Day 30: No Time to Go On a Diet – Epilogue

“Failure is nature’s plan to prepare you for great responsibilities.”
Napolean Hill, Motivational Writer

There was the morning Atkins bar, maybe 40 oz of water, at noon was a plate of the lasagna, which I am quite fond of and must make again. A handful of macadamia nuts got eaten in the late afternoon. A bad case of the hungries hit on the way home, making visions of stopping for fast food along the way tempting. I extinguished this fire with an Atkins shake. Dinner in the evening was 2 hot dogs on low carb bread, some delicious cherry tomatoes from Trader Joe’s, and some cold shrimp with horseradish sauce. The cheat was a small slice of olive bread.

The weight at the end of this 30-day experiment: 206.6 – down 2.4 from yesterday and down 7.4 as my 30-day total weight loss from a start point of 214.

What do I take away from these 30-days?

  • I’m going to continue. Nothing in this experiment, which I consider a failure, has swayed me to some other way of eating. I will continue to watch what meals Dr. Dan is putting together on his Paleo blog, but I’ll be having my cream and butter and low carb bread. I most likely won’t be posting daily anymore, however – and the world sighs in relief.
  • Low carb works – I didn’t. If I had eaten low carb this entire time, I’d have lost more weight. Look at the numbers over the last 30 days – when I was good, the scale was good to me.
  • My notion of an external committment didn’t work. I thought that a public committment would help. We don’t have the luxury of checking out that parallel universe where I didn’t do this. Would have I put on 10 lbs.? Maybe – I was rapidly trending upward. But…I wanted to lose more – much more. 
  • Atkins products are a big help to me. Recognizing that I need the crutch will be a help in the future.
  • Better meal planning might be the key to my future weight loss. I’m impromptu, or spontaneous (to put it nicely), in my meal planning, and I think this leads to poor food choices. I get up between 4 and 5 am every day, and don’t get home from work until after 7pm on workdays – and it’s usually hit-the-ground-running as my wife and I scramble to feed the kids, get homework done, and get the 2-year old ready for bed. This is a situation that demands something quick and easy – if I can use my spare time more efficiently, and have some freezer meals on-hand, I might make better food choices. Right now, I have a few meals in the freezer, just ready for the microwave, and this is a comforting thought. I need to do more of this.
  • For me, a news diet is critical. I swore off the news years ago. My thinking was that it’s not all that important, really. I was mostly right – until the entire global financial system collapsed. This requires watching – and I consumed the news in unhealthy portions. This was especially hard on a mental environment that had not consumed news in large amounts for years. While I feel the news still bears monitoring, I’m going to throttle back my consumption signifigantly. 
  • Food boredom leads to cheating. If I lived in circumstances where I could control the contents of my fridge, perhaps I could sustain a paleo diet – I don’t see myself running to the store for goodies. My problem is that goodies surround me at my weakest moments, which usually occur in the evening, and are compounded by the lowered resistance of a glass or two of vino. Having a supply of acceptable substitutes at hand will go a long way to plug this hole.
  • My appetite is better controlled on a low carb diet. Yes, again I noticed the difference in the types of hunger that I wrote about previously. That nutty hunger that comes from too many carbs disappears after 48 hours of carb control – I experiences this over and over during my 30-days.
  • Maintaining weight loss on low carb is a breeze. Let’s flip this thing around: I’ve lost over 7 lbs. in 30 days eating Halloween candy, drinking wine, eating pasta, cookies, donuts, brownies, cake -and with no exercise. While I don’t recommend the junk, the fact remains that, if I control my carb intake most of the time, even excessive carb binging periodically doesn’t have to eliminate my weight loss goals. If I was at my target weight of 180 and I fluctuated 7 or 8 lbs like I did this month, I’d accept that. I didn’t put all that much effort into this, as evidenced by my daily tally of high-carb crap. Just some carb moderation led to an overall weight loss that actually is close to the recommended 1-1/2 lbs. per week. Again – I’m not advocating the ‘cookie-candy-cake & pie’ diet’ – but damn! – if I put together an infomercial about it, I’ll betcha I could make some big bucks.
  • Having a bad day on Atkins can still be a good day on other low carb diets. The nice thing about Atkins is that the approach is the most strict of all the low carb diets. Even if you cheat, you frequently can still maintain your carbs under 100 grams/day – which is my definition of a low carb diet. Look at me last night. I had a thin slice of high carb olive bread – maybe 20 grams? My total for the day was probably less than 50 – I can remain in ketosis at that level personally. 

