A 45-year-old fat man trying to find his inner skinny dude.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I don't know about you, but I have made a commitment to change my life and to become a thin person for the years I have left.

I have done this at least twice before.

I really think I have it in me to lose the weight and to keep it off.

The possibility of failure scares me to death.

Like Drew Carey, I am sick of being fat.  When I lost about 80 pounds in high school, I went to a doctor who had me write down everything I ate and limited me to 1500 calories a day.  If you figure my BMR, that was really, really low.  (Doctors, as a rule, don't know much about nutrition, and the honest ones will admit it.)  I looked good,  but I was pretty sure that once I was thin, I would never have a problem again.  In fact, my dad told me I would always have to be careful, but I just thought he was being a dick.  I gained it back, no problem.  And then some, of course, because that is the refrain to this song.

When I lost about 120 pounds in college, I had no idea what i was doing.  I really didn't.  Back then (late 80s), it wasn't as easy as it is now to get information about how to lose weight safely or how to keep it off.  Here's what I did:  I ate one meal a day, anything I wanted.  This was lunch around 4pm, probably 1000 to 1500 calories.  I ate some more after I turned 21 and could drink beer whenever I wanted.  (Heh.)  But I didn't know anything about working out, and I didn't think I'd need to do that.  I didn't know about BMR, etc.  And I thought that once I was down, I would never be up again.  At 21, I was down to 220 to 225.  You can see a picture on this page.

From age 21-26, I put on 35 to 40 pounds.  Law school will do that to you, especially if you don't know how to eat and don't work out.  I weighed about 260 when I got married at 26. 

From 26 to 37, I put on about 140 pounds, up to 350.  When my wife and I split, I put on at least another 50.  I assume my high was 400, give or take.

So here I am now, doing it again.  I scares me.  It really does.  Eating more (see below) scared me.  What if I start gaining?  What if I eat something and binge?  What if I fall off the wagon completely?  And what if I lose all the weight, buy all new clothes, and then gain 100 pounds?

It could happen.  It has twice.  I think this time is different because I know now that I have to be careful every day from now on.  It's daunting to think of that, but I can do it today.  I can do it tomorrow.  I'm planning on going to meetings forever, too, just like any addict.

It's also easier because I'm actually learning about the mechanics of the body, how much to eat (especially to eat enough).  I work out, too.  When I started losing in 2007, I started going to the gym.  The first time I got on an elliptical machine, I lasted five minutes, and I thought I would die.  Now I go 45 or 50 minutes.  I could go longer, too, but I usually get bored or run out of time before I run out of steam.  I actually like being at the gym, and I LOVE having worked out.  But it's hard to get off the couch most of the time.  (I had a zen moment a few months ago.  I was bored at home on a weekend, so I went to work out.  Amazing!)  Working out is great because everything hangs better. 

I hope this time is different.  I'm trying not to make pronouncements about the rest of my life.  I'm trying to take it all a day at a time, to make the right choices.  A lot of this is about caring for myself instead of punishing myself.  I think I've decided I deserve to be healthy and happy.  I hope it sticks.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Plateau, redux

Ok, the experiment panned out (at least this week).  Because I am a big guy, I get the max WW points--44.  I also get 35 points per week extra.  This is 308+35 or 343 total for the week.  (I'm moving to a weekly food tracking concept rather than daily.)  I had 393.5 points this week.  This is an average of 56 points a day, but as a practical matter, I had a couple of 39 point days and a couple of 70+ point days (70 is a lot, but amazingly, not that hard to do, especially if you're traveling and eating the standard American diet).

Drum roll--down 1.4 for the week, for a total of  33.8 pounds, give or take.  I don't know what I'll do this week, but I definitely think eating more didn't hurt me.  It might have helped.  I think I'll stick to an average of at least 53 points a day, and see how it goes.

The thing to remember is that it's not a race.  This is hard for me.  I want it all gone NOW, because I want to look great and wear cool clothes NOW.  Seriously.

