PLEASE NOTE – THIS IS STILL IN DRAFT BUT I WANTED TO GET IT OUT THERE
I’ve been overweight since around the age of 12, which was approximately 1983 (that is also around the time when the low-fat craze seems to have gotten into full-swing).
In my early twenties, while still in the Navy, I weighed right about 200 lbs. I’m 5’10” and was always considered overweight, based on the Navy’s weight standards. After leaving the service I steadily gained weight while in college, where I ate McDonalds and other fast foods daily. For the past 15+ years I’ve weighed approximately 250 to 255 pounds, except when I’ve gone on various diets, where I temporarily shed somewhere between 10 and 20 pounds through various measures.
So that was the history/background for what I’m about to write next, so you’ll have the proper context:
I honestly think I’ve found the cure for obesity. At least for myself, but since I got the general gist of the ‘cure’ from an assortment of other sources, I’m pretty confident that it should work for anyone. That said, this is not an article on how you should lose weight. I’m not a diet doctor and, quite frankly, could care less if everyone else got skinny. But I wanted to write this post in hopes that others may consider for themselves that the radical principles I’ve used to my advantage may help them in their struggle with weight.
Before I continue, let me make one thing clear: I’m still fat. But, for the better part of two decades I was obese, so being ‘fat’ feels great. I have a weird body type. At 5’10” tall and 255 pounds I should have looked perfectly round in shape, but I didn’t. I was very flabby but with very big thighs and calfs (fairly decently shaped so we’re not talking about “cankles” here), I routinely could fool even the “Guess Your Weight!” guys at the carnivals and boardwalks across America.
I’m now at 226 pounds, down from 255 pounds, in the past 4.5 months. While I have no doubt I could have lost some more weight during the preceding 4.5 months via the traditional “brute force” method (starvation diet + exercise, which I’ve done in the past for ‘cycles’, only to gain it back over time), I’ve eaten pretty darn well during this span and, up until a couple of weeks ago, didn’t work out once during the past year or so.
How I Am Losing Weight Without Eating Less or Working Out?!?
I’ve always been able to lose weight. The problem has been keeping it off. I’m a food addict. Now I can tell you that I’m a sugar/carb addict, because that’s what hindsight has proven to me. Before, when I had a great day, I would celebrate it with food. When I had a bad day, I would console myself with food. When I accomplished something via sweat equity (like doing jobs around the house), I would use a big fat hoagie (submarine sandwich for you non-Philly people) or some other junk food as a subconscious reward. I haven’t felt the need to do that for months now.
So how am I doing it (cus I still have lots to go)? I didn’t follow any particular diet or ‘lifestyle change’ (as some of the slicker diet doctors and/or fitness pundits like to label their methods now). I used the following sources:
1. My wife, who started me (somewhat dragged me into it, actually) via the first two weeks of The South Beach Diet’s “Phase One”.
2. Trial and error, on a daily basis, to see how my weight was impacted by certain foods.
3. Trial and error, on an intra-day basis, to see how my mood/attitude and overall energy level was impacted by certain foods.
4. Guidance from the research and research-based conclusions from Gary Taubes’ book “Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It”. As far as I’m concerned, Taubes has single-handedly exposed the low-fat diet and fitness pundits as the frauds that they are.
Based on the above (don’t worry – I’ll spill the details soon), I’m dropping weight at a very steady pace, and have not felt ‘hungry’ at all during that time. My energy level, as expected, has increased linearly during that time and so that compounds the weight loss due to my activity level going up.
Enough Already. Just Tell Me How To Lose Weight!
So, based on my experience, here’s what you need to know:
A. The traditional “Calories In/Calories Out” approach is fundamentally flawed and research backs this. Read the Taubes book for the gory details. I personally found the book to be somewhat long-winded and tough to get through the whole thing, as after the beginning it’s basically just a rehash of the same points over and over and over, but I guess that is what the intent was – to indundate the reader with the rationale and research to back it.
B. Exercising/Working out as a means to lose weight will work short-term (as most diet methods will) but is not sustainable. Taubes even goes as far as saying that exercise and weight are mutually exclusive – aside from the fact that working out just makes you build up an appetite so that you’ll eat more.