It’s time for me to start my day. To all of you who read and posted – thanks – I hope I didn’t bore you too much.

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Day 29: Life Without Foundation

The morning was 2 squares of the lasagna experiment from yesterday. Quite good. 

I forced down the 50oz. of water that I am supposed to drink every day.

Lunch was extended over an afternoon of cleaning the house with the wife. In between the chores, I tried to make the cheese ‘crackers’ from day 8. One batch was too gooey and all stuck together, the next was burnt to a crisp. The last was almost there – just a tad chewy. There’s a small perfection window for these things, and next time I try, it’s exactly 8 minutes in a 300 degree oven.

In the evening, I had 2 more squares of the lasagna as well as some kielbasa on some low carb bread. 

My only cheat was a cherry and 1/3 pomegranate

Looking for some food ideas, I came across this meatball idea over at Food Chains – a thoughtful blog from New Zealand. I might give something like it a try. Dr. Dan, the fellow who writes Food Chains, is more Paleo in his thinking than I – I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I can’t give up all processed foods and dairy without some extreme effort of will that just isn’t there. I experimented with it over the summer, and while I have great respect for the approach, I’m just too screwed up to do full Paleo.

The weigh-in today is the same as yesterday’s: 209 – 5 down from the start of 214.

I’m reading a book at present – Mistakes Were Made (but not by me) – it’s about how our minds twist, pervert, and even fabricate the ‘truth’ so we can remain internally consistent. I’ve read other books on the subject, but this one is more damning – you read it and can’t help but to reflect on oneself. We all live in a warm cocoon of the lies we tell ourselves – some of us just have thicker cocoons than others. 

If you thought your cocoon was on the thin side, this book will probably reveal to you it’s thicker than you thought. 

So far, the book has left me in a quandary. It leads you to conclusions that you question: is this yet another convenient lie I’m telling myself?

It almost makes conclusions worthless. I once heard a saying: a conclusion is the point where you got tired of thinking. If that’s all it is, we certainly shouldn’t be putting a lot of significance to our conclusions or beliefs about anything.

But if we do that, where is our internal anchor?

I’ve often thought the secret of life might be: since we’re all delusional, pick delusions that make you happy.

Nearing the end of my 30-day experiment, I’ve shown little progress from the start. What do I attribute it to, so that I can take steps to remedy it in the next 30 days without wrapping them in a web of rationalizations that help to keep me safe and warm, yet keep me further away from my goal?

It leads me back to a favorite quote from Joe Frank from a posting from way back:

When you see the faces of true zealots – people with complete faith in their particular point of view, what you see is a glow of energy that comes not from spiritual development, but from the fact that they experience a sense of certainty, free of confusion. They are like a man in a forest. He has no idea where he is, but he sets up a campsite in a little clearing, builds a fire, draws a map of the immediate area and feels better because he’s created the illusion of order, even though he should know he is absolutely lost…If you look throughout history, you see the same questions asked over and over again…but the answers are forever changing. You can be certain that today’s answers will be replaced by tomorrow’s, and so on until eternity. The only thing that doesn’t change is the questions. The questions will always be there. They’re the only thing you can count on. Answers are for people who don’t have the courage to live with questions.

It’s one thing to be doubter and assume that someday down the road you are going to achieve enlightenment, but if you are really committed to doubt, then you live a life without foundation. You say: ‘I will never know the answers to any of these questions – this search is going to be fruitless’, while the person living in certainty is living in a much more comfortable, though perhaps delusional, world. Never mind the answers: learn to live with the questions.

At present, I am concluding nothing.

Day 28: Dried Cherries

Saturdays are the worst. This Saturday was no different. 

It started OK – I inventoried the fridge and had the ingredients for a spinach casserole of sorts – roughly based on an old kitchen experiment. Here’s what I did:

  • 20 oz bag frozen spinach
  • 4 oz shredded cheddar cheese
  • 5 pats butter
  • 1/4 cup parm cheese
  • 1/3 – 1/2 lb deli ham, chopped into bits

I mixed all the ingredients, then put in a circular baking dish, put the pats of butter on top, then cooked in the convection oven for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. As I used the spinach frozen, it wasn’t cooked in the center when I took it out, so I nuked the dish for 4 minutes, and all was well.