The tools on the Fat2Fit Radio site (at right) are pretty useful in calculating caloric needs, etc.  Those guys are two men who have struggled with weight issues for a long time, have lost a lot of weight, and have kept it off.  They aren't selling a plan.  They have this concept that to be the thin person you want to be, you have to act like a thin person.  They think most people trying to lose weight don't eat enough.  I've been trying to keep my focus on eating now like I plan (and want) to eat forever.  So far so good.  In fact, it was really really hard for me to eat significantly more this week (85 points more!) than last week.  I don't want to mess up.  I don't want to backslide.  I could not bring myself to eat a cinnamon roll (a huge weakness for me), even though I wanted to eat more and had the capacity.  Even when they were free at the hotel.  Seriously.  I might have changed something.  That or my insanity has dovetailed into the life I want to live.

I'll take it.

And I'll take the 1.4.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Weight Watchers says you're in a plateau if you lose less than half a pound for six weeks.  I'm not quite that patient.  I've been hovering now for about five weeks.  In fact, I haven't lost all that much all summer.  It's mostly been consistent, but not much.  I'm hoping for and average of 1.5 a week, or at least 1.3.  I don't think that's crazy--I'm a big guy.  But it's been a pound over the last five weeks.  Total.  So, what to do?

I've been reading a lot about weight loss.  I'm particularly interested in how contrary to evolution that it is.  We have adapted to put on weight easily so when times are tough, we don't die.  Losing weight is contrary to that adaptation.  (If you don't believe in evolution, I can't help you.)  In fact, to lose weight consistently, you don't have to cut calories much.  A couple of hundred a day will do it, depending on where you start.

Plateaus happen, I understand, when one's body finally tumbles to the fact that there's less food coming in than there was before.  Then it slows the metabolism to adjust.  The way to deal with this is to keep moving and to--wait for it--eat more. 



You can also alter how much you eat by day, while keeping the same total points/calories for the week.  That's called, I think, the zigzag.

I have been eating 44 WW points (and some of the weekly, depending on the week) since April.  At 58 calories per point (average), that's about 2550 calories.  That's plenty.  But according to a couple of calculators I have used online, my BMR is more like 2700 calories.  This means even in a coma, I would drop some weight.  I think my body finally figured it out.

Here's my experiment this week.  Fourty-four points a day is 308 for the week.  I rarely eat more than half of the additional 35 WW allows.  I'm going to eat those this week, too.  Sunday, I ate 39.5.  But Monday-Wednesday I was over 50 (by a lot Tues and Wed).  I have 134 left for the week, so that should be plenty.  Three days at 44 is 132.  So I'll have the same in the week, but maybe my body will think things have changed because of the last couple of days.

If it doesn't work, it's only slowed me down.  That's all.  So what the hell.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What's Wrong with Hunger?

I see ads all the time for things that are intended as appetite suppressants. You won't be hungry, so you'll eat less, lose weight, have a great life, etc.

I don't think they work. By this I don't mean that they won't make you stop feeling hunger. They may. But physical hunger is not the problem for most people.

If you read other blogs--Theantijared (linked at the side) is a good example--what you'll find is that people who get really big are not eating because they are physically hungry--tummies rumbling, etc. They eat because there's some kind of emotional hunger that they're using food to deal with. They could be alcoholics or heroin addicts, but they're using food. I have used food in this way. Sometimes I still want to, but--so far--I've been good about not doing that. (I hope it lasts.)

Case in point. I have a friend whose dad is about 54 years old. He was, in his youth, a thin guy. He's 6'2", and was around 200 pounds when he was in his twenties. As of a year ago, he was 585. That makes his basal metabolic rate (BMR) something around 4300 calories a day. BMR is a measure of what your body will burn just to sustain itself (i.e. if you were in a coma). I'm here to tell you, 4300 calories is a lot of food. My own BMR today is about 2681, and I'm over 300 pounds. That's plenty of food for anyone.

I have heard/read from more than once source that if you eat your BMR every day, you'll lose weight, because the activity of the day puts you over that. I believe it. So my friend's dad could eat 4300 calories and lose weight. He isn't. He's eating more. So here's the question. Why?

