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Monday, December 12, 2011

Weight loss, my diet and lifestyle

In 2002 I was 250 pounds with a BMI of >25. I got that way by transitioning from a 210-pound, muscular college athlete in May 2000 (a cheerleader at Mississippi State) to a sedentary tub-o-lard following a knee injury in the Navy. I continued eating like I was burning 3000 calories a day but relied on the knee-injury crutch to explain why I wasn't exercising at any level. My biochemistry didn't particularly care about my excuse as it prepared for hibernation accordingly.

In October of 2001, I finally failed the "rope-and-choke" measurement the Navy performs if you're above the height/weight standards (see Navy PRT). The standards are generous to say the least. The secondary "rope-and-choke" measurement gives you a better result if you have a fat neck. So as I became tubby, I stayed in standards for a while because my neck was matching my gut growth and I put a lot of the weight on in my legs/chest. As part of my continued denial that I WAS THE PROBLEM, I argued that the test was stupid and didn't give a good measure of body fat like hydrostatic weighing or other more accurate measures. In the end, I realized that Uncle Sam's method was more favorable to the fatty (that was ME for those who think I'm insensitive), but that realization came later.

So after failing to live up to the lowest common denominator in the service, Uncle Sam strongly encouraged me to get within standards - I had a year to reestablish myself to the standard or it was sayonara jobby-job. My wife & I both took this opportunity to make some lifestyle changes and I ended up at 175 pounds after approximately 6 months of dedicated effort and I'm sitting at 180lbs 10 years later. Many people have two reactions when they hear this factoid about me:
1. I don't believe you were EVER 250lb - it's true, unfortunately
2. PLEASE tell me HOW you did it. - let's see how to put this gently... DIET & EXCERCISE

We started out with the little book and a slider that you got in that time frame from Weight Watchers. That was all it took. We created and printed out a week-long journal in Excel to count points and keep up with what we were eating. While my wife said I was crazy, I always rounded up if it was a "half-point" situation. The 2-3 points I counted but didn't eat each day helped me cut another couple hundred calories just by mentally tricking myself. I also exercised 3-4 days per week for no more than an hour. Once we reached my goal weight and my wife's corresponding 10-15 pounds (she was already only 120 pounds and "smoking hot", so didn't have as far to go), we started to gradually increase the points to level out and eventually stopped formally counting/journaling. This way of life had become just that... second nature. With all of that weight loss, I gained some additional benefits that are sometimes strange to think about:

- Blood pressure improved to below 120 / 75-80 (<100 with a bit of relaxed breathing)

- Clothes fit right off the rack and I often find my size on sale since everyone else is buying the bigger stuff

- No more ingrown hairs, boils, and associated skin complications on fat inner thighs that never saw any space between them. This was a little-known complication of me becoming a fat polar bear.

- Improved ability to, ummm, perform.

Since 2002, my wife & I have continuously searched for healthy ways to feed ourselves. With the addition of 2 kids (recently a 3rd), our habits devolved a bit with an increase in nights where we would clean up the mac & cheese or chicken nuggets by eating their leftovers. Over the last 7 years I ended up gaining 20 pounds of the 75 pounds lost. Once we had our daughter, we both centered ourselves and recommitted to live a healthy lifestyle. We don't do "diets" and have continually warned my seriously overweight dad & stepmom that fill in the blank fad diet won't work and isn't meant to be a long-term lifestyle. They have tried Atkins, Glycemic Index, et cetera ad infinitum. I started hearing about the "paleo diet" and I was immediately skeptical. However, a little more research and hearing other people who I am beginning to trust explain it uncovered the point that the paleo "diet" is diet in the traditional sense - the sum of the food consumed by an organism or group. At it's core: eat simple food that was common in a paleolithic diet (meat, vegetables, leafy greens, et al) and avoid food that our evolved biochemistry may not be properly designed to deal with (grains). Various people have their on take on this diet and one who continues to be very popular is Robb Wolf. At our house we have started using leafy greens to deliver meats conveniently (think lettuce wrap). I also increased my egg intake to replace cereal in the morning. I plan to continue with dairy, though I have significantly decreased my intake just because I don't eat cereal every morning anymore (my family has dropped our milk intake by 75%). We have made very few changes from our already veggie/meat intensive diet, but dropping out the 2 slices of bread, cereal, and most milk have made about 15 pounds disappear over about 9 weeks.

This post is getting a bit wordy and I feel like I might be rambling. So I'm throwing it out there. I can always post a follow up. I hope this helps someone.

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