C. Atkins, Dr. Agaston (the South Beach guy), Sears (the Zone guy), etc., were fundamentally right to varying degrees. Carbohydrates/sugars are what make you gain weight.
D. This is the crux of it all: losing weight is not about depriving yourself. “Overeating” is a natural side-effect of being fat. It’s a vicious cycle. Being obese is NOT a mental problem (i.e., lack of willpower) and it is not a laziness problem (i.e., “Get off the couch and you’ll lose weight!”) – you are on the couch BECAUSE you are fat. You are not fat because you’re on the couch all day. BIG DIFFERENCE. That is the crux of it.
Based on the above three pieces of guidance, I lost weight and continue to lose weight by simply:
1. Not working out unless my body wants to. As I lose more weight, my body actually wants to get more exercise. Be it by traditional ‘physical fitness’ or by simply doing more work around the house, etc.
2. I weened myself off of the fast-food/carb/sugar addiction by following my wife’s trek through phase one of the South Beach diet. I never read most of the book or principles of that diet – no need to now. But it certainly was the basis for the first couple of weeks to jump-start me. In truth, it took me closer to a month to really lose the addiction to carbs.
3. Eat lots of FAT and protein. FAT is good. FAT is what makes you feel full. This is the key. Eating fat does not make you fat – the research verifies this. It is carbs/sugars that cannot be processed by the body quickly enough that get stored as fat. No, I do not subscribe to the Atkins diet where you can eat like a fucking glutton if you want (i.e., continue to go through the McDonalds’ drive-thru and order all the burgers you want, just ditch the buns <– that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard).
4. Eating plenty of fat, natural foods. Limiting carbs (I still eat them, just nowhere near the amount before). For example, for breakfast I typically have 2 or 3 fried eggs (I coat the pan with plenty of butter) and turkey bacon (according to Taubes, Atkins, etc., and the principles I outline above, eating regular ole fat bacon is just fine – I just prefer turkey bacon as I’ve developed a taste for it over time and I find it cooks faster). For lunch I typically eat a salad with some diced up chicken, with plenty of high-fat ceasar dressing. Or I go to Wendy’s (no shit) and eat a large Chili and a ceasar side salad. But it’s not rigid – this past weekend I went to Costco and had one of those big ass hot dogs, for example. I eat carbs now but just sparingly – I know that I am a carb addict so I have to watch my intake. But the ‘trigger foods’ don’t really exist anymore – I don’t really think about it like I used to, and when I have had them (sandwiches, toast, etc.) I usually find them disappointing. I guess my tongue has changed along with my waistline.
According to Taubes’ research (which is based on the research that was done up until WWII, when the European scientists that performed most of the quality research up to that point on this subject were either killed or otherwise forced to stop, any diet that curbs carbs will work. The less carbs/sugars in equals the less weight you’ll gain. Makes sense. So that’s why any diet will work. Even the idiotic “low fat” diets – not because you’re limiting fat intake but because you are, by the very nature of it, limiting carbs. BUT, you can do much better by simply focusing on reducing the carbs/sugars.
And no, you’re not going to die of a heart attack by eating fatty foods: the research that has been done to this point supports the low-carb diets in terms of heart health. There is no research-backed correlation between eating high-fat and increased cholesterol levels. Again, I am not a doctor and I could care less about ‘the research’ – I just care about what works and what is sustainable. Read the Taubes stuff if you want the details. I plan on going to my doctor for a physical, including having my good/bad cholesterol levels checked, soon to verify this.
So that’s it. That’s the key, at least for me. Your mileage may vary of course. But if you want to make a *real* “lifestyle change” (lol), then forget what you’ve been lied to all your life in regards to how we get fat and how to lose it. Think about it – the ‘obesity epidemic’ started in the late 70’s/early 80’s and is growing to this day, yet that is also the time period when the health club/fitness boom started and ‘low fat’ diets were promoted by the FDA (that lousy food pyramid) and the health community.
I now look at doctors the same way as I do the pharmaceutical companies…