The major flaw was my laziness in not defrosting the spinach. It made it watery. If I had nuked the spinach first, and drained off the water, it would have been a flawless execution.

The taste was great. I liked it, my 2-year-old liked it, and my wife liked it. My older daughter cringed at the listing of ingredients, so didn’t even try it. Her loss.

A small plate was breakfast, and a slightly larger plate was lunch. 

Then the family decided to trek to our local organic farm.

Cherry Grove Farm is just outside of Princeton, near Drumthwacket, the Governor’s official residence in New Jersey. The Governor could conceivably jog over for some fresh eggs – if the Governor actually lived there, that is. The New Jersey Governor has more money than God, and has no need for free housing, so I believe he chose to stay in his own house.

If you want to know your food, you can do it here. You can talk to the people that tend the chickens and cows, and talk to the people who make the cheese – they tell you about their experiments with new recipes, their successes and failures, and it makes the brie we picked up have just that much more gravitas than the stuff in the supermarket that has no voice, no face attached to it. 

The prices are certainly more than the supermarket, but not so much to stop us from buying – and part of Me feels I’m not just paying for organic eggs and cheese, but to allow something that is fast disappearing to continue to exist. If you read Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, these are people practicing ‘Beyond Organic’. I support their effort, and if that means a premium on my eggs and cheese, then I am willing to pay it.

By the way – the book is a great read. The fellow could write about doing his laundry and make it fascinating. It exposed me to topics I thought I’d never be interested in (like farming and hunting), and that is always welcome.

We got our eggs and cheese, then headed to Trader Joe’s. If you do not have a Trader Joe’s within driving distance, you have my sympathy. They are a strange grocery chain, with offbeat products and great prices for a lot of them. For instance, I got a large bag of macadamia nuts for $6.50. I would only find small jars of the the stuff for $4 or more in the regular store – I’d probably have to pay $20 for the same amount. 

The store has a quirky quality – employees wear Hawaiian shirts, there’s a nautical theme, and a local feel, even though it’s a chain. If Jimmy Buffett had a grocery store, it would probably be something like this. 

Cheap Trick’s I Want You to Want Me played on the store’s music system…like I said, not your normal grocery store.

Another item besides nuts that they have a particularly extensive variety of is dried fruit. My wife loves their dried cherries – we’ve seen them nowhere else. As we have to drive 40 minutes to get here, we stocked up on dried cherries, their house brand mayonnaise (the best I’ve ever had), almond butter (again, the best), Korean style ribs (we’ve never seen these anywhere else) – and a bunch of other stuff. Trader Joe’s has a con artist’s ability to pick your pocket while you’re smiling about it – and it did that to us again. We did do some stocking up, which is what we say each time this happens, but we certainly spent more than we would have if we went to our local store.

When we had got home, I had some of the Brie cheese, some low carb bread with butter, and the rest of the London broil soup left in the fridge. My wife and I cleaned out the fridge, and I had bought an eggplant to use as a noodle replacement in a lasagna experiment.

Here’s my recollection of the ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1/2 jar pasta sauce
  • 1/3 cup basil pesto
  • 20oz. ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 lb mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 lb ham, chopped
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp oregano

The crux of my strategy here was to have the eggplant substitute as the lasagna noodles. Some might debate that I was really making eggplant parm, but let me have my delusion, please. I cut the eggplant lengthwise, as thin as possible with my dollar store ‘cut everything’ knife. You’ve seen these on TV, cutting aluminum cans in half. This one dollar knife has become my fave, along with my meat cleaver. If I threw away all my other knives, I could get along with just these two.

I succeeded in slicing the eggplant pretty thin, mostly.

Next up, I mixed the cheeses, the pesto, the garlic, oregano, and ham in a bowl to create a uniform goop. I then got my rectangular baking dish, spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom, then a layer of the eggplant, then the cheese goop, and repeated until I ran out of stuff. I tried to go light on the sauce as I didn’t want it to be too soupy.

This went in an oven at 375 for 50 minutes and it came out great. 

