Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Rainy Day In September

Today's random thoughts.

 I recently passed another milestone that I intended to write a major blog post about, but didn't.  I now weigh less than I did when I graduated high school.  I was going to talk about being this weight now... versus being this weight then...   but I didn't get around to it for a number of reasons.
 In the early 1980's when I graduated high school at 260 pounds I was the fattest kid I knew in my school.  There were other fat kids, and looking through the historical data I know that by the 1980's obesity was already on the rise, but there are degrees of obesity and there weren't many young people who were as fat as I was.  Compare that to today...   Just in my neighborhood there are enough high school aged kids that are fat enough that I would not feel the least bit out of the norm if I graduated today at 260 pounds. 
 There were people fatter than me back in the 1980's.  But not many, and they were few enough that when I saw them I'd make a mental note of it.  In today's world I don't have to go looking...   People weighing 250 pounds or more are everywhere.  People weighing 350 pounds or more can be seen on a regular basis.  If you're out in public on a daily basis, you're likely to see at least one. 
 It is a sad and tragic commentary on our modern culture.  

 I continue with eating a lower volume of food, and I am still clueless as to what hunger really is.  Tomorrow marks six weeks and I am no closer to knowing what hunger is than when I started.  Thankfully, the gnawing obsession to overeat is gone.  I still have the urge, but urges are much more manageable than gnawing obsessions.
 Yesterday was interesting.  I actually did physical labor all day long yesterday.  I had a project at hand and wanted to get as much of it done as possible.  I fully expected that with the expenditure of so much energy that I would have the urge to eat a greater quantity of food.  Yet I didn't.  In fact, the opposite occurred.  At noon I ate a banana because I hadn't eaten anything yet.  Then around 1pm I came home and fixed what I'd normally eat for breakfast and took it back with me and slowly ate it while I worked, even though I perceived no hunger.  At dinnertime I again felt no urge to eat any more food than normal, and in fact, didn't feel like eating any food at all.  But I did.  I not only ate the volume of food that has become my "normal" dinner, but I ate twice that because my experience over the past six weeks told me that given that level of physical exertion I would lose more weight than I wanted to on what has become my "normal" volume of food.  I was expecting to feel stuffed eating that much extra food.  I didn't. 
 Did I learn anything?   Yeah, I guess so.  I learned that I still don't know what hunger is, and that not even extreme physical exertion will trigger it...  but yet I fairly accurately decided on the right amount of food to eat, based entirely on learned experience over the past six weeks. This morning I weighed one half pound less than yesterday morning, which is acceptable. 

 Ever onward!

Happy Eating!

-Norm  aka John Smith

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Weight Loss Update: 09/23/12

 Today's weigh-in has me at 258.5 pounds, down 7 pounds from two weeks ago.  This brings my total weight loss to 227.5 pounds and leaves me with 72.5 more pounds to lose to reach 300 total pounds of weight loss. My last weight in, two weeks ago, brought my weight loss back into alignment of my long term goal of losing 1% of my body weight per week, and this weigh in period brings me slightly ahead of that goal.  I prefer to be slightly ahead than slightly behind. :)

  Of more importance than my weight loss update is my update on my volume eating.  I have to say I am VERY pleased with the direction that is going.  It is becoming habit to eat less food.  It is no longer uncomfortable.  Gone is the gnawing sensation in my gut when I've stopped eating at my new, smaller portions.  Gone is the absolute need to get up and occupy my body and mind for an hour or two after dinner.
 Don't take this to mean that I'm "cured", or that I've arrived at where I want to be. Far from it. I have a long way to go.  I still have to be very consciously aware of what I eat and how much.  I still go walking after dinner.  I am still not entirely comfortable with my smaller portions.  But I am no longer uncomfortable and no longer in any pain or distress over it. 
 I've started measuring some portions of my food. Not to count calories, but to help me understand just how much food a half cup is, or a cup, or two cups.
 I'm still not finding that perfect balance that keeps my weight loss steady, but I can now adjust up or down to steer the direction I want.

 All in all, great progress!

 -Norm  aka John Smith

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Journey Of A Thousand Miles...

...Begins With A Single Step.

