Eric over at Health Demystified is young and serious and trying to save the world from the ill effect of obesity with a free product. More importantly in my mind one of the obese people he is trying to save is his father and he deserves all the help he can get. At my advanced age, I am not sure that there is a single product that would help people lose weight, and even if it were free, I’m not sure how many people would use it because of all the negative uses of the word free on the Internet.
However, his knowledge, sincerity and hard work make me want to help him so I took the time to assess what were the principle reasons I achieved a lifestyle change starting in 2010 which led to my 101 pound weight loss and as of today I am now stable around 173 pounds with a 37 inch waste when measured above the belly button. A waist above 40 inches is just as deadly as obesity and I have been as high as 57 inches at my peak weight of 265 pounds.
I apologize for the length of this post, but the following text described the knowledge gained from forty years of dieting and 3 years of lifestyle changes.
There are only a few elements to consider for a permanent weight loss and perhaps hundreds of ways to focus on them. Any holistic plan to achieve a permanent drop in weight from life threatening obesity must address all of the key issue and recognize where weight loss information is being compromised usually for commercial purposes. At the simplest level, your weight is governed by the calories you eat and drink and the amount of physical work you do. There are no magic drugs, exercises or food plans. When it comes to calories and the fat in your body, “in minus out equals accumulated weight.”
The biggest problem with this simple wisdom is that on the short term it doesn’t seem to work as our body fights our erratic behavior and tries to maintain stability. Up to a point, fat is good to provide energy when, and if, there are lean periods of reduced consumption or periods of increased activity. Yet if we eat or drink too much and exercise too little, there is no instantaneous weight gain because our body will get rid of those excess calories in our body waste. Eventually gluttony wins the battle and new fat is added to our body and a new higher weight plateau is reached.
Likewise, the reverse of the process is not instantaneous. Going to the gym without a lifestyle change probably won’t alter your weight very much. While exercise is an excellent lifestyle change to help you control the weight you are at and increase longevity, the results would be more realistically evaluated with a tape measure, a mirror and your wardrobe.
There is a very good reason to be concerned about your appearance beyond vanity. The chances of health problems double with people who have a big belly even if they have “normal weight”. Measured just above the belly button, a man should be below 40 inches and 36″ is the recommended size. For a woman to sustain good health, she should be below 35 inches and 31″ is recommended.
There is also no magic solution to shedding belly bulge. It simply involves eating and drinking less and exercising more but the gym alone won’t shed weight. An hour of moderate workout in the gym will burn about 300 calories and it would take about twelve days to lose a pound if eating and drinking habits remained the same. Even at this modest rate of loss, most grossly overweight or obese people are only capable of light exercise so they would have to workout for two hours every day to lose a pound in twelve days unless they reduce food consumption.
At 265 pounds with a 57 inch waist, I was too ashamed to go to a gym so I purchased a treadmill which I hated because I was bored to tears. I used it and controlled my drinking and eating and dropped to 225 pounds but was still bored to tears because the only way for me to cut back on food and alcohol was to cut back on socializing. My weight drifted all over the place because of my lack of commitment to a lifestyle change. When I started on my current path in December of 2009, I was 245 pounds and had a 47 inch waist, which was still in the deadly zone because of both waist size and obesity.
Now I am a cautious person and I never make a commitment without understanding everything about the nature of the endeavor. For me, a person should know enough about obesity to understand that obesity is not just about the length of time a person will live, it is also about the general quality of life and the ability to participate in family events. Also, the chance of a slow, lingering and painful death increases with weight. Morbid obesity is associated with a substantially increased risk of chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
The hardest first step for an obese person is to accept they have real issues. When I was morbidly obese, I didn’t know anything about obesity, Body Mass Index (BMI) or a slow and lingering death and in the case of obesity, ignorance is bliss. I didn’t even own a scale. I got weighed on the doctors scale and at work so was generally aware of my weight range. The two issues which had the highest impact on family life bothered my wife and I different ways. Above 235 pounds, breathing became an issue and it stopped me from having an active sex life which didn’t seem to bother my wife very much. The issue which bothered her was sleep apnea.
Dolores had been trained as a nurse and my father had died from sleep apnea where he simply stopped breathing in his sleep at age 71. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder with abnormal long pauses in breathing during sleep. Individuals with low muscle tone and soft tissue around the airway (jowls because of obesity) are at high risk for obstructive sleep apnea. Old male couch potatoes, with jowls and weak muscles, are more likely to have sleep apnea than women and Dolores was worried about me.
So at that point in time, I got a scale and an education on obesity. Health problems relative to normal people start occurring almost instantly as people move outside the normal weight range. At the extreme of morbid obesity (BMI over 40; or for me 262 pounds at 68 inches tall), the odds of incurring any health care problem is twice as often and the cost goes up with the amount of excess weight. The penalty for morbid obesity is about $3000 per year more in medical bills than for a normal person. Only 2% to 3% of the nation is in this special group but I qualified.
