Path to Weight Loss: The Beginning

As you may recall, a few weeks ago some people at my office got together and started their own chapter (?) of The Biggest Loser, in an effort to help the average weight of the office — a number I personally skew way up — down to more normal levels (for the rest of society, not for the American tech industry.) There’s no unified formula we’re using, so each of us has been left to our own devices when it comes to figuring out how we’ll achieve weight loss.

For the most part, people here are doing the usual eat less fat and calories overall, and exercise more routine. While that’s a routine that works, it’s not one I particularly like, mostly because I know how my body works, and my body works better with fats than without them. Knowing that at the outset has helped me properly plan and prepare, all of which are keys to success down the line. This has apparently worked, because as of this morning, I have lost almost 11 pounds in two weeks. (To be fair, most of this is water weight. Also, a 300lb guy losing 11 pounds really isn’t all that much. We’ll talk when I make it to 30.) Here’s what I’ve been doing.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Many of the links here go to products which I am using and companies whom I’m otherwise affiliated with. The intent of this post is not to advertise for these products (although that is a rather nice side effect), but to show you exactly what I’ve been doing, what I have been using, and results I’ve attained. If you want to ask me about those products you can email me directly at gnorbx@gmail.com. Do not ask questions about them here. Also, please don’t send comments advertising your weightloss products. Recommendations are fine, but no advertisements. (I’ve already had a few of those come across.) This post is not meant to be an advertisement of any sort nor a vehicle for the such.

First, I started with a feast. The Wife and I decided that before I started the diet, it would be OK to have a weekend full of feasts. Stuffed crust pizza, General Tso’s chicken, chocolate ice cream, and all the Sweet Tomatoes non-vegetable stuff we could possibly eat.

Why with the feast? Well, in the planning process we were debating on how I should change my diet. Obviously, eating the delicious tequeños from the local Don Pan as an after-lunch snack was out, as was chomping down 1lb burritos from Ultimate Burrito for lunch. (Tequeños, by the way, are fried mozzarella sticks wrapped in biscuit dough.) I wasn’t much of a “junk food” eater, but my food choices were usually fairly highly caloric. I also had the bad habit of eating a big dinner — 1000 or more calories — because I’ve always liked that “full” feeling at nights. In fact, my total caloric intake was usually between 2100 and 2700 calories a day. Not too bad, but definitely not good.

Note that this same weekend, we bought The Calorie King Calorie, Fat & Carbohydrate Counter 2007. I can remember at one point eating a slice of pizza, reading the book, and telling The Wife “hey, do you realize we just downed 900 calories? When I finish this one, it’ll be 1200!” Seriously though, if you’re looking for a good calorie guide you can carry around with you, this is one I recommend, since it also gives you the fat and carbohydrate content of a meal, and it covers just about every major restaurant chain and most common foods. In addition, we bought another one that had more foods and more information, but was overkill. (For example, this second book had the calorie content for delicacies such as beaver and jellyfish. Mmmmm…. Not just that, but different ways in which each is prepared. Perfect for those times when I want to have a big slab of beaver with jellyfish on the side. Or in a cup.)

The first dietary change I thought about was what’s known in the longevity community as CR. I had heard about the longevity benefits of CR (calorie restriction) diets and the research currently going into that field, so that was a tempting route: just eat 1200 calories a day and you’ll lose weight, eliminate almost all risk of age-related conditions (diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, etc), and live longer. A lot longer, since calorie restriction tests show lifespan can be increased by up to 40%, increasing the number of healthy years to life. The disadvantage, of course, is being a bit hungry. All the time. This was something to think about.

Another dietary change I contemplated was going with a high-protein/low-carb diet. This was especially attractive to me because I had used it before, with great results: I ate pretty much all I wanted, so I wasn’t ever hungry. So long as I avoided carbohydrates — mostly breads and starches, really — I would be fine. The only down side is that high-protein diets rely heavily on eating a lot of meat, something I don’t really like to do. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the occasional steak, and I loooooove chicken and fish, but I don’t really like to eat meat all that much. Also, higher protein intake is linked to increased cancer rates.

The third option was going macrobiotic. Basically, this meant eating all I want to, but only from those foods which are natural to the environment here. In other words, no artificial stuff. This has a lot of the health benefits of the previously mentioned routes, but has the disadvantage of being fairly strict, since all-natural stuff is hard to find cheaply in the city.

After a lot of thought, I decided to go with CR and the best weight loss pills that I found through extensive research, mostly because of the long term health benefits. The diet would be high nutrition, low calorie, so I could eat all the salad and vegetables I wanted. Heck, I could even kept a more-protein based diet going, since I could eat more food if I cut out the high-calorie starchy carbs anyway.