 Today marks a milestone as big as any I've passed.  Today I finished walking One Thousand Miles!
 Two years ago I couldn't walk 200 feet, or stand on my feet for more than 5 minutes without being in excruciating pain.  I simply did not go anywhere or do anything that required being on my feet that long.  If there was any doubt, I'd take my two canes with me to assist me.
 I remember taking a milk crate with me any time I went shopping, so that I could pull it out of my cart and sit on it any time I needed to.  And I needed to a lot.  My wife new my favorite places to sit and rest in our local grocery store.  A typical shopping trip consisted of me sitting on that milk crate most of the time, with mad dashes of rounding up items in my cart before I had to sit down again.
 I remember never walking to the mail box, even though it is only about 1/10th of a mile away.  It was simply too far.
 I remember making sure my landlord wasn't home when I walked over to pay the rent.  Not because I didn't want to talk to my landlord, but because the 100 feet there and 100 feet back was the limit of how long I could stand and walk.  I didn't want to get delayed should the landlord feel like chatting.
 I remember my first real steps around our neighborhood.  We had come home from somewhere, stopped off to check the mail, and rather than get back in the car I decided to walk home from there.  I did it!  I was so proud!  This was early in my journey and by that time I had lost about 25 pounds.  But it was enough to make it possible to walk home from the mailbox.
 In the following weeks and months I continued to lose weight, and as I did it got easier and easier to be on my feet.  
 I remember the first time I walked around our block.  It is exactly 1/4 of a mile, and I walked it very slowly, using two canes.  I remember working up to 1/2 mile.  I remember not needing both canes.  Then I traded my remaining cane for a walking stick.  Then I mostly carried the walking stick, but not using it.
 I remember the day I first walked a whole mile!  The more weight I lost the easier it was to walk.  At some point it started to hurt less and less.
 Now, putting one foot in front of the other, walking what I can each day, I've worked up to where I routinely walk two miles at a time and most days walk at least 4 miles in a day and some days even more.  The most I've walked in one day is 8 miles.  I can walk further than 2 miles at once, and I'm sure I can walk more than 8 miles in a day, but those are good limits for me. Even though I'm capable of so much more than I used to be, my body still reminds me of all the abuse I've put it through over the years.  I still have a bad back.  I still have a bad knee.  I still have two hips that complain and remind me I'm not likely to ever run a marathon.  The more I walk the more I feel it the next day.  But I can walk!  I CAN WALK!
 As I lose more weight I expect I'll be able to walk further and with even less pain.  I'm so looking forward to those days ahead!

Happy Eating!

 -Norm  aka John Smith

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Walk In The Park

 Near the community co-op where we purchase much of the food we eat there is a small park by a river.  We often visit there when we make a trip to the co-op.  We were there the other day!  We walked, picked blackberries, ate blackberries, picked more blackberries, hiked some of the trails, and thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon.
 About a year ago we also visited this same park.  I walked as much as I could but because of my size and arthritis I couldn't be on my feet very long.  I had to stop and rest often.  We took the short loop on the trail instead of the longer one.  I enjoyed myself but not nearly as much as I did the other day!!   Here is a picture of me then and now.

425 Pounds263 Pounds
5x Shirt 3x Shirt
Walking Stick No Walking Stick
Happy To Be Healthier Even Happier & Healthier

 That is the same fanny pack in both pictures.  Notice how much smaller it looks on the left and how much bigger it looks on the right.  The fanny pack didn't change sizes, I did!

 Come back next year to see an even more impressive photo comparison!

Until then....   Happy Eating!

-Norm  aka John Smith

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Volume Eating Update

This last Sunday marked 4 weeks of intentionally eating less food. I continue to learn exciting and scary new things. I have not yet found the balance I seek, which is the correct volume of food to maintain my weight loss at 1% per week. I can lose weight faster than I want, or I can gain weight. I haven't found that happy balance in the middle.
The scary part is this... I can gain weight even if I eat a LOT less food than I'm used to. I believe that a month ago, when I feared a plateau was imminent, that it wasn't just right in front of me but I was already there, and the set-point for my former volume of food was 280-285 pounds. Last night I weighed 265 and this morning I weighed 262, so I'm about 20 pounds under that set-point, so it makes a good bit of sense that there'd be a difference in the amount of calories my body needs to maintain it's current weight. But I gotta tell you... for whatever reason, the jump in the reduction of calories I need now versus then is a big one. My body is much more efficient even being 20 pounds lighter. The volume of food required for me to lose weight versus the volume of food I could lose weight on just 30 pounds ago is HUGE. I eat about one third the volume of food I did just 30 pounds ago in order to lose weight. If I increase that to about one half of what I used to eat... I start gaining weight.