It didn’t take me long to learn enough to abuse science. From the studies and BMI charts, I found that I only had to drop to Class 1, Obesity at a BMI of 30 to shed about 3/4 of my health problems and costs. Also the drop in weight led to an improved sex life. The problem of sleep apnea occasionally remained as I bounced around in a range between 220 and 240 but moistly above 230. This meant every time I did binge level eating or drinking and gained a couple of pounds, the sleep apnea returned. As long as Dolores was alive and sharing my bed, I was constantly appraised when I was on the wrong side of the line because my irregular breathing was ruining her ability to sleep. I stopped using the exercise equipment, and the scale wore out and was never replaced because of my lack of commitment. Thirty-six percent (36%) of the Nation is obese in all three classes
In my adult lifetime, I had a tendency to binge eat or drink when I was under severe stress. My first diet, the Stillman all protein diet, was in 1970 when I was starting a winery and trying to balance a full time job. The first gas crises in 1974 crushed my tourist winery that I had successfully started and which depended on people driving to reach it. In 1982, I lost a job and sought solace in food until I opened an outdoor beach club which did exceptionally well and I dropped to 182 for the last time until my current lifestyle changes . In 1988, it rained on 39 consecutive outdoor events at the Beach Club and I was broke and lost the business. By 2004, things were going reasonably well and I just got fat and lazy due to becoming a “desk jokey” and not engaging in any physical activity because I could hire people to do everything that needed to be done and take time off to go fishing and drinking beer with my friends.
Still after that zenith of 265 in 2004, I managed to hold between 220 and 240 using the Type O diet until Dolores died. Then I started seeking solace in food and cooking and eating too much. Drinking was no longer that big of a problem as I was not happy enough to enjoy socializing and drinking. Unfortunately, Dolores was no longer sharing my bed to tell me when I was too fat to breath at night. This is where My Daughter Dagny and My Niece Cait joined forces and convinced me it was time for a lifestyle change.
So what are the essential elements of my 101 Pound weight loss.
1. General knowledge about obesity and acceptance of the scientific data. You must understand the problem before attempting to solve it.
2. Strong Emotional support from family (Dagny, Cait and Carson). Non judgmental loving support and encouragement is needed. Very few can solve the obesity problem entirely on their own.
3. A strong and vocal Personal Commitment and let the world know. Commitment is a struggle especially at the start because your weight loss is so fragile and unstable. When I started my diet at 265 without a commitment to a lifestyle change I had dropped about 45 pounds in a few months just by starving and working at the gym. I went on vacation where there was no scale and gained 27 pounds in a long weekend eating 3 meals a day, drinking beer mid day and having wine and a big dinner in the evening. I brought a scale because I felt I was gaining weight and when I got the result, I knew it was flawed and returned the scale to the store. Eventually, I quit the diet because the diet failed me and the weight loss wasn’t permanent. The first three to five months of a lifestyle change are most critical and a lifestyle change of only three months will also fail.
4. A commitment to reduce the calories consumed with beverages and food. My personal commitment is covered in my book “An introduction to coffeepot cooking: How I lost 101 pounds cooking Portion Controlled Meals” which is available in Kindle format from Amazon. You can get a free Kindle app for almost every computer and operating system.
5. A commitment to a minimum of a half hour of exercise everyday or worst case every other day. It is better and you lose more weight, if you do a minimum of a half hour everyday and an hour a day three times a week. It is also better if you do it first thing in the morning to jump start your metabolism and stay physically active all day.
I firmly believe That there is no substitute for the advice in the first three steps. And a great amount of flexibility in the last two. When it comes to exercise, it is the time you commit to exercising regardless of which form of exercise you choose. I like walking because almost everybody can do it. When you work with your heart monitor and push yourself to safely do only a half hour a day, you get stronger everyday and are able to do more. Everybody in my family has a favorite physical activity and mine just happens to be walking and not a chore at all because it fits my personality. When I miss two days because of rain, I’ll look for a break in the weather and go for it. If it rains, I don’t care because I am still walking and enjoying the sights and proud of my accomplishments.
When it comes to eating, you can eat and drink what you like as long as your total calorie count is around 2000 which if you pace it during the day with moderate amounts of fruit, vegetables and protein; and then eat a light dinner, there is still a 1000 calories left over for a few glasses of wine. If on the other hand you don’t drink, then stick with the light fruit and vegetables all day and have a slightly heartier dinner and you will lose the weight a little faster by skipping beverages with calories and carbonation.
I don’t believe in special diets or severely restricted diets because for me they simply create a repressed demand for the foods I want and the quantities I am used to. When I started holding about 2000 calories, walking in the morning, getting into yard work as much as possible, walking in the afternoon when possible, and going to bed relaxed on a full stomach, I didn’t feel deprived of anything and drifted into a steady routine right away.
The process isn’t fast. In the first month, I lost 20 pounds and in the second 15. In the third month I lost 5 pounds. Remember, from previous diets, I found those first three months are the most unstable and the easiest time to have a relapse and regain the lost weight. After that, I shed weight at the rate of about 3 pounds per month. If this was a diet, I probably would have quit after the second month because I would be bored with a steady special diet of meat, carbohydrates, vegetables, vegan, caveman food, or any other cult diet.
However, this was a lifestyle change which allowed for lapses while on vacation with planed sacrifices of more work and less food after vacation. I also started in January when I wouldn’t see my family and party with them for the next six months or so I planned. I have now stuck with the plan for about 3 years and see little reason to change.
A natural evolution is that I now eat vegan about once a week, vegetarian twice a week and chicken, turkey and fish the rest of the time. However, and this is important to my mental well being, if I get a craving for liver, kidneys, sausage or any of the other weird things like my mother ate which let her live to be 93, I eat them and don’t consider it a failure in my lifestyle, just part of it. The same is true if I have a few midday beers while hanging with my family or friends. The only results my family really cares about is what the scale says and how big my belly is and that’s fine with me.
Remember continue to enjoy fine food, just less of it.