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

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Primal reflexes

So, here's a quotation from the comments to a post on the site at the right, Refuse to Regain.

Barbara Berkeley said in reply to Bonnie...
... When you are losing and maintaining weight, you are fighting primal reflexes that the body has developed over countless centuries. The body does not want you to waste away so it fights weight loss. Similarly, after a period of food restriction it will entice you to eat. Fighting these forces with "willpower" is like fighting nature with willpower. But strategy works. Figuring out how to make an end run around these responses is challenging, but creates success.

There are a couple of things that are interesting here.  First is the concept that losing weight is unnatural.  I've read enough to think that's true.  We are built to survive (and yes, I believe in evolution--don't laugh.  I have a friend who does not). We have evolved to hold onto all nutrition, because bad times come.  Except that now, they mostly don't, not in the US, anyway.  You have to be really freaking poor to starve here.  Ironically, much of the cheap food that's out there is high in sugar, fat, and calories.  Lots of poor people are huge.  

Back to the evolution, though.  The concept that one's body tries hard not to trim down means we're fighting a tough fight.  Really tough.  And the balance is a delicate one.  A couple of hundred calories either way every day can mean gain or loss over the long term.  The key is not to damage your body on the way down.

Here's what I find interesting about Barbara Berkeley's theory.  She's an M.D. in Cleveland who believes that part of the difficulty fighting the evolution is that hormones dictate the urge to eat.  I don't know where I stand on this, but it's interesting.  I always thought I was eating emotionally.  She has said (in comments on the site) that many people think that it's emotion, even though it's a physiological thing.

Food (heh) for thought.  I think it's interesting because for the last few weeks, I've really felt the desire to eat a lot.  On Christmas, I took a day off from tracking.  All things considered, I didn't eat too much--well, not true.  Aside from the monkey bread, I ate pretty normally.  Lots of carbs.  But not insane, except for the monkey bread.

I have been assuming that I'm agitated about the holidays or other life events.  But Barbara's suggestion that my desire to eat a lot is driven by my more moderate eating over the last few months is interesting.  I'm just trying to watch the process and not react to it in a bad way.  I am sure I will feel this way, at least some of the time for the rest of my life.  All I can do, I think, is stay disciplined.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Nutritional Knowledge on a Macro Level

The other night, about 3am, I had an idea for a blog entry.  It was some horrible thing someone had done to me when I was a kid.  When I woke up, it was gone.  I've been trying to remember it for a couple of days.  Must not be that big a deal, right?  Riiiight.  It'll come back.  Those things always do.

But here's something.  I have noticed for a long time how accepted theories of nutrition change from time to time.  Remember how fat made you fat?  Now fats (good fats--in ifish, nuts, avocados, etc., not from red meat) are a known desirable part of any diet.  Remember how margarine was supposed to be better than butter.  Now it's not--trans fats are bad, and margarine is much more heavily processed than butter.

When I was in first or second grade, we were told that pizza is the perfect food.  That's because it was made of all four food groups:  milk, fruits and vegetables, breads and cereals, and meat.  Hell, even the four food groups aren't around anymore.  Now we have a pyramid.  Still, pizza as the perfect food!  That was music to my ears. 

I have been learning these past few months, about what foods are useful to me and what foods can make me their bitch by their very existence.  Pizza is tough.  If I am in control, my powers of resolve can limit my intake.  Not getting meat on it helps, too.  But if I'm tired or sad or agitated, forget it.  I can eat mine and yours.  I can want more.  It doesn't even have to be particularly good pizza. 

I also really believe that not all calories are the same.  In the last several weeks, my consumption of processed foods had risen (if not my calories).  I've slowed that down, am eating more "real" food, and my weight has dropped a bit.  I'm working out a bit more, too, but I think the food matters more than the gym.  In any event, I know that I feel better with real food.  And it is very rare for me to find a kind of candy or dessert that I think is worth the calories.  That doesn't mean I won't eat them.  I have it on good authority that some of my mom's Christmas cookies are on the way.  I'll eat them and like them.  But not all of them.  And I won't love them.  Amazingly, I LOVE the ripe pears from Harry & David.  Those are worth every calorie. 

The point is that all food presents a learning experience (or a reminder).  Lots of calories aren't going to screw me up.  They will, however, slow me down.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Back in Fifth Grade

It started as a misunderstanding.  I know this.  It doesn't matter.

A friend wrote a funny post on his Facebook page.  I commented--it was an inside joke between us.  One of his friends (an idiot--I have no doubt), wrote a long rant, in which he called me "fat boy." 

I haven't been called fat or fat boy, not to my face, anyway, in a very long time.  I mean, I'm 44.  Don't get me wrong.  I know people make comments.  But still, calling me fat boy?  On Facebook?

What was weird was, I felt as though I were right back in fifth grade.  I really did.  Still do.  But I'm not.  I'm 44.  I'm a fat man, not a boy.  Here's how I feel.  The dude is lucky he's in New York and not in LA.  Because I seriously would kick his ass.  I mean it.  It wouldn't really be about him.  Right now he represents for me all the asshole bullies who ever called me names. 

It's surprising how fast I can go from middle-aged lawyer guy to fifth grade object of ridicule.

I'm doing my best.  I'm not a loser.  He's an asshole. 

So I had a healthy breakfast and went to work. I did not feed the emotion.  Food is for hunger, that's all.  But goddamn.  Seriously.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

7 Pounds?

I lost 7 pounds Friday night.  Yes, in one night.  Thank goodness, too, because I was up a whopping 9 pounds from last Saturday morning.  It was apparently all retained water.  At least 7 pounds of it, maybe 8.  I was just a bit freaked out by it.  I really was.  I'm still not happy about the other two, but given my size, two pounds at the margin is probably not much to worry about.