Yet I am not starving. Yes, my mind tells me that I want to eat more food. It even tricks me into thinking my body is craving more food. But I have enough evidence to convince me that my mind is lying to me.
Right after dinner when I know I will eat nothing else for the day my brain is screaming at me that I'm starving to death and that I must eat food. Yet if I get up, occupy my body and mind for a couple of hours by walking two miles then playing with my dog, magic happens. My mind tires of it's temper tantrum and allows me to actually hear and feel what my stomach is telling me. Listening to my stomach is new to me so I naturally am clumsy about interpreting what it's trying to tell me. But so far when I reach that point in the evening, even if I've eaten enough less food to lose weight faster than I want, my stomach is telling me that I am not starving, that I do not need to eat more food. And at that point I am fine for the rest of the evening! I do not obsess about food or eating. I do not go to bed early to escape the hunger pangs (any chronic dieters remember that futile trick? :) ) Nor do I wake up in the morning starving to death and terrified at the prospect of yet another day of denial.
Those two things were the hallmarks of insanity dieting throughout my entire life. Going to bed hungry, and getting up hungry and anxious about whether I could do it another day. As I've said before, I believe the reason I do not have these symptoms even though I'm eating so much less food than I'm used to is because this time, the food I am eating is the food nature intended for me to eat and even though my mind doesn't realize it yet, my body is in fact happy with what it's getting.

All of this, my experience over the past 2 years compared to my experience of the past 4 weeks, has me questioning some things taken for granted on the McDougall Forums.  Namely, the whole "We tend to eat the same volume/weight of food every day." Yes, on it's most basic level it is true. Day in and day out we do tend to eat the same amount of food. But some of us have so abused food over the years that the volume of food we eat is no longer natural. Switching to a whole-foods plant-based starch-centered diet caused me to lose over 200 pounds while eating that same volume of food I always have, but I still reached an unnatural set point of over 280 pounds. I had hoped that as I dropped weight I would slowly reduce my volume of food naturally. But that didn't happen. Why? I don't know. Perhaps because it's not a natural process. That is, the process by which I increased my volume of food over the years was not a natural one, so why would my body be equipped with a natural process to reverse it? No, I had to confront my volume eating head on. I had to force myself to eat less food. I did so with faith that I could pull it off where I've never been able to in the past. And here I am, 4 weeks into it, and I'm learning new things and experiencing new things and am even more convinced of my ultimate success than when I started.

My case isn't normal, I admit it. Most of you haven't ballooned up to almost 500 pounds. I think everyone can agree that the volume of food I ate was not natural and had to be addressed.
But what about others among you? People who never ate the volume of food I did. I see many of you struggling with losing weight. I see many of you sticking to the McDougall Program yet reaching a point where you're no longer losing weight. Is it possible that like me, over the years you've increased your natural volume of food to something a bit more than natural? Is the solution to your problem as simple as resetting the volume of food you eat to it's original and natural level? I believe it might be.

Could you benefit from an intentional reduction in food volume in order to allow your body to adjust to a more natural volume of food? It is a concept that appears to be contrary to the whole "eat until satisfied" which is a cornerstone of the McDougall way of eating. But it doesn't take into consideration that many of us are no longer satisfied with "natural" amounts of food. I have been one of them, but I am in the process of changing that. I am convinced that eventually I will find that natural and healthy volume of food nature intended for me to eat, and that when I do I'll be able to "eat till satisfied" like every normal human being who eats what nature intended.

Happy Eating!!

