressure Drop” as loudly as I could whilst pedalling full speed. Imagine me rolling down Central Street, past the little shops and baby strollers and old folks meandering the sidewalks wailing out “When you feel it, the pressure gonna drop on you!” I’m sure it was quite the experience for the pedestrians!.

It remains to be seen how much life I can accomplish with the bike in lieu of a car in Conway, but my goal is to make that as much as possible. I like living like this and I hope to continue it to the max. As a bonus link, here’s the article about how traffic is safer without standard traffic controls and with cars, bike and pedestrians sharing the road (Salon link, so just endure the ad and you can read it.)

Week 16

This morning I was at 226 – two pounds less than last week and 20 pounds down from baseline. This is the first time I have broken through the 228 barrier on this go around. Now I’m down around the weight I was at in Atlanta when I thought I really needed to lose some weight. I did a fair bit of bike riding last week, including a long ride yesterday that took me around the Bahai’i Temple and the Evanston lighthouse. I was kind of falling off the wagon last week in terms of quality of food (I ate Giordano’s twice!) but did alright on portion control. I need to keep working to make sure that I don’t pop right back above 228. This was a pretty psychologically important milestone to make, so I need to continue downward to feel like I’m getting somewhere.

Week 15

This week I weighed 228 – down one pound from last week and down 18 pounds from baseline. I really need to buckle back down and get under this weight. This 228 point is a plateau I haven’t dropped below in this effort. I haven’t really made any progress in the last month, despite getting more activity than any time in recent memory. I need to tighten back up on the eating front, I think. I’ve been letting myself eat too much junk so I must force myself to regain discipline.

Week 14

It was pointed out to me that I forgot to post my weight this week. On Monday, I was 229 pounds – up one pound from the previous week and down 17 from baseline. I don’t feel too bad about that, as 5 days last week were at the beach, not excercising and basically eating like a pig. That I only gained 1 pound under those circumstances ain’t too bad. I’m back to riding the bike to the train every day now and hopefully will drop some this week.

Moist Ride

If I was to be riding my bike back and forth to the train each day, one day or another I was bound to get rained on. Well, today was my baptism of … water. It was sprinkling when I first left the train station, which turned into a full rain about halfway home. Even with that, it wasn’t so bad. Last week I only rode one day because every day it was supposed to rain and it never really rained when I’d have been travelling. Today it was “widely scattered showers” and of course it rained on my ass. Better to get over it sooner rather than later. Now I feel up to anything, bike commute wise. It does help the pedalling motivation when you are trying to get out of the rain. Today was the best time I’ve made yet.

Week 13

This week I was not down any weight, still 18 pounds down from baseline. I actually did get more activity last week, more stair climbing and bike riding. It would have been good if I could have been the even 20 pounds but I’ll take what I have. With any luck this will be one of those plateaus as I’m shifting proportions around and adding on a little lean tissue. Even though it is going to be itermittently rainy, I’m committed to riding the bike every day this week. We’ll see how that goes as far as the weight loss goes.

The Right Tools and the Right Touch

Yesterday we went for the first round of bike shopping for me. We looked at one bike we really liked at Turin Bikes in Evanston. It was a Specialized Crossroads (I don’t know if that link is to the exact bike but it is very similar to that.) I’m looking for a reasonably inexpensive hybrid that is good for the around town stuff but that wouldn’t be ridiculous if I decided to try for a 20 or 30 mile ride someday. This bike or a similar class is probably what I’ll get.

While we were there we bought floor pump, a Topeak Joe Blow (also not the identical model but similar.) It’s amazing how just being able to properly inflate the tires on our current bikes radically improved the ride of both. The crappy hand pump I was using just plain don’t cut it. Even my older Panasonic rode way better with full tires. That’s what I get for skimping on tools. We should have bought a pump like this years ago.

Week 12

My weight this week was 228 pounds, down 3 pounds from last week and 18 pounds down from baseline. I added some activity and did some more bike riding and such. I’m pretty pleased with my progress so far. If I lose 2 pounds by next week, I’ll have lost an even 20 pounds my first quarter of this effort. That’s pretty decent – not too crazy but definitely noticeable. I hope to keep this going. It doesn’t get any easier.

I Want to Ride My Bicycle, I Want to Ride My Bike

After months of talk, I actually did ride my bike to the Metra station this morning. It didn’t take that long and I had enough time to go into the convenience store and buy a (sorely needed) bottle of water when I got there. It is definitely pathetic how hard a one mile bike ride hits me, but one assumes that if I do that every day it will get better. In pumping up tired over the weekend, I noticed that my old somewhat crappy bike is easily twice as difficult to pedal as my wife’s. Maybe I won’t oil it or anything, and leave the crappiness as an extra level of workout, like turning an excercise bike up to a higher level.

All in all, this is good. I get a little excercise, I save $1.50 on parking (which I spent on water) and there’s some gasoline that doesn’t get burned. Barring horribly inclement weather, I think I’ll do this every day from here on out.

