Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Year of Dieting: a Historical Retrospect

A year and four days ago, rather mysteriously, I began the "Tom's and Burgerville diet." I say mysteriously, because I had grown extremely skeptical of diets, and had more or less decided to be through with them. I don't know what motivated me to make one last try. The process is meticulously reported in a document titled "Yet Another Diet Plan," but it begins, like any good epic, in medias res:

The “diet” part actually happens later. What happens now:
  1. Make the chicken soup 
  2. Measure waist and weigh myself every morning. We’re establishing baseline 
  3. Prep salad and brocs every morning (OR the evening before, if the morning will be challenging (i.e. Monday, Thursday) 
  4. Breakfast is the full Spanish omelet with toast, hashbrowns, sour cream, 5 creams in the coffee. The full catastrophe. 
  5. Lunch is the brocs and the soup and an apple and a cutie orange 
  6. Dinner is the Tillamook w/ half a small vanilla shake, and the (already prepped, right?) salad. 

We’ll do this for two weeks. It is, of course, remotely possible that this IS a diet, that I’ll be running a calorie deficit. In that case we just continue. Otherwise -- we just start cutting the splurgey things, one by one, till we do achieve calorie deficit.


No mention of why. No mention of goals. As I remember it (an introductory phrase that should induce extreme caution) I fully meant it to be the last attempt, which maybe lent it some extra heft. When I failed this time, I would have failed for good. Enough already. I'd thrown enough of my life at this problem. And apparently I had the basic method down, which was to eat the same thing every day, to weigh and measure daily, take a weekly average, and to cut something out of the daily regimen if this week's average weight was not a pound lower than last week's.

The first item was to make the soup, which was to be mainstay, and still is. Every four or five days I make a four-quart slow cooker full of soup. I've only been late once or twice, in which case I substituted a can of tuna for the bowl of soup. This is the most I have ever cooked, consistently, in my life.

I did, and still do, weigh and measure myself every morning.

At item 3 we hit what I did NOT succeed in doing. I failed to make myself the daily salad and broccoli almost at once. Many months into the diet, I was still only eating either one a couple times per week. This is an important thing to notice. Eating less turned out to be far easier than eating differently. Even now, when I finally have made the broccoli part of my daily routine -- I prepare a bowl of it every evening, and microwave it, covered, in the morning, as the first part of my breakfast -- even now, the salads are hit or miss. Four or five times a week.

For nine months I kept going to Tom's for breakfast, although I had to abandon parts of the breakfast to keep the pound-per-week loss going. Whenever the weight loss started to stall out, every six weeks or so, I jettisoned another component: first half of the hash browns, then one slice of toast, then the other half of the hash browns, and the other slice of toast, finally two of the five creamers. The Spanish omelet with sour cream stayed my breakfast, though, for nine months, through three quarters of the weight loss.

Lunch stayed the soup and the two pieces of fruit, for this time, too. (The broccoli was, as I say, haphazard at best: I soon viewed it as optional.)

Dinner was the Tillamook cheeseburger from Burgerville, and half of a small milkshake (Martha and I split one.) This held steady for the same first nine months. The salad happened only occasionally.

In mid-January I hit my initial goal of 180 pounds. Right around then I suddenly changed a lot -- largely because I was tired of spending so much money on restaurant food that I was not actually very thrilled about any more. (After nine months, even Burgerville loses some of its luster.) I began eating at home. I tried to swap out for equivalent calories on the meals. This was hard to do. I don't think most people grasp the extreme difficulty of accurately measuring calories in the real world. There was some trial and error.

My first cut at the home regimen looked like this:

Breakfast: 1/3 cup steel-cut oats w/ 2 tbsps chopped nuts, bowl of broccoli, one egg, black coffee
Lunch: bowl of soup, apple, orange
Dinner: hamburger patty (1/3 lb), a microwaved potato, a cup of ice cream

On this, I started losing too quickly. I added a second egg to my breakfast almost at once. A month later I added an afternoon snack of 20 almonds and a banana. Now I really was eating the broccoli daily, and the salad more often. It was starting to look more like the diet of sane person.

When I wasn't losing a pound a week any more, I cut the hamburger to a quarter pound, and finally I cut the ice cream to half a cup. Somewhere in this time I started buying my potatoes in ten pound bags, and eating two or three of them with my dinner. (They're about half the size of the big potatoes you buy individually.)