Now, one thing I know is that there’s almost nothing quite as hard as eating a lot of food then suddenly restricting your intake. This is a recipe for disaster, since your body will be crying out for food and you’ll be having hunger pangs for weeks before getting used to the new diet. Instead what I decided to do is after the feast, fast for a few days. Originally, I had intended to do a lemon cleanse. After all, this fast required an almost two week commitment, so it could ensure my victory in the weight loss competition (I’ll admit it: I’m losing weight for financial gain!), plus it would clean my insides rather nicely. But, going this route had some unforeseen side effects. I’ll discuss these in a bit.

The Monday after the feasting weekend, I weighed in for the competition: 307.8lbs. This was about two pounds heavier than normal with clothes on. That day, since I was going into the fast, my diet was simple: all the fruits and juices I could eat and drink. When starting a fast, especially if you haven’t done one in a while, you should step into it lightly, first by cutting off all the heavy foods (meats), then eating progressively lighter foods (breads, vegetables, fruits, juices) until you’re ready to fast. The total process took about a day.

I started my fast on Tuesday. This hit me like a ton of bricks: I hadn’t expected the side effects of the fast to be so severe. Sure, I was hungry, but I was also perpetually tired and couldn’t think straight. Considering my job as a writer — with a deadline — this was bad. Real bad.

I took the fast one more day before I decided I should nix the thing. Having fasted before, I knew that after three days or so I would start getting more energy and being able to think right. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that kind of time, so I decided to start my regular eating again.

One of the advantages of fasting is that it allows you to, once you resume eating, depend on less than before. When you control your hunger it becomes much easier to eat and simply be satisfied instead of feeling like you need to feel full. Stepping out of the fast — by drinking juices, then eating fruits, vegetables, breads and finally meat — took about a day. Thursday I was finally ready to begin.

During my fast, I decided to do a hybrid CR/protein diet restriction, and I came up with a regimen. The key to this regimen is lack of choice: that’s because when you have a lot of choice, it’s easier to cheat. I decided that my daily diet would consist of the following items. (Note that is is pretty much my exact diet just about every day now):

  • Breakfast: Gnorb’s Eggs Rancheros (I’ll share the recipe for this later). (Total calories: < 200)
  • Brunch: A meal replacement drink. (Total calories: 140)
  • Lunch: Chicken breast salad or a veggie sub. (Total calories: ~250)
  • After Lunch: Protein drink. (Total calories: 220)
  • Dinner: Chicken breast or fish salad with a low-calorie mustard dressing I created. (Total calories: ~250)
  • After Dinner (no less than 3 hours before bedtime): 2 tbsp of natural peanut butter (not the artificial kind), either alone, or with celery sticks and broccoli. (Total calories: between 220 – 300)

As you can see, my total daily calorie count was about 1300. Because of the vegetables in breakfast, lunch, and dinner (not just lettuce: I call that “grass”), I was getting just enough nutrition. In combination with a my multiviamin/mineral, I am getting the nutrition my body needs without getting all the calories. I am also drinking a lot of water, about a gallon and a half a day, throughout the day. This has proven to be vital in the hunger suppression process. While I try to avoid sodas, I’ll have a diet one once in a while, although I avoid them because they tend to make me hungry, faster. I also have a lot of green tea, which I have hot, cold (Arizona diet ginseng green tea… wait, diet green tea?), and in enery drink form.

I wanted to try this out for about a week to see how it worked out. I figured after a week or so I would be able to tell whether what I was doing would work or not, and more importantly, whether it was well suited for me. I hate the feeling of being hungry, so my measuring stick was avoiding that feeling. If I could do that and still function properly, I knew I was doing the right thing.

Just over a week has passed since I started that regimen, and let me tell you, it has been awesome! I don’t feel hungry (and when I do — which is rarely — it’s easy to control, now that I’m more used to it), I have a ton of energy, and best of all, I’ve already started losing weight! True, a good amount of this is water weight, but my clothes are already a bit more lose. I’ve actually dropped the number of meals to 5, and my calorie intake is just over 1,000 calories per day. Conversely, I have decided to allow myself to have some coffee. (I love coffee, and it works as a great hunger suppressant. No sugar, Splenda only, and regular, non-diet cream is fine.) Still, I’ve eliminated bread almost entirely (I haven’t had any since this weekend), and the cravings to have it as well as sugary foods like candy and ice cream have subsided, although I’ve had a couple of evenings where I could have probably gotten a pizza. And downed the whole thing.

As I said, my starting weight, with clothes on, was 307.8lbs. As of this morning, my weight is 293lbs (with clothes on). My starting morning weight (before food and after the morning bathroom run) was 288.6lbs. Additionally, my blood pressure has gone from an average of 140/87 to 123/78, and has stayed there fairly. At this rate, I should be back to pre-marriage form (284lbs) in a couple of weeks, and pre-Fort Lauderdale form (272lbs) in a month or two.

