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Countdown to 185: Week 1 – 65 Pounds To Go

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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.

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

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About pwinn

  • If people are interested in my day-to-day diet, I can include that in future updates. I’ve got the info for this week, but didn’t include it for space reasons.

  • MCH

    How tall are you?

  • 5’11”, or maybe 5’10”.

  • Yes, day-to-day diet would be of great interest, Phillip! I’m looking forward to reading these.

  • Hmm… I haven’t had a chance to explain the “why” or how I decided to go to extremes the first week, but with those caveats, here’s the scary list of food consumed that first week:

    Tuesday: Vanilla protein shake (more details in next week’s article), 6 oz tuna (can), grilled chicken breast (5-6 oz, I didn’t weigh them).
    Wednesday: Vanilla protein shake, grilled chicken breast with spicy mustard, grilled chicken breast with spicy mustard.
    Thursday: Vanilla protein shake, 5 oz Lemon Pepper tuna (bag), 4-egg, 1-yolk omelet w/sliced honey ham (~2 oz?) and a little jalapeno jack cheese (<1 oz).
    Friday: Vanilla protein shake, 6 oz tuna (can), grilled chicken breast with Frank’s Red Hot sauce
    Saturday: Vanilla protein shake, 5 oz Lemon Pepper tuna (bag), samples of a few different types of protein shakes, 5 oz Hickory Smoked tuna (bag)
    Sunday: Vanilla Praline protein shake, Spicy Taco Salad (ground turkey breast, lettuce, 2 tbsp salsa), Chili’s Classic Sirloin (no sides)
    Monday: Chocolate protein shake, Spicy Taco Salad, 3-egg, 1-yolk omelet with Laughing Cow Light Garlic & Herb cheese spread (1 wedge) and sliced honey ham (2 oz?)

    And that’s one week. Quite austere, and most people aren’t so strict, but I’m serious. The diet’s limit is 20g carbs per day, but I don’t think I’ve exceeded 5g.

  • MCH, I’m not a huge believer in BMI charts, for many reasons, but my initial goal is for a BMI of 26 or so, with my secondary goal (the one I’m not telling my wife) of a BMI of about 23.

  • Mat Brewster

    Good luck man. We’re actually moving to China in August, and I’m hoping the total food culture shock will get me into better shape, fat-wise.

  • zingzing

    hey matt–my girlfriend is currently attending school for a semester in china, so i visited for a couple of weeks in april. she’s lost some weight over there… somehow–it’s not for a lack of eating. the food there is amazing. but watch out for the chicken. bone’s in there… and you just spit it out onto the table. chicken heads? gross. chicken feet… lovely. duck tongue too. mmm. first chance you get, go to a banquet (round table) dinner. baijou (the chinese liquor of choice) and drunken (live) shrimp abound!

    food is the best thing about china. also, definitely go to a bath house. for about $12, you can take a hot bath, get a 2 hour massage and sleep all night. marvelous.

    oh yeah, bring some bug spray. lots of it. and get your shots. and go ahead and pick up smoking.

  • zingzing

    i like this one: “Vanilla protein shake, grilled chicken breast with spicy mustard, grilled chicken breast with spicy mustard.”

    it’s like that line out of fletch: “i’ll have a steak sandwich, and… a steak sandwich.”

  • Mat, aside from the diet, the walking and bike riding around China will help because driving is an adventure over there. Pay no attention to the lines on the ground or you will be the only one.

    Phil, good luck on the diet. you should have had some people join you and created a BC Biggest Loser contest.

  • Zing — Hee! It’s possible I mixed up one or two of the dinners, and I’m not 100% I ate the exact same things with no variation twice in one day. But I probably did. I’m keeping track in real-time now, rather than reconstructing the list from memory, so next week will (hopefully) be more varied.

    For that first week, I might not have eaten enough, and I was aiming to be strict, not enjoy myself. I did discover that Frank’s Red Hot sauce makes many things delightful. Tonight I’m going to eat some steak with Red Hot sauce, which will be somehow different from the steak I ate last night without it. 🙂

    For the physical portion of the plan, I need to find a pedometer, or buy a new one. There are a few around the house, in theory.

  • My diet plan is to smoke my way to thinness. Every time I get hungry, I’ll go smoke. My lungs will be black but I’ll looking fucking fabulous in a Speedo!

    In seriousness, I applaud your work, Sir Phillip. One of these decades I’m going to have to do the same thing. Damn, already had Nutter Butter from the vending machine. I’ll have to start tomorrow.

  • I di something similarto this and blogged my daily food consumption in a blog, the brilliantly titled All I Ate Today!

    Posting everything I ate so publicly really helped me concentrate on what I was eating and it did pay off whilst I stuck to the routine.

    Based on your results of losing 14 pounds in just one week, Phillip, the Kimkins diet seems pretty impressive. I may look into trying it myself as I’d like to shed a few more pounds right now.

    I found one of the worst things was the between feed hunger pangs, it’s pretty amazing how over-powering they can be sometimes.

    One picky detail, isn’t the Tuna fish an endangered species? If it’s not already, it’s sure going to be if enough people emulate your routine!

  • Christopher — I’ve had much less tuna this last week, and quite a bit more chicken and turkey, so they may be safe. It’s all farm-raised albacore anyway, I think.

    Five more pounds this week, article will be published soon.

  • MCH

    “you should have had some people join you and created a BC Biggest Loser contest.”

    I thought that was already Dave Nalle…(?)

  • Phillip, what’s the deal with vegetables on this diet?

  • Most veggies are fine, and I’m eating a lot more of them in week two. I’m going to post last week’s diet in a comment on the new article.

  • Lilliy

    I am a Type 2 insulin resistent diabetic & on an insulin pump. I am following a 1400 calorie, low carb diet to lose weight. I am a 59 yr. old woman and am overweight. I need ot lose weight without highs & lows in my BGs. I;m interested in this low carb diet. I watch carefully and there is no way that I can have 5 carbs/day without throwing myself into a fenzey. How many carbs in the protein shakes from sugar sources. I am aspertame and other sugar subs intolerent except for sacchrin, which is hard to find in products these days. Aspertame and some of the other subs make me violently nauseous & barfy! I looked over some of your diet… high proteins good but too much is hard on the kidneys. Interested in this low carb diet… can you share it?