-Norm  aka John Smith

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Looking Forward

 Labor Day is past!  The kids are back in school.  We're still getting some nice days but the heat of summer is behind us and the cool nights remind us of winter to come.
 This is the time of year we start looking towards fall.  Halloween is around the corner.  Then Thanksgiving.  Then comes the smorgasbord of wintertime holidays to choose from.  Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years, and others.
 This year I have quite a few special occasions to look forward to. This past Sunday marked one I haven't mentioned yet... For the first time in 20 years I wore a 2x shirt!  It seems like just yesterday I put away my 4x shirts and started wearing 3x.  Now I'm down to 2x!  How much longer till I'm down to just one X?  I have no recollection of when it was I wore clothes that small.  But I remember the last time I wore 2x.
 My friend Jerome ran a computer shop and for a while I'd go hang out with him once a week.  Play with computers, help out if I could.  But mostly just hang out with my friend.  There was a clothing store next door and the guy had a surplus of T-shirts and if I remember, was willing to sell them at a discount since he was friends with Jerome.  Always looking for a good deal I grabbed my fair share!  But he only had a few 3x shirts so I ended up with some 2x as well, and was very disappointed that I couldn't wear them very long because I was gaining weight and had to move up to the 3x.  That was 20 or 21 years ago and was the last time before now I wore a 2x shirt.  So I was very pleased to go to church Sunday in the smallest shirt I've worn in over 20 years!
 But I have more milestones right around the corner!  Very soon I'll pass through the 260 pound mark.  That is what I weighed when I graduated high school.  Then not too much further past that I'll pass through the 243 pound mark which is the point where I'd have lost as much as I weigh and will officially become "Half The Man I Used To Be".  Just past that is 240 pounds, which is the lightest I've ever weighed as an adult. 239 pounds?  I couldn't tell you when I last weighed that.  Mid High School I'd guess.  By New Years Day I should be around 225 pounds, if I stick close to my goals, and I imagine I haven't seen that weight since 9th grade.

 What good things are you looking forward to in the coming months?  I hope better health is on your list!  It's at the top of mine!

 Happy Eating!

 -Norm  aka John Smith

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Weight Loss Update: 09/09/12 - Taking It To The Next Level

Today's number is:

The scale reports I've lost 13.5 pounds since the last weigh-in period 2 weeks ago, bringing my current weight to 265.5 pounds and my total weight loss to 220.5 pounds.  This is my largest 2 week weight loss yet, which follows a period of weight loss that was below my goal of 1% body weight per week and which was nearing a plateau.  This brings my weight loss to within a half pound of that goal of 1% weight loss per week as measured from February 8th, 2012, when I decided on that long-term goal.  Since that date I've lost 95.5 pounds.  To be within a half pound of that goal after 95.5 pounds and 7 months is, to me, quite remarkable, and a testament to the sustainability of the McDougall Diet.  Anyone not familiar with the McDougall program should visit Dr. McDougall's website at and I particularly recommend his video found here: The Starch Solution, and as always, I recommend his new book, also titled The Starch Solution.

 Much has happened in recent weeks. For those of you who only check in on my blog for my Weight Loss Updates I suggest you read my last blog post found here:  A License To Eat: Part II

 A short summary:  It is time for me to address my volume eating, or compulsive overeating, or whatever you and/or your psychologist calls it today.  That is what I've been doing the past three weeks.  I am attacking the problem in the most direct manner I know, and that is to significantly reduce the volume of food I eat in an attempt to let my body and brain learn on it's own what it should have learned decades ago, which is to stop eating when I've eaten enough food!

The Results:

My weight loss is back on track,the volume of my eating is considerably less, and I am making significant progress towards my goal of overcoming my compulsion to overeat.
 The first week was the most difficult and was, to be honest, painful.  I had to exercise extreme diligence at all times and literally had to go for a walk of a mile or more after eating each and every time, which was the only thing I found that would reduce the gnawing sensation of needing to eat more food to a tolerable level.
 The second week was easier, though I still had to walk after eating and maintain diligence in not overeating.  I was quite irritable, especially during the first week, but still into the second.  My wife claims to have not noticed. She is such a dear!
 The third week I'm finding to be easier.  I'm less irritable.  My stomach has shrunk quite a bit.  I feel when it's full and know I should stop eating at that point.  I still have the urge to eat past that point, but in all seriousness, can I expect to be rid of that this soon?  I've been eating that way for decades.  It will take time.  What I'm learning is that if I stop eating at that point, I will not starve.  I may or may not have to go for a walk to ease through the urges.  I am not hungry come bedtime and I do not wake up starving.  It is bearable.