Is he physically hungry? I doubt it. Forty-three hundred calories is about 74 WW points. I could calculate the equivalent in food, but I'll just say this: that's about four and a half pounds of chicken a day (if he were eating only chicken). It's a lot of food.

I think he doesn't eat for hunger. I think he eats for other reasons. Maybe just because it's good. But not for physical hunger. (In fact, the only real issue I have with WW is that one is required to eat all of one's points every day. I understand why. You don't want to eat less than your BMR, or your body will think it's starving and start to waste muscle. The metabolism also slows down. But I want to get out of the habit of eating when I'm not hungry, so if at the end of the day I have points left, it's a struggle.)

Drugs that suppress appetite are not going to help my friend's dad. They're not going to help me. For my whole life, actual physical hunger has been secondary to whether I eat or not. I think it is for most people who have weight problems.

What's wrong with hunger, anyway? It's uncomfortable and distracting, yes. But that's all. At least, that's all here in the US where food of all kinds is plentiful. (I'm not talking about people who can't afford food. Though being poor can make you fat if you can only afford cheap, bad-for-you food like 50 cent frozen burritos.) So hunger.

I used to eat too much food (and I still think about doing this all the time) because I didn't want to get too hungry before the next meal. But, where ever I am, I can get more food. The key, for me, is to have food on hand that I want. I'm not talking about chips (though Pop Chips are great). I'm talking about fruit, maybe yogurt or milk, and, in a pinch, a Fiber One bar. (I'm not advertising--just saying what works for me.) These things help me stave off physical hunger. I don't want french fries for that.

Sometimes I just want to eat. Hunger has nothing to do with it. Yesterday was like that. I was agitated and wanted to eat. I was driving, so boredom probably had something to do with that. Usually, I can wait and the feeling will pass. If I'm going to eat, I get something that's not too horrible. Pop Chips, baked chips, beef jerky (high in sodium, low in everything else), a V8. Things that will keep me occupied but will be within my points. Cross your fingers.

Also, here are some pix. I love seeing pictures on others' blogs, so here are mine. I block out the eyes because I feel shy about it. First one is me at my biggest. Second one is me a few weeks ago. Again, so far so good.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I travel fairly often. Not as much as some, a lot more than others. Traveling for me doesn't always mean overnight. Sometimes I'm just out of the office. But being out of the office during the day can be almost as tricky as being in airports. At the office, I know the places I like to have lunch, especially the salad place, Mixt Greens. I can have a semblance of a routine in the office that helps me eat well.

Airports can be tough; driving can be hard. I am increasingly willing to forego crappy food for something workable. I will drive around and look for what I really want instead of settling for a breakfast burrito that won't fill me up and will wipe out a bunch of WW points anyway.

One thing I do is I bring snacks. Fiber One bars are good, and they keep me satiated long enough to get to a meal. They are two points (three for peanut butter). Yes, they are processed food. But for what they are, they're pretty good. And they can be a very nice alternative to a candy bar (which I mostly don't eat and mostly don't miss).

Starbuck's--the skinny latte is great and gives me a milk. The breakfast sandwiches are good. The oatmeal, too--two points with nothing in it. The brown sugar is one, and the dried fruit is two. The nuts are another two. I skip the nuts, and I often only have half the fruit. In a pinch, an Egg McMuffin is only 7 points. That works, too.

Subway--don't fight it. It can be plenty of food for not much in the way of points. That was lunch.

I go to groceries a lot when I can. I get some fruit, veggies if they're easy (but I don't like most raw ones unless they come in a salad), and a sandwich or a roasted chicken.

Tonight (Dallas, Oregon!) I did that--roasted chicken, an artichoke salad (the oil was more than I wanted, but it was olive oil, so I get in some good fat), a couple of oranges, and a bagel. I wanted some bread. That put me a little over my points for the day, but not the week. It's Thursday and I'm not even close. I have a Greek yogurt for dessert if I want it, but I'm pretty full right now. And I have an orange left, too.