The apple migrated to breakfast, because I found myself really wanting something sweet with my second cup of coffee. The orange migrated to become a bedtime snack. The salad became more frequent: I generally eat it (just a pile of romaine with some carrot and radish) when I'm hungry but it's not lunchtime or dinnertime yet.

I approached the endgame with extreme caution: I knew it was where I was most likely to screw up. The goal I really wanted to reach was having a waist measurement that was 90% of my hip measurement. I still haven't reached that, and I don't know if I will. I had other criteria for stopping the weight loss, though: I decided that 150 lbs would be just too small, and that if my strength started going down (as measured by reps lifting weights) it would mean I was losing muscle mass, and I should stop. So any one of those three conditions was to trip the halt! wire. Sure enough, when my weight went under 160, my strength started dwindling. It was time to stop. I added another egg to breakfast, a few more almonds to my afternoon snack, and a third (or fourth) potato to my dinner. The weight loss part of this is done.

This is what the regimen looks like now:

Breakfast: oats with chopped nuts, broccoli, three eggs, coffee, apple
Lunch: (salad?), soup
Snack: banana and 1/4 cup almonds
Dinner: (salad?), 1/4 lb hamburger patty and 3 or 4 potatoes, 1/2 cup ice cream
Snack: orange

All this stuff is plain: I don't use any condiments but salt and Worcestershire sauce.

I don't presently plan to change anything. Still hoping to lose a couple more inches around the waist, but by stepping up my exercise rather than by cutting back on food. 160 lbs seems to be about where my body likes to be. And if the last couple inches don't go, then they don't.

I had a 50 inch waist a year ago. It's 36 inches now. I'm pretty psyched, and I'm pretty confident that I've hit a solution I can live with indefinitely.

It's been a long haul.


Sabine said...

Fantastic achievement, congratulations!

am said...

Brilliant! Thank you for this historical retrospect. Your unfolding lived experience demonstrates something mysterious and vital about food and weight. My perception is that what happened to you in this past year is part art work and part scientific experiment.

As you know, I have been on a somewhat similar eccentric path that continues to delight me with its positive results. For me, eating less (on my terms!) was doable from the beginning. The eating differently has continued to evolve as I grow older and my body changes. My original plan was to limit myself to 3 meals a day with nothing in between meals and refraining from eating foods that I craved but had an allergic reaction to. I didn't count calories. I found that as long as I avoided the foods I craved, I could eat as much as I wanted at each meal and feel no hunger between meals. For the first time in my life, I had the experience of feeling full and satisfied when I ate!

Of great interest to me is that you have found that you can eat 3 or 4 potatoes a day. In the past year, I have found that I am happily eating up to 2 pounds of garnet yams (sometimes referred to as sweet potatoes) daily.

Here is what I eat now on most days, enjoying every meal:

First meal at about 11:00 a.m. : 14 oz. wild pink Alaska salmon (canned), 1 pound of Brussels sprouts or broccoli
(I wake up at 4 a.m. and take the equivalent of 1-1/2 cups of coffee in tablet form -- entirely eccentric -- I'm not recommending this to anyone else! and at about 10:00 a.m., I repeat the dose of caffeine. A naturopath recommended moderate amounts of caffeine due to my tendency to fall asleep during the day. After I ingest caffeine, I don't experience hunger).

Second meal at about 3 p.m.: 1 pound of garnet yams with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 cup (dry) of oats cooked with 1 tablespoon of olive oil

On days when I will not be home at 11:00 a.m., this is what I eat:

First meal (around 6 a.m.): 1 pound garnet yams with 1 tablespoon olive oil

Second meal (around noon): 14 oz. wild pink Alaska salmon (canned), 1 pound of Brussels sprouts or broccoli

Third meal (3-4:00 p.m.): 1 cup dry oats (cooked) with 1 tablespoon olive oil or another pound of garnet yams with olive oil

This comes to a total of about 1900 calories, which keeps me at a healthy weight for my height of 5'7". My only exercise is yoga and walking. Of course, what I do to maintain a healthy weight is entirely eccentric and is tailored to my particular physiology. It is my perception that there is no one-fits-all diet. Custom-made with flexibility is what has worked for me.

After struggling with food and weight until I was 38 years old, finding relief in this area of my life has been an extraordinary experience.

It is so good to know that you are experiencing this relief, too.

Ann B. said...

I think I could follow a sensible diet once I decided to eliminate sugary snacks which I crave all the time.