One.  I haven't the slightest clue what hunger is.  I don't think I ever have.  All I know is the compulsion to eat and I've always done so until I was stuffed full enough so that another bite brought discomfort.  Anything less I equated with being hungry.  I don't know if or when I'll learn what hunger is.  For now I'm simply learning how much food it takes to fill up my stomach now that it's shrunk some, and not eating past that point. I believe the compulsion to eat past that point will diminish and go away entirely over time.  After only three weeks I'm seeing a reduction in that compulsion.

Two.  I've been losing weight faster than I care to.  My goal is 1% body weight per week, which at my current weight should be about 2.6 pounds per week. My first week I lost 5, my second I lost 10, and my third I lost 3.5.  A very wide fluctuation, all of them exceeding my goals and desires.  But I've tapered that off in this past week.  I've done that by adjusting the calorie density of the food I'm eating.  Since my decreased volume of food was causing such rapid weight loss I added in more calorie dense foods.  Pizza, bread, nuts, dried fruits, and even some much enjoyed beer!  I did not want to reduce my weight loss by increasing the volume of food since the point of what I'm doing is to learn to eat less food and allowing my stomach to shrink to it's smallest natural size is important towards that goal.  I will continue to eat these calorie dense foods this week (minus the beer), and see what the results are.

Three.   I do not consider what I'm doing to be the same as portion control.  That is a concept that goes against how all of nature, except man, eats.  I do not count calories.  I do not eat pre-determined amounts of food.  As Dr. McDougall teaches, these things are not needed for most people when they eat the food nature intended them to eat.  But I am not normal people.  I have a lifelong compulsion to overeat that had caused me to balloon up to almost 500 pounds. Even following Dr. McDougall's advice on How To Help The Volume Eater I was fast approaching a plateau that threatened to stop my weight loss.  No, my eating and compulsion to eat could not be resolved merely by limiting myself to specific foods, even if doing those things allowed me to lose over 200 pounds.

Four:  I'm paying very close attention to my progress in all of this. So far I'd say I'm being very successful, but I want to keep track of any setbacks or failures as well.  I want to be able to help others who choose to follow the same path.  For example:  Why is it that I can seriously restrict the volume of food I'm eating, yet not go to bed hungry or wake up starving?  Every attempt in my life to eat less food has resulted in these feelings.  Not this time.  The only answer I come back to is that every other attempt at this was while eating an otherwise unhealthy diet.  Sure, it was the healthiest diet I knew of at the time but included a lot of meat and dairy and avoided all the fiber-laden starches I've come to center my diet around.  Could the fact that I'm eating the exact foods my body needs the most be why it's not screaming as hard for MORE, MORE, MORE??   I believe so, and I believe that without knowing it I've set myself up for success this time where I've had nothing but failure in the past.  

 I'm in the very early stages of formulating a strategy to help others overcome their own compulsion to overeat.  Many would say it's way too early for me to be thinking of that since I haven't even shown that this is going to work for me yet, let alone someone else!  But nevertheless, I think I'm on to something here.  The first step in the process has to center around WHAT to eat.  Not Why, not How Much, but WHAT.  By focussing for the past year on WHAT to eat I've allowed my body to adapt to and learn to love and thrive on the food nature intended for it to live and thrive on.  By firmly resolving that issue I am now able to approach the HOW MUCH issue from a position of strength.  
 It's about what nature intended.  I love and thrive on this diet because it is much closer to what nature intended than the way I ate before.  Even though I didn't think I could overcome desires, cravings, and addictions to certain foods I ate before, it turned out I could, and rather easily, just by replacing them with foods nature intended.   In the same manner, now that I've got the WHAT to eat nailed down firmly, I will find it much easier to learn the HOW MUCH if I just let nature take it's course.

 Can it be that simple?  I'm inclined to think that yes, yes it can.  Every attempt I ever made to decrease my volume of food resulted in it becoming harder and harder to stick to the longer I tried.  This time it's getting easier and easier.  Something is most definitely different. As Dr. McDougall is forever saying, "It's The Food!"

 Happy Eating

-Norm  aka John Smith