Now, you notice here that I haven’t said anything about exercising. That’s because, for the most part I haven’t. I wanted first to see how my body would react to this new dietary track, as well as give it time to get used to it before I started back on the workout routine. For now, walking and Dance Dance Revolution are just fine.

To be fair, though, I did do a workout session with my trainer, Mr. Renato, after not having seen him in almost 2 months. (This is his busy season.) Before the session, I had 2 servings of oatmeal, made with water, salt, and Splenda. (Total calories: 300.) Good move, since the carbohydrates are few enough to let my body use its own fat during the day for energy, but are enough to carry me through an hour workout.

(By the way, that hour workout left me — or at least, my arms — sore for almost 4 days! I’ve *never* been that sore for that long. The worst of it was 2 days later, when I couldn’t even reach my head with my arms. I guess I really should have stretched more. Or any. Still, that’s the first time I’ve been sore for that long, and it hasn’t been all that long since I’ve worked out. Long enough, I guess.)

The Recipe for Gnorb’s Eggs Rancheros

Alright, I’m sure you’ve been waiting for it, the recipe for Eggs Ranchero. Following the footsteps of Melissa (Little Wool Gatherings link on the sidebar), I’ll share this simple (and I mean SIMPLE) recipe.

– 6 egg whites (17 calories each)
– 1/2 cup of onions and green peppers (Frozen seasoning mix from the store works fine here. Use about a third of a bag) (~30 calories)
– 2 tbsp of salsa (The spicier, the better) (~20 calories)

  1. First, heat up the pan to high if you are using frozen veggies, or medium if you are using fresh veggies.
  2. Cook the onions and peppers a bit. Make sure you get the flavor out, but don’t overcook.
  3. Put a bit of olive oil in the pan, spread it around. Use spray olive oil if you wish. Use as much as you need for the pan, but no more, since it changes the flavor of the meal.
  4. Pour in the egg whites, and reduce heat to medium/medium high.
  5. As it’s cooking, add salt to taste. (I use potassium salt, which is perfect for anyone with high blood pressure.) You can also add some parsley and oregano to taste. It’s fine without any of these.
  6. When the egg has cooked, add in the salsa. Mix it in and cook for about a minute, or until the salsa is warm.

That’s it. Simple, I know. Heck, it’s just scrambled eggs, essentially, but you’ll find that this makes for a fairly filling meal, at least for 3 or 4 hours, which is exactly what you want. Eat this with bread, if you wish, but I’ve been eating it without the bread. Total calories as described here are ~200, more if you use more olive oil.

Serve in a bowl and enjoy!

Conclusion
Now, you may be wondering whether I have any goals other than weight loss and cashing in on the competition. The answer is that yes, I do: my goal this year is to be able to run a half marathon, and within 2 years, enter and finish my first full marathon. I’ve always admired runners, and it’s about high time I join them. Before I can even start that, though, I have to drop to at least 260, as per Mr. Renato. Since he’s experienced in the fine art of training marathon runners, I’ll take his word for it.

Anyway, that’s about it for now. I’ll keep you guys updated as to what’s going on and what I’m doing. Basically it seems I’ve settled on a calorie restriction diet that is more protein based, mostly with non-meat sources of protein, like soy (the protein drinks), weigh (the breakfast drinks), and eggs. I’m trying now to implement more beans and nuts into the diet. With any luck, not only will I lose weight, but I’ll be able to keep up this dietary habit for the rest of my hopefully long and happy life. To be honest, I’m just as excited about the process as I am of the goal.

5 thoughts on “Path to Weight Loss: The Beginning

  1. Congratulations on taking such a big step in the right direction. I have to admit, though, the part of your post where you spoke of fasting left me screaming “No! Don’t do it!” I eat very little to begin with, and I can’t imagine not eating anything! I think you are on the right track, though. Watch your sugars – no more than 40 grams a day (juice has A LOT!). And as cost restrictive as it may be, you gotta go with the natural and organic foods. Say NO to most of what comes in a package. And consider starting your own small garden.

    Keep posting about your success!! And good luck!

  2. Well, one advantage of eating much less is that I now can buy food at the local Whole Foods. Since I eat less, I’ll just buy better stuff for the same price. Thanks for the encouragement!

  3. Gnorb:

    Best of luck. A factor you may not have considered:

    the metabolic disadvantage of losing lean body mass. I don’t shill for weight loss techniques, but your perception of internal physical makeup isn’t discerning enough to meet your goals. If you continue to starve yourself (and yes, 1200 calories per day is starving yourself), you will lose fat, but also muscle, which will eventually slow down your metabolism and therefore, your gains! (or losses, in this case). Let’s focus on starving your fat, and keeping your muscle.

    May I recommend the following nutritional information, in the absence of a trained professional.