I didn't eat the dark meat on the chicken. Don't get me wrong. I love it. But I've had enough. I'm going to toss the rest of it. I'm not going to feel guilty, either. It was a five dollar chicken, and if I could mail it somewhere they need food, I would. But I don't need more than I have had.

This was pretty much my day. I repeat it fairly often. I don't really feel deprived. I feel pretty good about being careful, about not feeling bloated and gross after eating too much delivery pizza. I considered ordering a pizza because I was on the road this morning at 5am. It was tempting, but I'm glad I made the effort to go the grocery.

One more tip: shellfish is your friend. Now, this may not play well in non-coastal areas. I have an indigenous food rule when I travel: you only eat food indigenous to the area. No jambalaya in Iowa, for example (tried that). Chicken is a good bet. Buffalo is very lean. Fish.

Ok, so that's pretty much what I do. It takes some discipline. Easy is almost never that great for you. But if thin were easy, no one would be fat.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Who loves you, baby?

This is part of the problem: Many people think that if you're fat, you're unloveable. Fat people internalize this. It only makes the cycle worse.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

On being a fat kid

When I was in high school, my dad's law firm merged with a smaller firm. The new firm was not big by today's standards. It had maybe 30 lawyers, max. I worked there the summer after the merger as a general bobo/gofer.

One of the new parters was an old guy, probably pushing 80 at the time. He was an old thin guy who wore bow ties. The strangest thing about his appearance was the coarse white hair growing out of his nose. I don't mean the nostrils. I mean out of the top of his nose.

I decided to introduce myself. After all, this was an experienced, fancy lawyer--a burgermeister in my hometown. I told him my name. Did he say hi? No. Did he say, pleasure to make your acquaintance? No. The first words out of his mouth were, "You're fat like your dad."

I was shocked, and I was amazed that he could insult both my dad and me in five words. Amazing.

Ok, so I figured out that he was a world-class asshole. But still. That happened at the beginning of the summer, and I don't think I ever felt comfortable working there again. I told my dad what he'd said, and my dad laughed and said the guy wasn't such a bad guy. But I think it hurt my dad, too. For both of us.

My dad was kind of thick as a kid. But he also played on his high school tennis team. Comparatively, I was a much fatter guy, even though I dropped some weight and eventually became a bad shotputter.

I know my dad didn't like it that I was fat. I didn't. Why should he? But I grew up feeling as though I hadn't met expectations, and I still feel it. I might even feel it now more than I ever have. Mid-life crisis? Who knows?

I might be having a kid, which is to say that my wife might be pregnant. We're both on the heavy side, and we both worry that the kid will be fat. I don't worry that it will reflect badly on me (which I think bothered my dad). I worry that the kid will take as much shit as I did--from family, from strangers, from well-meaning friends and acquaintances.

My wife's mother has been perpetually on my wife about her weight, and if you look at pictures of my wife as a kid, you can see that she's perfectly normal, maybe a little heavier than some of her friends, but not giant. She was a lovely kid. She's a lovely woman. She struggles. I struggle. We both worry that having a fat kid will be bad for the kid because of the shit people dish out.

We're living differently than we used to. We eat a lot better than we used to, especially portion-wise, which is where we have trouble. We go to the gym together, too. We want this to be a way we live so the kid will grow up without turning to food for comfort the way we did.

My eyes these days really are bigger than my stomach. Sometimes I over-order, especially sushi. I get uncomfortably full. It's a kick. When I'm preparing a meal, I sometimes want to eat a lot. Usually I realize I'm feeling agitated about something. I eat less than I want. If I'm still hungry, I'll eat more. It happens, but rarely.

I read a book about Buddhism years ago in which someone said, "I eat when I'm hungry. I sleep when I'm tired."

That's the goal. Keep food as fuel only. Finding comfort in other things is the goal. I don't really know how to do that yet. But I'm--so far--pretty successful at letting the feelings pass without having to eat.