dobnarr's Journal, 27 September 2009

Finally writing this on 9/27/09:

I'm a male college professor, 6'3". I turned 40 in August. Got some bad news on HDL (25) and borderline bad news on blood glucose (102) in mid-July. The more I read about these, the only thing that seemed to address both was weight loss.

I had tried to lose weight before. Every year, usually around the start of the spring semester, I would try to go on some kind of "plan" to lose weight - exercise three times a week, use only a small plate at meals, no snacks but fruit, no dessert, etc. Those have sometimes worked, but I would always fall off the wagon, usually in May when the end of the semester rolled around, and before that I'd have indulgent days where I went off-plan from time to time. I've been between 233 (best version of the plan) and 252 (just after having foster kids) for the last 15 years.

So, with the bad medical news, I figured I'd try something else. I read up on dieting and exercise. My doctor recommended that I go with something like Atkins and get rid of all carbs, but that didn't seem healthy to me, so I figured I'd try something more normal first.

To honor the blood glucose angle, I've been avoiding sugars and simple carbs where possible. I don't have much of a sweet tooth, but some sweet foods are hard to resist. I've been off sugary Mountain Dew (an old nemesis of mine) for several years now, so that change was already made. I do like ice cream a lot, so I've limited that a great deal. I'd always have juice with breakfast, but I've mostly eliminated that. My snack of choice while dieting was raisins, but I know now those are mostly just concentrated sugar blobs. I love french fries, and now I barely ever eat them. Except for yesterday :-).

In my other diets, I'd have trouble getting really hungry between meals. I now think this was because the snacks I was allowing myself while dieting were simple carbs - lite chips, rice cakes, raisins, etc. With this new diet, I've been snacking mostly on things like nuts, beef jerky, and other stuff that's high in protein (and often in fat) but low in simple carbs. I haven't had nearly as much of the grumbly tummy this time around, even though I've lost a lot more weight.

The big thing I've done this time around is try to keep track of absolutely everything I've eaten, which I've done here on Fat Secret. I've also recorded as accurately as I could the calories from the activity and exercise I've been doing every day. For the past 2 1/2 months, I've kept that balance negative every day - sometimes way negative, sometimes only marginally negative, but always burning more than I eat. That's been easier than I thought it would be, once I got into some better patterns.

As for excercise, I did elliptical about three times a week for most of July. I haven't been doing dedicated workouts since August 1, when we left for a semester in Germany, but we have no car here, we walk everywhere, and I live in a 4th floor walk-up apartment, so I think I'm getting a lot more exercise than I would in drive-everywhere North Carolina.

The calorie counting has meant some real diet changes for me - I don't get "days off" or anything like that, and I have to weigh (or estimate the size of) everything I eat, which gets annoying for my fellow diners at family dinner time. The big thing I've cut out (not entirely but mostly) is cheese - I love cheese, so that's been very tough. I have tried to eat a bit more healthily as I go, too, but I've always hated most vegetables, so that's a real issue for me - I just can't stand most of them. Fruits are OK, but they are usually high in sugars, so I haven't eaten a ton of those.

The nuts are the big addition - I eat them in one-ounce servings, which to my old self would seem tiny. I use a shot glass, actually - it measures just the right amount. But I can have one of these small servings when I get a bit hungry, and it quiets down the grumbling quite well for only about 170 calories, nearly none of it carbs.

I've been surprised at how well this is working, considering how much I've struggled before with willpower and hunger. I really hope it's not just a temporary thing, and that I can keep it off.

Here's where I've been in the past:

1987: High school, playing soccer 2 hours a day in the summer -- 195 lbs
1989: College, started dating my wife - 205 lbs
1991: College graduation - probably 215 lbs
1992: In grad school, getting married - probably 220-225 lbs
1994: In grad school, lots of taco bell - 230's
1996: Finishing grad school, interviewing for jobs - 238 lbs
1997-2007: Teaching career - mostly 240-248 lbs, with occasional diets to 235 or so
2008: Foster kids leave after nearly a year - a good experience, but very challenging, and I ate a lot - 252 lbs
2009: Started on a plan in January at 248, got to about 237, fell off it in May. When I got the bad health news in July I was back at 248 lbs.

Today (9/26) - 218 lbs.

One thing I've learned from all this is that I was pretty good at self-deception. I was in the 240's, but I didn't really think I looked fat (maybe true; compared to some other 248lb people I didn't look too bad). I thought I had bigger, denser bones than most folks (I think I might, but that wasn't my weight problem). I thought I was pretty strong, physically, so some of my weight must be muscle (I am pretty strong, but my weight was flab). I thought the BMI (mine was always in the "obese" range) was stupid for tall people (it is, but not that stupid - it was telling me something I didn't want to hear). I had a lot of reasons why it was probably OK for me to be in the 230's, and since I was in the 240's, I wasn't that far off from OK. Total self-deception.

The reality is, I was 30-40 pounds overweight. I've still got love handles and a bit of a belly even after losing 30 lbs, so I probably have farther to go. I've lost this weight faster than you're supposed to, so I hope I'm not messing up my lean muscle mass or any of that stuff. I have felt healthier, fitter, and in better shape, and my knees, which used to give me some pain when I exercised, have stopped hurting so much.

The big test will be when I get back to the U.S. in January and get my bloodwork done again. I'm really hoping for elevated HDL and normal blood glucose. We'll see.

I hope this helps somebody. I could have used it five or ten years ago.

Diet Calendar Entries for 27 September 2009:
1342 kcal Fat: 44.97g | Prot: 54.45g | Carb: 189.60g.   Breakfast: banana, orange juice, pizza. Lunch: pizza, rewe joghurt mild lemon. Dinner: Skim Milk, light swiss cheese, Haferfleks, grapes. Snacks/Other: pistachio nuts - no shells. more...
2492 kcal Activities & Exercise: Standing - 10 minutes, Housework - 25 minutes, Resting - 15 hours and 25 minutes, Sleeping - 8 hours. more...

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