I have noticed a slight increase in my total calories.  Nothing crazy, but nowhere near the 14,000 calories that four pounds (for example) would require.  Not even the 7000 calories that two pounds would require.  Not if the 2700 calories that Livestrong says I should be eating to lose weight is the right number.  So, why the plateau?  And what the hell is up with the water retention?

I recall having read somewhere that if you drastically cut calories to lose weight, you cut your metabolism by 10%, even if you regain the weight.  I don't know if I have that right, but I have done that twice in my life, and I was eating very little.  Up to 1500 calories each time, but no more.  The first time, my doctor gave me that number.  The second time I was really eating 1000 calories until I turned 21 and could drink beer legally.  So it's possible I damaged my metabolism.  I don't know if it comes back.

It's also possible that I didn't damage anything, but that my body just doesn't need 2700 calories.  So I cut back to 2600.  We'll see how that goes.  The danger in eating too little is that you will waste muscle instead of losing fat.  With less muscle, you compromise your metabolism, since muscle is the best furnace you have.

A little less might help.  We'll see.  I've been within three pounds of my current weight since August.  Great, I'm in maintenance.  (It's not a bad thing.)  But I want to drop 100 pounds.  For real.  It's about more than the clothes, suddenly, too.  Twenty to start with would be great.  And then 80 more.  And then, maybe another 20.  We'll see.  But I'm tired of the plateau.  It's hard to keep in mind the fact that I have dropped just about 40 pounds this year.  That's a lot.  I've said it before--it doesn't feel like a lot, because I have so far to go.  But it's plenty.

Today was in the 80s here in SoCal.  Hard to believe.  I took the opportunity to take a long bike ride down the Santa Ana River (which is all concrete).  I went about 13 miles in an hour.  The first 40 minutes were pretty easy.  But I have to say, it wiped me out for the rest of the day.  I liked doing it.  I want to do more.  I want to be able to do physical things.

When I was making the transition from junior high school to high school, I decided not to try out for the marching band.  Make any jokes you wish, but I imagined the band would be fun.  I didn't do it because I honestly didn't think there would be a uniform in my size.  I couldn't deal with that.  So I bagged the instrument.  That history came into my head today.  Don't know why.  I guess I don't want to live my life that way--being unable to do things because I ate too much.  I don't need to be fat now.  I need to have options.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Here's what I have figured out.  I can say no to just about any food.  But there are some foods that I find it nearly impossible not to gorge on.

We saw Harry Potter over the weekend.  My wife and I split a large popcorn (sometimes we have popcorn for lunch at a movie).  I felt as though I inhaled most of the bag (so did she, but she didn't have more than I did).  I understand that such a bag of popcorn is 600 calories.  All things considered, that's not that bad for as much as there is.  But I'm glad that I didn't know about the free refill.  I would have gotten it.  It was great stuff.

Same with chips.  The Terra Exotics.  Forget it.  I can't have them in the house.  I will eat them all.

Spinach and artichoke dip.  Forget it.  I can eat vats of it.  Better to have an actual artichoke.

I'm up two pounds now from Saturday.  Arguably, it's because of the salt intake.  I have not eaten an extra 7000 calories in the last week or so.  But it's still disconcerting.  I feel as though I've been a little lax lately, going over my caloric max a few times, just a little.  But still.

Tonight, dinner was a couple of garden burgers on bagel thins.  So far so good.  I'm trying to keep in mind how nice it is to take care of myself.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Confession.  I gained a pound over Thanksgiving.  Damn.

Ok, here’s the thing.  I don’t really think I did, despite what the scale says.  And even if I did, I don’t think it’s fat.  I have been working out again, somewhat regularly.  I’ve been tracking consistently.  Yes, I went over a bit last week, but by about 500 calories, not 3500.

So where’d that pound come from?  Who the hell knows?  As a practical matter, I don’t think you can draw any conclusions at the margin.  What I know is that a few weeks ago, I was tired of weighing the same (give or take) for more than a month.  That was three (or four) pounds ago.  The trend is down.  This is good.

Some other indicators are good, too.  My watch is starting to roll around my wrist, meaning the band is too big.  Almost too big.  Heh.  I’ve already tightened it one notch.  Another notch is a win.  Also, the skin.  I have some loose skin. 

Now, I lost about 120 pounds when I was in college.  I had a fair amount of loose skin back then.  Before I got a chance to have it removed, I gained weight.  I was stupid back then.  I thought, cool, I’m cured.  I was not cured.  And I put back on about 180 pounds.  I can’t believe it, either.  I’m own 80, and I want to get back down to where I was.

Back to the skin.  When I spread my arms out, you can see the skin hanging down.  Near my elbows, it actually wrinkles.  The skin above my belly button is all wrinkly, too.  Sound gross?  Maybe.  But I’m psyched.  This is progress.  The skin is not being pulled tight by fat.  It’s being pulled down by gravity.  So awesome.

My wife tells me that once I get to where I want to be and stay there for a while (six months, a year), she’s ok with my getting surgery.  And I want it.  She pointed out that the scars will be pretty serious.  She’s right.  I’ve seen pictures of people who have had tummy tucks.  The scarring is significant.  She pointed out that I won’t be comfortable at the beach.  Also true.  But I have never in my life been comfortable at a beach.  No loss there.  (I’m fascinated by guys who are ok with taking off their shirts and women who can run around in tiny bikinis.  I wonder what that would be like.  I’ll never know.)  I actually fear surgery, but I’m not ruling it out.  It would be really cool to be actually thin.

So, thinner wrists, loose skin.  They trump the one pound up.  I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.