Eat to Live

Weight graph

I started a serious push to get my weight under control in spring of 2014. I focused then on mostly avoiding processed sweets and eating mostly high protein, low carb foods for two meals of the day. I would have eggs for breakfast and sausage for lunch then a fairly normal dinner with the family. This worked for a while, and I got from around 225 pounds to 195 pounds in about six months.

After that, I had a very hard time maintaining that, even though I was exercising the whole time. The first three months of weight loss were without any additional exercise, but the last 15 included multiple trips to the gym on most weeks. I spent that year in a band of 203 poounds, plus or minus 7. I wasn’t gaining too much, but I wasn’t losing any.

In early spring as a listener of Penn’s Sunday School and a backer of Director’s Cut I started noticing and hearing about Penn Jillette’s weight loss. Although he is working with a guy named Ray Cronise as his weight loss guru, he mentioned on the show that the core of his eating regimen is from a book by Joel Fuhrman called Eat to Live. I figured, “what the hell do I have to lose but weight?” I bought the book, read to the key parts. Like all similar books, there is only one or two chapters that really matter and the rest is filler to make it salable at book length. Once I read the best start, I hopped on the plan with very little planning or foresight.

From the beginning, I lost weight. The sleight of hand of any regimen that restricts salty food is that coming from a standard American diet, you will lose water weight almost immediately. I have lost 18 pounds in 19 days, but 7 of that happened the first two days. It is a neat trick, because from the very beginning it helps with the motivation to watch weight disappearing quickly.

Here is the real high level summary of what I am doing. I highly recommend the book for anyone interested in this. I predict a high level of success for anyone following this plan.

For the first six weeks:

Unlimited: cooked and raw leafy greens; fresh fruits; cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, etc), beans

Desirable but limited to a serving a day: Avocado; raw and unsalted seeds and nuts; flax seed

Allowable but limited to a serving a day: Grains and grain products

Prohibited: Sugary foods; prepared foods; meat; dairy; salty foods; canned fruits; white breads; oils

After six weeks and for the rest of your life:

Follow the recommendations above but you have 200 calories a day you can splurge on any prohibited items. Whether that is meat, cheese or a cupcake you can have them and every day as long as 90% of your food intake follows the recommendations. Unlike having a cheat day, you can cheat every day but you have very clear boundaries.

At this point, I’m 2.5 weeks in. I will probably not go the entirety of the recommended 6 week initial period because my birthday is in there. For the day itself, I will allow myself one full day of eating whatever I want that day. After that, is is back on the plan but with the 200 calorie allowance.

As of last weekend, I fell under the lowest weights I had achieved in the previous 18 months of watching what I ate and exercising. It took right at two weeks for this to occur. I really haven’t considered what I am shooting for on the low end of this. I had 185 as my long term goal initially, and now I am 8 pounds from that with a long time left on this initial chunk. I hesitate to dream too big and bum myself out, but 180 seems quite possible. Is 175 too much (little) to ask?

One of the fun things I am doing is walking backwards in time. I have weight stamps associated with periods in my life. I spent much of the last decade around 240. After I quit drinking sodas, I almost immediately went to 225 and stayed there. In Chicago in the mid 2000s I was 240 and dropped to 225 when I started biking to the train station every day. In Atlanta, I was struggling to get under 220. In Portland, I was trying to lose from 209. In grad school in Louisiana, I was 190 at the low point. Prior to that, during my fitness kick in college I was more like a muscular and fit 165. As I lose weight, I get myself back to these timestamps. If I drop under 190, that will be a 20 year low. If I get into the 160s it will be a 25 year low.

These are still the early days of this plan, and I have given back this lost weight before. I will report back in periodically with my progress or lack thereof. For now, I am optimistic and not at all hungry. Have you ever tried to eat a pound of kale and romaine lettuce a day? It’s a lot of food, so not getting enough is never a problem. I hope to see lower blood pressure, which was getting problematic and maybe a host of other side benefits.

Wish me luck and less of myself.