I started with 144 days to lose 65 pounds. Eight days in, I’m ahead of schedule.
I wasn’t an obese child, or even a fat teen. I weighed 150 lbs when I was 14, and as near as I can recall, 165 lbs at my wedding at 22. The weight gain has been slow but inexorable. I was active when I was younger, but I work a desk job during the day and spend my evenings and nights and Saturdays working on this site. I started a twice-weekly beer-drinking habit. And clearly I ate more. At one point I was up to 241 pounds, and I panicked.
I dedicated myself to walking, then jogging. I spent nearly every day at the gym, pushing my body mercilessly. I cut my portions in half, and cut out all snacks. I even ended an addiction to a daily 32-ounce Pepsi with vanilla syrup added. I spent a long time getting into the best shape of my life, and dropped to 196 pounds. And then I began the slow climb back up. The gym at which I’d been spending three to five days a week closed. I bought home equipment, but that worked out as well as most purchases of home equipment. I relaxed my eating habits, including the reintroduction of a daily Vanilla Pepsi and occasional Butterscotch Zingers. I took a vacation and never quite came back from it.
This time, as I gained the weight, something was different. I was 30 then, and so perhaps it was one of those changes that happens in life. Or perhaps it was the new beer-drinking habit. And that is roughly when I started spending all of my time on Blogcritics.org. Instead of my body distributing the fat evenly all around, so that I usually looked more “big” than “fat,” it all came back in two places: my belly and my face. Instead of looking “husky” or “big,” I just look fat. I was fat before, but people consistently underestimated my weight. Now, if anything, they probably overestimate it. By my own poor choices, I’m up to my highest weight ever: 250 pounds. I want to get to 185, because my wife says those old pictures of me at 165 look “scrawny.” Secretly I plan to get to 165 again, but I can’t tell my wife until I hit 185.
The gym has reopened under new management, so I could devote myself to the 12-week Body for Life program that helped me last time. Then again, it’s hard to envision myself going to those same aerobics classes at 250 that I did at 220. I worked up to the gym membership; I started with walking. But it turns out that walking is hard when you’re 250, too. Either coincidentally, or possibly as a result of my weight, I’ve developed severe allergies that make it difficult for me to spend any time outdoors at all. Every time I wander out to sit and watch my kids play, I’m guaranteed to need Benadryl to recover. To walk at night, after the kids go to bed, exhausts me just to think about it. To get up early in the morning, as I used to, now means dosing myself up with Benadryl to start the work day, which doesn’t seem like an optimal solution.
Though I recognize these explanations as excuses, I know that I need to move beyond this, and I haven’t the will to start what I remember as a very long and very difficult path to weight loss. I decided I needed a diet jump-start. If I could lose ten or twenty pounds purely through changing my diet, I would have no excuses. The weight loss, in my case, must precede the physical activity, though the physical activity must follow. It’s not just weight loss that concerns me, but also blood pressure and general health.
My mother has been on a low-carb diet, but I’ve always expressed skepticism. Can’t be healthy, I’d say, as I watched people eating huge piles of bacon and cheese and other fatty foods. Better to lose weight "the Right Way" — by eating less and exercising more. The idea of eating all the fat you wanted and still losing weight just didn’t make sense — and still doesn’t. But now I was edging up to 250, and I noticed my mother was getting to be very thin. I found out she’d lost 86 pounds on this particular low-carb diet, and that she wasn’t eating a lot of fat, either. I found out my father had lost 30-something pounds in six weeks. That’s the sort of thing I was looking for! I decided that even if the diet is slightly unhealthy, so is being fat. Better to lose some weight quickly, get back into the physical activity groove, and then worry about the proper balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
With that decision made, I looked at the diet my mother was on more closely. It turns out that, contrary to my expectations, it wasn’t a high-fat low-carb diet. It was a low-fat low-carb diet, which seemed both better and worse. Better, because it made more sense and seemed a lot more healthy, but worse, because it meant the foods I could eat would be even more limited! Still, people were reporting losing an average of two to three pounds per week using this diet, with some reporting much more dramatic results, and nobody reporting poor results without also admitting that they hadn’t really followed the diet. Aside from constipation, nobody reported any negative health effects, either. I wasn’t surprised. I’m no dietician, but I had done a bit of research into Body for Life, a fantastic 12-week weight-training program and diet, and I could see that the emphasis on protein was similar. The way the diet was described — the process of the body using energy — also lined up with what I had read elsewhere, even from now-low-carb sources. Finally, her emphasis that in the end it’s all "calories in" that makes the difference convinced me — this was the diet for me.
I decided I needed a time limit. I can endure nearly anything for a set period of time, but open-ended commitments are difficult. Based on the reports of "typical" weight loss, I first chose one year, then six months, which I fixed at 180 days. Nearly a week into the plan, a friend reminded me that I’ll be traveling to Central Asia later this year, and it’s a certainty that I won’t be able to continue eating well while I’m there, so I cut the schedule again, to 144 days. On the 144th day, I'll get on a flight to Istanbul, Turkey, to wait for my connecting flight to Central Asia, and on day 145, I'll land in Turkey, probably unable to stick to the plan. By that time, I really want to be 185 pounds. Then, on January 1, 2008, I’m going to start the diet again, with the goal — don’t tell my wife! — of reaching 165.
In coming weeks, I’ll explain my understanding of the diet, and update you on my progress. For the first week, already passed, I’ll give you a brief summary. All weights come from an early-morning weigh-in on an analog scale.
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2007-06-12: 250 (two pounds of this was gained over the weekend!)
2007-06-13: 245, -5 pounds today, 5 pounds lost total
2007-06-14: 243, -2 pounds today, 7 pounds lost total
2007-06-15: 240, -3 pounds today, 10 pounds lost total
2007-06-16: 238.5, -1.5 pounds today, 11.5 pounds lost total
2007-06-17: 237.5, -1 pound today, 12.5 pounds lost total
2007-06-18: 237, -.5 pound today, 13 pounds lost total
2007-06-19: 236, -1 pound today, 14 pounds lost total