Fitness Specter 34: Diet


I have a friend on Facebook (shocking, right?) that is attempting to lose weight, he and his wife, and that they have success with certain things but not others. Their goal is simply to lose weight and both of them, if I’m correct, don’t eat/like to eat certain types of foods. Most of my advice in this area is usually to switch to, or away from, certain foods… then I stopped for a moment, held my fingers from hitting “post” on a comment, and really thought about what got me to where I am right now.

I suppose that I should first explain where I am right now.

My work sucks. The hours and the stress are terrible and I would really like to do something different in life. Since I currently can’t, the stress and hours have held my weight steady at over 300 lbs. Yes, I’ve still got most of what I gained back by coming to this utopia of eating (yes, Portland is really a utopia of food options). I eat lots of veggies (beans, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, potatoes) and fruits (pineapple, strawberries, bananas), I don’t eat anything (mostly) with high fructose corn syrup in it, I eat out far less than I used to, and I’d say that aside from my portions I couldn’t get any healthier on the eating (unless I cut out the eating out). This was not always the case.

I’ll say that around 2010 or 2011, I acquired an allergy to dairy. I say it that way because it really just started happening and I’d get violently ill whenever I had something with dairy in it. No cheese, no bread (most breads have dairy), no “white” sauces, etc. I was living with a terrible affliction that really hurt whenever I didn’t pay attention to what I was eating.

During that horrible phase of my life, my wife and I found many alternatives to foods that ended up being super healthy options. Want some cheese flavoring? Nutritional yeast. Need some filler for a meal that you aren’t getting from a cheesy or dairy product? Start eating vegetables. Want pizza? Have them leave the cheese off and just give you meats, veggies, sauce, fruit, etc on it.

In fact, my entire palate changed. I was enjoying broccoli when I hadn’t previously. I was eating fruits on a regular basis that weren’t just bananas. There were all kinds of things we were doing differently.

Then the allergy stopped. I don’t know exactly when it stopped but all of a sudden I could eat dairy again. For 3 or 4 years, I was completely dairy free and all of a sudden I could eat the dairy again. Pizza never tasted so good. I went, almost completely, back to the way I was eating before.

Now we get to the part where I am right now.

One morning, literally (used correctly, I literally did this), I sat up in bed and said, aloud: “I’m tired of being fat.” I am still tired of being fat now, too, but we won’t talk about that quite yet. I made a declaration and all of a sudden I was pushing to lose weight in the biggest way.

The research began. When people use the word “diet” they’re usually talking about a temporary change in the way they eat in order to lose weight or make a change. In every single case, if you stop doing something to lose weight and return to doing that thing after you’ve achieved your goal, you’ll gain the weight back. Why? Because you eliminated something and returned to doing it.

When I use the word “diet,” as with many medical professionals, I mean what you eat… period. Weight loss is a lifestyle change, not a fad, not a quick fix, not something that can be temporary. If you want sustainable weight loss, you need to do something and do that something forever. How can temporarily changing something result in a permanent solution? It can’t and there isn’t a dietician, doctor, or fitness expert that wouldn’t agree with me.

The first thing I did, before making any other change, was I eliminated all high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). None. My wife and I read so many labels (and still do) that our eyes were falling out. I won’t get to eat a lot of my favorite things anymore because they contain HFCS. No soda, no ketchup, no bread, no cereal, no sauces, no Cloverdale meats (they’re a North Dakota meat packing company that puts HFCS in their meats), and if it had any derivative of HFCS it was also out (high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, etc, etc, etc). I didn’t eat anything for a long, long time with HFCS in it. I only do so in “treats” now, and then only minimally.

I’d guess I lost 25 pounds just eliminating HFCS alone.

With my changed palate, my wife and I started eating things we hadn’t eaten a lot of before. I was not a “sweet potato” lover by any stretch of the imagination and now we eat the shit out of them. Most of the meals we eat contain a large vegetable side dish (made easier by the steamer bags that they come in so we don’t occupy another burner on the stove cooking them). We use only real butter (margarine and some other butter alternatives are terrible for the human body). We were eating so differently that my wife started her own food blog with everything we eat on a regular basis. You can find that here. The new one is here.

Along with this, both of us started walking. Every day. Every single day. We set realistic goals for steps, we used FitBits and now use the Apple trackers in the phones and watches. Getting to 5,000 was killer at first and now I can have that done most of the time before noon. Once I’d gotten my weight down to 275-ish, I started going to the gym to work out. Pounds fell off there, too. In total, I’d lost 91 pounds (from 328 when I started to 237). Life was looking up.

I realize that after thinking about what I was thinking about way back up at the top of this column that I’d really had help getting to where I am at. Well, I’m 320 as I write this and the only thing that is really different is that I don’t get the exercise in that I used to… and my portions are out of control again. At least the portions are made up of healthier foods.

Anyway, what got me to where I’m at was a food allergy and a wife that loved making food we both love to eat to achieve a mutual goal. As I write this, I’m going to start the walking part of this again to make sure I get over 10,000 steps a day again… that’s when the experts say weight loss really starts (if you change nothing else).

I’m not going to write directly to the friend I referred to earlier. I’m not going to tell them this whole story… instead, I’ll link this column from my personal Facebook account and maybe he’ll read it. If he does (or she, his wife is also my friend), then I’ll give some advice that will hopefully work out for the better.

The advice is: simulate a food allergy.

Maybe you don’t want to do dairy, that’s fine. That was hard on me but I survived and it helped change my palate, as well as forcing me to look at other food alternatives. Maybe you want to try simulating celiacs, how about an allergy to red meat? Honestly, vegans are the healthiest eaters I know and they don’t have weight problems (at least the ones I know don’t).

I’m not saying “do this for the rest of your life.” I’m saying to give it a good 12 to 24 months of not eating a specific food type… and make sure that food type is a large enough group to force you to rethink your food choices entirely. Dairy is in a LOT of stuff, that’s the one I recommend. Skirting the dairy thing will guarantee your palate changes. Once you’ve done this avoidance for 12 to 24 months, introduce it back into your diet as part of the meals you’ve already switched to eating. There will be a change, a noticeable change, in what you “like” and don’t “like.”

One last thing: cheat meals are important. A single meal, once a week, that you can eat anything you want is important to success. One meal and one meal only. Eat whatever you want, but eat it with portion control in mind. Will you lose weight that day? Almost never, but at least you’ll not set yourself back so far that you need to start completely over.

I’m going to be jumping back into this column with both feet. I’m going to lose my weight and start working out again. I’m going to walk 10,000 steps a day because I need to get my fat ass off the couch, out of the chair, and out moving around again. It’s time I re-applied my changes to achieve my goals and I’m tired of being fat. I’m so tired of being fat.

Will you join me?

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