Sunday, April 21, 2013

Weight Loss Update: 04/21/13 - Back In The Saddle Again!

 The past month and a half have been rough!   My poor aching back and hernia surgery conspired against me.  It was a depressing time.  However, I've been through much worse trials in life and I knew what lay before me and I made some intentional decisions to help me cope.  Those decisions were:

  •   I would allow myself to seek comfort in food.
  •   I would not worry too much about the scale.
  •   I would not allow myself to stray too far.

 Comfort Foods

We all know what they're about.  Food comforts us and in stressful times it is a normal human behavior to seek such comfort.  Many of us abuse this, and I have been guilty in the past of such behavior.  But it is my firm belief that if I am to reach and maintain a normal healthy human weight that I must learn to eat like a normal healthy human and that means I must learn to take comfort in food, when it is appropriate, but not abuse such behavior.   So I allowed myself to seek comfort in food.   I did this by allowing myself to eat more food, specifically more of the foods that I usually limit.  Foods like dried fruit, nuts, nut butters, and chocolate.   All can be part of a normal healthy diet, in small quantities.  But I ate a lot more than small quantities!   In addition to these foods, I allowed myself to eat more food in general.
 What I did not allow myself to do was to take comfort in foods that I know are unhealthy for me.  I did not eat meat.  I did not eat dairy.  I did not drown my food in oil.  I did not go berserk on refined sugars.

The Scale: Part One - The Way Up

 The above mentioned behavior, coupled with a significant decrease in exercise, predictably caused my weight to go up.  Between March 8th and March 30th I gained about 7.5 pounds.  Post-Surgery my weight shot up another 10 pounds, though most or all of that was caused by inflammation from surgery and anesthesia induced constipation.   This left me weighing 221 pounds after surgery, 17.5 pounds heavier than I was on March 8th. 

Post-Surgery Comeback

 The struggle to get back on track wasn't easy, but it was manageable.   It is amazing how quickly habits change.  I did not want to go back to eating less, even though I was quite content with the levels of food I ate prior.   I did not want to cut back on the dried fruit and nuts, and I most definitely did not want to cut back on the chocolate.   But I had to. 
 From Day One of my journey I have focussed on a strategy of making small but meaningful changes instead of larger, more drastic changes.   It is a strategy that has worked well for me.  Yet it has been the subject of considerable controversy with my friends over at the Mcdougall Forums, who mostly favor an "all-in right-now" approach, which is the one that many there claim is the only one that has been "proven" to show long-term results.   My remarkable success with a different approach has yet to sway any of the naysayers enough for them to acknowledge my approach as a valid one.  I mention all this because after surgery, when it was time to put myself "back on track", I attempted to do so all at once.   I figured that I had come so far, that I had learned so much, and that in comparison to what I've been through already getting back on track involved fairly small changes.  I honestly thought I could do it all at once.  Just do it.

 It didn't work out that way.

 I couldn't do it.  The anxiety of trying was worse than the stress I faced that drove me to seek comfort in food in the first place.  I had no choice but to fall back to my tried and true incremental approach, and once I did that the anxiety lifted and I started to make progress.   First I started to reduce the overall volume of my food to more manageable levels, and started a process of weaning myself off the dried fruits and nuts.  It's taken me three weeks but my food volumes are now back to normal and I no longer eat dried fruit or nuts except in my morning oats, which is the practice I've been in prior to all of this.  The last battle has been with the chocolate.   I am still eating way too much chocolate but I am getting there, and WILL get there.

The Scale:  Part Two - The Way Back Down

My weight peaked at 221 pounds right after surgery.  My Ten Day Average was 216.55 pounds two weeks ago at my last weigh-in.  My Ten Day Average peaked the following day at 217.0 pounds and then started coming back down.  Today my Ten Day Average is 209.45 pounds, down 7.1 pounds from two weeks ago.   Here is a graph showing my 1/10/20/30 day averages for the past 90 days.