Unfortunately, my low carbing for the day didn’t come out as good as my recipes. I had some of the dried cherries – then some more. I probably ate half a bag. My wife had also picked up some other sweet goodies, and I tasted them all.

The weight this morning showed what dried fruit abuse can do: 209 – up 3 friggin pounds from yesterday and 5 down from the start of 214.

What can I say? The cherries were good.

Day 27: The Skinny on Feeding Myself

If I could pinpoint my biggest challenge in doing low carb for the long, long haul, it is keeping a larder of low carb food available to ensure that food boredom doesn’t set in. Part of my success, I think, has been that I can eat the same thing 3 days in a row, if not more, and this makes it possible to eat low carb, enjoy it, and not be tempted by the high carb goodies that surround me daily.

You might say: why not a little willpower, you idiot! – and you are right, but I also think that willpower is somewhat overrated – or maybe misunderstood. Many people confuse effort with results – and I have had the pleasure of working for a number of these people.

Willpower is a component to long-term weight loss when combined with smart eating choices that provide the necessary nutrients, and are enjoyable enough to lessen the need for willpower.

Significant weight loss will never be effortless – but it can’t be a never-ending teeth-gritting herculean effort either. 

For most of us, that will fail in the long run.

My problem is cooking in a house where I’m the only one on a low carb diet. I need to cook a lot of high carb meals for the kids, yet still cook my own stuff. As time is short, I cook large quantities, hoping others might eat some, which they do, but not consistently. This means I end up eating the same thing too often, promoting food boredom, promoting cheating.

that’s my slippery slope.

I’ve heard that Nutrasystem for men has proven successful in that men are attracted by the simplicity of the approach, and the elimination of cooking – and maybe even shopping. I’ve never met anyone who succeeded on Nutrisystem, though I have known a number that tried, but my point here is that their plan is geared to eliminate the problem of what foods to pick, how much to eat, and time to cook.

I don’t think Nutrasystem is sustainable – are you going to eat microwaved TV dinners for the rest of your life? – but I do think there’s something there. 

The notion of meals on hand – easy to grab and eat, with enough variety to sustain.

So my thoughts on this lead me to single-serving freezer meals. Rough outline: Cook a few times weekly, choosing carefully to ensure variety. Package in single-serve portions, and freeze. 

I know – a big ‘duh!’ from the masses that think this is friggin obvious, but I never said I was a genius.

I started yesterday by freezing up a few portions of the London broil with Brussels sprouts. These can be lunches or dinners next week. It was a lunch on this day – and much enjoyed.

The food boredom set in when coming home. My wife had to work, and I was left to watch the kids, try and feed them, and feed myself. I had some ham and cheese on some low carb bread, but didn’t really enjoy it. I like ham in limited amounts, as flavoring – as a sandwich, it’s not my first choice.

Meanwhile, I cooked up ravioli for the kids. Ugh.

The evening ended with what I’d call ‘cheat containment’. I did have some ravioli, but not too much – and one piece of candy. I brought all the yummy candies to work to fatten up my coworkers, so the temptation was somewhat lessened. 

The containment worked, as today’s weight is 206.0 – down 0.6 from yesterday, and 8 lbs. from the start of 214.

Anyone out there have successful strategies for cooking and freezing? I’m all ears. Post a comment or send me an email if you’re shy about posting.

Day 26: The Chinese Buffet…and Reflections on 25 Days of So-Called Low Carb Dieting

The morning started with the Atkins bar. 

Lunch was most of 6 scrambled eggs made with some milk and sour cream. The rest was finished off near 6pm, along with a second Atkins bar.

On the drive home, my wife called and wanted to go out for dinner. With the kids, the best bet is usually the Chinese buffet.

All-you-can-eat can be a challenge, but I was kinda full from the remaining eggs and bar I had an hour ago. I did have some shrimp and mussels in dishes that didn’t seem to have the opportunity for too much starch being added, though I imagine there was some, certainly.

My 2-year old daughter enjoyed smearing a square of Jello on my pants. Good thing for her she’s dangerously cute. 

In the evening, I stole a Kit Kat or two – I am going to pack up some of the remaining candy and bring it to work – I’ll fatten up my coworkers – it will lessen the contrast.

The weight moved in the right direction today: 206.6 – down 1.2 lbs from yesterday and 7.4 lbs. from the start.