Week 11

This week I was back to 231, down 4 pounds from my Memorial Day weekend binge week last week, and down 15 pounds total. I’ve been saying for months that I was going to start biking to the train, and I’m one piece of equipment from doing it. My goal is to do it tomorrow. I also bought jeans this weekend and could comfortably get size 36. When my size 38s began getting too tight, that was a big warning sign that I needed to do something about my weight ASAP. My goal is by the time I next must buy some to be in a 34 (or smaller.) I’m walking up 4 flights of stairs in my building every time I return to it, and trying to add in some extra passive exercise. I’m ramping slowly, but I am getting there.

Week 10

Eventually I knew it would have to happen, and this week was the week – the first in which I didn’t lose weight from the previous week. This week I was at 235, up 4 pounds from last week and down 11 from baseline. The holiday weekend had an inordinate amount of eating out, including some very rich food with huge portions at places like Joy Yee’s and Red Robin. In fact, I ate french fries for the first time in over two months this weekend (ironically, right after watching Super Size Me) and had other lapses including ice cream. I’m really not feeling that terribly bad about it, treating it more like a vacation from the regimen rather than some sort of earth-shaking betrayal of my new eating habits. Starting today I’m back on the wagon. Other than the leftover slice of Giordano’s pizza I have for lunch, it’s salads, fruit, sushi, whole grains and all that fun goodness. I also added a floor to my daily stair climb, taking the elevator one lower and walking up four flights now every time I return to this building. I’ve been saying for weeks that biking to the train was imminent and by gum this week I might just mean it.

Week 8

My weight this week was 231 – down 2 pounds from last week and 15 pounds from baseline. The slow and steady pace continues. Starting this week, I plan on biking to the train station when I can, so that 2 miles of bike riding a few times a week should help out some as well. I do definitely need more exercise and to improve my cardiovascular health. Last week after CJUG I had to run one block to catch my train and that 100 yards of running left me breathless and spent. Biking should help that some. I might even take to doing a little jogging in the mornings, just to build my wind back up to non-embarrasing levels.

Week 7

This morning I weighed 233, down 2 pounds from last week and 13 from baseline. I had a couple of lapses, including allowing myself 3 of the big triple chocolate cookies from Dominick’s (Safeway). Man those are tasty! By and large, I’m just eating less (but not enough less to be hungry), drinking more water and water in place of diuretic caffeine laced things like diet coke and coffee, and eating less crap. When I do have the urge to snack I eat pistachios, always in the shell. That 5 seconds to get it out of the shell is the difference between eating 10 of them and 100. If there were unshelled, you could just dump a handful in your mouth – having to chew them individually actually makes the snack urge go away when you have eaten just a few of them.

Week 6

Even though I relaxed my eating standards a little during my mom’s visit, I’m still at 235. That’s down 1 from last week and 11 down from baseline. I’m still not doing any appreciable exercise but we did do a lot of walking this weekend. I’m a little relieved. I wouldn’t have been surprised if my weight had gone up a little but I’m glad I didn’t.

Week 5

This week my weight was 236 – down 2 pounds from last week and 10 pounds from baseline. This is still without adding in any significant organized excercise, just taking the stairs more often and trying to eat according to the Harvard recommendations. Yesterday was a particularly stressful day, and I cracked. I ate a handful of Chips Ahoy with milk and drank two Diet Cokes – the first of those I’ve had in a month. I started to go completely nuts and eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich but I caught ahold of myself before then. The trick is to treat the lapses as isolated anomalies and not abandon ship when they happen.

Overall I’m happy with my progress. I’ve continued to lose a sensible 2 pounds a week by simply making different eating choices. I got a mailing for a special “welcome back” promotion from Bally Fitness that would let me rejoin for a year term for $99. I’m trying to see what the catch is and if it would work at the gym 2 blocks from my office. If so, I’ll be heading there a few times a week and things should continue on getting better from there. Now that I’m about 4% down from the highwater mark of the heaviest I’ve ever been, I’m breathing a sigh of relief. God help me if I have to go shopping for fat pants again in my life.

Week 4

My weight this week was 238 – down 2 pounds from last week and 8 pounds overall. I’m actually a little surprised by that. Because I was sick last week, I fled to some comfort foods and wasn’t very active for last half of the week. I had a Starbucks mocha, deep-fried sweet-and-sour chicken, a big plate of of pad Thai noodles, and yesterday I even slipped badly enough to eat peanut butter toast for breakfast. Despite all this, I’m a little down, so that’s not bad.

I also crossed another big milestone. I pulled out some of my size 36 jeans that I haven’t worn in quite a while, and tried them on. I was intending to see how badly they didn’t fit so I could keep up with that, but to my pleasant surprise I could put them on. In fact, I’m wearing them right now. They are pretty tight, but not unbearable. Not so long ago my 38s fit like these 36s do now. That was where I drew the line in the fat – I decided there was no way in hell I would go up to a 40. That’s an admission of defeat, and part of what got me headed the other way. With my illness mostly behind me, I’m taking the stairs at work again, eating right, and should be headed further downward.