Click Graph To View Full Sized

 Two things are significant about this graph and about today.  First, my daily weight this morning was 204.5 pounds, matching my lowest weight back on March 8th.  Second, for the first time in over a month and a half my 1/10/20/30 day averages are in the correct order, all headed downwards.  That is, my 1 day weight is lower than my 10 day aveage, my 10 day average is lower than my 20 day average, and my 20 day average is lower than my 30 day average.  This means to me that I am OVER THE HUMP and trending in the correct direction.    I'm knocking on the door of that 200 pound barrier and will bust it off it's hinges soon enough!

 This is the end of my weight loss report.  But I wanted to comment further on my "incremental" approach to dietary change versus the "all-in right-now" approach.

 Am I REALLY the oddball?   Am I REALLY the only one who just can't make all the changes needed at once?   I don't think so.   The all-in right-now approach seems to be the preferred method for some folks, but the real-life people I have met and helped have had good success making incremental changes towards their goals.   On the other hand, I have seen far too many people come and go through those forums who have attempted the all-in right-now approach and failed.  I have been of the belief that I must be the oddball and that my approach is not the preferred approach.  That it is only for those of us who aren't strong enough to jump in all the way from the start.  This last experience is the final straw that has me changing my tune.  It, coupled with my observation of people who have tried it my way,  now have me believing that my approach is the preferred approach for most people and that most people will find it easier and less painful to make small changes over time rather than huge changes all at once.   The obvious exception to this being those people who, for acute health issues, need the quickest results fast.  Those people, obviously, should attempt to make the needed changes as quickly as possible, and hopefully the immediacy of their need will provide enough motivation to actually succeed with that difficult approach. 
 It saddens me that my evolution in this direction will distance me even further from the group of people who have followed my journey closer than any other.   But it is what it is.   I must be about the business of helping people in the way that I believe will do the most good.  My approach works.  It works for me and it's worked for everyone I know who's tried it.  I will no longer recommend it as an alternative to "all-in, right-now" for those who are too weak for that approach.  I will present it as the preferred approach for most people and will make no apologies for doing so.

 Happy Eating!

 -Norm  aka John Smith


  1. loving that chart, man. And of course, the journey you describe here also has a lot of wisdom in it. In fact, the reason why I've stuck it out as long as I have with the starch centered way of eating, is because of letting myself do as much of it "now" as I wanted to, and going in deeper over time, and not being harsh with myself for not being 100% immersed, 100% of the time. I've been at it for 4.5 years, and have never regretted approaching it a bit more gradually than some.

    Anyways, just wanted to let you know, I'm proud of you and you know I consider you a real hero!

  2. A relatively new reader here. I find "your way" refreshing, inspiring and much more sustainable than the "all-in right-now" approach. I've flip flopped from one "diet" to another for years, have gone up & down like the proverbial roller coaster. Over a year ago I went vegan for ethical reasons, and though I haven't see a change in my body weight, I feel a zillion times better physically and mentally. I'm still working on a more starch-based, low fat diet, one step at a time.

    Thank you for continuing to share your journey!

  3. Fanatical anything doesn't work for me. Having said that I am eating better this past year than at anytime in my previous 50+ years. I'd guess I'm about 95% plant based with the bulk of my calories coming from unrefined starches. If I had to be 100% McDougall diet perfect right from the beginning I would have thrown in the towel long ago and be the worse off for it. I've lost over 60 pounds in the past year and I'm happy about that. I'm going to have to begin refining the way I'm eating (and exercising) because the weight loss has nearly stalled and I have much more to go to be at a healthy weight. This past year I have learned the tools to do be successful at improving my health and feel confident I can reach my goals. Whereas when I started I thought it was impossible. Thanks Norm for all you have added to the discussion on the boards. You bring some sanity to that place.

  4. Congratulations on your weight loss and on maintaining your method in the face of criticism from the faithful.