    Feed yourself 12.0 calories per lb of Lean Body Mass. Your LBM is your total weight – (%bodyfat * total weight). This LBM is directly proportionate to your metabolism, which will eventually crash on the course you’re on. Stick to 40/30/30 profile of protein/carbs/fats.

    Also, record your results and new bodyfat % weekly!! You’ll be able to see if you’re losing LBM or not.

    again, best of luck. it’s not easy to change one’s mindset at the drop of a hat, but it sounds like you’ve already done a lot of the calorie work. Drop me a line if you need more info.

    C

  4. Hey, Colin:

    Thanks for the information. Actually, I’m fairly well aware of the (my?) internal physical make up, which is why I spent so much time devising what direction I would go with this.

    True, weight loss is my superficial goal, and as such it is working well. (Also, beating out my co-workers is in itself a rather nice bonus.) However, my ultimate goal with this has more to do with life extension than with actual weight loss. As it turns out, they go hand in hand. While I realize some of the possible side effects of high caloric restriction (namely slower injury repair response from the body), it is the only scientifically proven method of life extension.

    One thing you must also keep in mind is this: I was 307 lbs when I started. For the past 2 years I’d been hovering around 320, dropping the other weight only due to very rigorous exercise, which I couldn’t keep up. (2 hours + at the gym every day isn’t condusive to much productivity.) While that was successful in certain ways, it failed in that I couldn’t, evern after 3 months, make it part of my lifestyle.

    For most of my life I’ve been fat. Real fat. Huge. I usually wansn’t the fattest kid in my class, but I was always up there. In all my adult years I’ve never been able to go below about 245, and that was when I was in Puerto Rico, eating about 1200 calories per day, running around in the rain forest and climbing big dirt mountains. It may be the case that I’m just built to be large. Somehow I doubt it. As you may have also experienced, this is not my first attempt at losing weight. When it comes to being overweight, hanging around at 320 lbs meant that I could look forward to a fatal heart attack before I was 40. (I’m 27 now.) Even at a “measley” 320, I was an extreme case. I needed an extreme response.

    I’ve since (if you read other posts in the same series) been eating a diet much like Ray Kurzweil’s: low calorie, almost no grain, low general carb (between 30g and 60g per day, most of it coming from vegetables and legumes) and higher protein (mostly soy, whey, chicken and fish — glorious, marvelous fish!). Alaso, high anti-oxidants, high anti-inflamatories, and lower glycemic foods. In a month my blood pressure has dropped back to the normal range (123/78 as of the last check) and I have more energy than I have in some time. What I’m doing may be extreme, but I make sure the foods I eat are very high nutirtion/low calorie foods, in addition to taking in adequate nutritional supplementation. I don’t think my body is starving. In fact, I may be taking in more nutrition now than I have at almost any other point in my life. That was a rather eye-opening realization.

    One of the side effects in all this will likely be the loss of muscle. As of this morning, I was at 284.8 with a 26.1% body fat percentage. I understand that when I go down in weight, a portion of that will be muscle. In the short run, the lower calorie plan combined with exercise (mostly walking, DDR, and cardio, some weights), plus the nuber of times I eat per day (5-6) should keep my metabolism high enough to help me get to my ideal weight. (Approx 180). In the long run, the decreased metabolism is — believe it or not — exactly what I’m looking for, since that’s what will eventually lead to life extension.

    So, is what I’m doing for my body OK? My doctor and my private physical trainer/nutritionist seem to think so, and they’re the ones tracking me. My doctor had a few hessitations, but OK’s it for the short term to see what would happen. After two weeks, she started to notice that my blood pressure was getting better. After she began seeing the transformations in weight, fat percentages, and cholesterol (I didn’t have much of a problem with it, but had low HDL number; this number increased from 35 to 43) she was a believer, tellin me “Whatever you’re doing, it’s working. Well. Even my physical trainer had his reservations — he insisted I go between 1300 and 1800 calories per day — but after a few workout sessions at 1200 he realized that what I was doing was working. Mind you, he still contends I should eat more calories, and when I work with weights, I usually do by adding oatmeal with soy-protein to the diet. Total calories, about 300, which I eat in the morning, before the workout. That keeps me going well, and bumps up my calories to about 1400-1500 per day. Still, I like it better when I eat less: I just *feel* better, cleaner.

    Anyway, I’ll keep what you say in mind. If I need an adjustment as I do this, I’ll go on and make them. I like to think of this as running an experiment on my own body, to see how I react and work. Might it cause problems in the long run? Sure. However, it’s a risk I’m willing to take, and it seems to be a much saner method of doing things than others I’ve heard (gastric bypass, lipo-suction, etc). Still, I haven’t felt — or looked — this good in years.

    I’ll go ahead and drop you a line sometime. I always love to learn, and realize that the answers I seek may be dependant on a number of factors, that there may not be one right answer for every instance. Well, other than “eat better and exercise”, that is.

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