As I near the end of my little experiment here – 30 days of blogging about trying to lose weight during some of the most profound and historic events to come down the pike in a long time, I frankly doubt that the experiment helped much in my weight loss so far. Part of the experiment was about commitment – first, to blogging for 30 days straight – except for one day, I’ve done that. 

If ‘real close’ counts – I’ve done it. If it doesn’t, I didn’t

On the diet end, you’re pretty much seeing the standard pattern. My biggest change was to go back to my Atkins roots, and to acknowledge that food variety and crutch food like Atkins bars are important to me. I think these two aspects have made the scale go down rather than up, but it was more an evolution than revolution.

On the personal journaling, which I have done little of prior to the last 25 days, I am completely disappointed, at least at this point. I’ve tried to stay ‘on-topic’ since I started this blog 1-1/2 years ago. Part of this experiment was to put a diet into a context of the world around me. You don’t diet in a vacuum, and I thought that an attempt to merge my unrelated thoughts with the diet might reveal something other than tiresome blather, but I think that’s all it does.

On the positive side, when I started this, I was 7 lbs. heavier, and the scale was trending rapidly upward. It’s not doing that now, even though the 25 days have been riddled with less-that-perfect (to put it mildly) committment to a low carb diet.

If I can keep this trend going – and get a little better about following the diet, I could be 180 – my target weight – by spring.

I also think that the timing – dieting during the holiday season – it a great strategy. I’ve read that, like bears and squirrels, our bodies want to pack on the weight in the winter, so it’s easier to blimp up. Add to the fact that it’s the time of the year where we offer ourselves the most excuses to overeat, and it’s a recipe for packing on some serious pounds. 

So you’re a downer at family gatherings – you eat less than others, making them feel guilty about their own excesses. You don’t have that slice of pie Aunt Martha slaved over.

Aunt Martha is going to have to suck it up, and find some other joker for that pie.

And save the guilt-trip for some other relative, aunty.

Also – I haven’t exercised, and I still lost weight – I’m not proud of this, but it stands as a fact.

Day 25: NWCR Wants An Update…

I’ve skipped a day – 24 – because I got some sort of stomach virus that laid me low for the entire day – and I didn’t keep track of what I ate the previous day. I recall it being the typical – mostly good, with some wine and junk in the evening. I didn’t weight myself, so nothing to report here.

The next day was: sleep til noon after barely being able to pull myself out of bed. Had 2 hamburgers with cheese wrapped in lettuce.

Dinner was some Brussels sprouts with bacon, topped with some sour cream – and some slices of fried pork chop. A little later, a grilled cheese on low carb bread. 

The weight was 207.8 – up a lb. from 2 days ago, and 6.2 down from the start.

And I’ve just gotten my yearly update letter from the National Weight Control Registry – this is the study on long-term weight loss I’m part of. 

While I would have lover to report a lower weight to them, I’m about 8 lbs. lighter this year than last.

Or maybe a few lbs. more – I just checked my posting from last year, which doesn’t match what I remember. Maybe at the exact time of the post, I had peeled off a few more lbs.? Maybe. I do remember being 215 on Jan 1, 2008. 

Even if I didn’t lose another lb. – and kept at this weight until September 09, I would have kept 60 lbs. off for 5 years, which used to be considered nearly impossible at 95% unlikely.

Good news is that the NWCR folks sent me a study that said the odds stated above were based on one bad study – and the truth is that it is only 80% unlikely.

Day 23: Yada Yada

Breakfast was an Atkins bar.

Lunch was a healthy portion of that London broil soup, which held me until close to 8pm, when I had a few of PF Changs Northern Style Ribs as takeout. They are very low carb. I also had 2 hot dogs on low carb bread – and a lot of the 4C Drink mix – I was quite thirsty when I got home.

I also weighed myself when I got home – 204.6 – that’s 4.2 lbs less than I was in the morning.

Why I would fluctuate so much in 12 hours, I don’t know, but at least it was in the right direction.

I watch the evening weight, but I’m a sponge most evenings – everything eaten shows on the scale. I don’t obsess about it – it just is.

This morning I’m 206.8, which is down 2 lbs from yesterday and 7.2 down from the start.

And this morning is Election Day in the US. If you can vote – vote. 

If you live outside the US, say a little prayer that we pick the right guy – I know I am.