Monday, July 27, 2009

The New Program (Pound Two)

Following college graduation I stepped out into the real world and began to slowly gain back the weight I'd kept off for the previous two years. I still exercised, but not on the scale I'd achieved in college. Mostly, I blamed this on the fact that there weren't any proper inclines in the Tupelo area, as my old walking path in Starkville was pretty hilly, as well as the fact that I lived on a highway with no shoulder. And my food intake, while not yet unholy, took a bit of a less than "healthy" turn with lots of single-guy rice-based dishes and trips to the never-ending Italian buffet at Vanellis.

After I started dating the woman who would become my wife, my weight gain took an upswing. We were dating long-distance and eating in restaurants a lot, plus, we both just love food. As Barenaked Ladies put it "When we are happy we both get fat." I tried to combat this, for a very brief period, by trying what I was told was the Mayo Clinic diet, but which, it turns out, was actually the legendary Grapefruit Mayo Diet that's apparently been circulating in grubby photocopied form since the Reconstruction Period. It's basically an extreme low carb/high fat/high grapefruit diet designed to put you into a state of ketosis where your body burns fat for fuel. And despite it's questionable origins, it actually does work--though not, in my experience, as efficiently as it claims. I probably only lost around 10 lbs before abandoning it due to my abiding love for French fries.

After getting married, my weight problems only increased. If I thought the Freshman 15 was bad, try the First Year of Marriage 25! (Have I mentioned that my wife is a fantastic cook?)

A couple years later, at the beginning of the wife's med school career, we decided to attempt the Carbohydrate Addicts Diet. This was sort of similar to the Mayo diet above, though it involved a lot less grapefruit and two thirds less binging. On the Carb-Addicts plan you essentially avoid eating all complex carbohydrates for two out of three meals of the day, instead eating meats, low-carb veggies and fats. On that third meal, though, you're allowed to eat whatever the hell you want in any quantity that you want provided you can consume it within one hour. Naturally, they prefer this to consist of a well-balanced variety of foods, but unhealthy things are allowed as well. Now, I don't remember if it strictly forbids you to spend that hour eating ice cream sandwiches, but if not it probably should. In either case, we found we could eat a lot of food in one hour. The diet still worked for us, at least for the first couple of months. After that, the wife hit a plateau she couldn't seem to come off of and became frustrated at all the salads she was having to eat while the school-club-sponsored free pizza lunches were going on around her on a near daily basis. She quit and it was no fun being on the diet alone so I did too.

A couple more years passed and in October of 2003 we decided to give the low-carb thing another try. I say "we" but it was pretty much the wife's doing. This time she wanted to try the Atkins Diet, which was not quite yet but soon was to become the major fad diet of choice for the nation and the bane of bakers everywhere. In fact, I was only a couple months into it when I began my former blog Tales from the "Liberry," so there are lots of low carb-based tales and rants to be found there. I was wholly against trying Atkins because it struck me as exactly the sort of thing that I'd tried twice in the past and had to give up because certain unnamed people didn't find it convenient to stick to. At the same time, I wanted to be supportive and I also wanted to lose some weight, so what did I have to lose other than the obvious?

The Atkins low-carb method turned out to be a pretty decent program as far as a nutritional lifestyles go. Hell, any diet that lets me eat bacon and cheese regularly has plenty going for it in my book. Don't get me wrong, it's very rough seas at the start, because when your body's used to a high carb intake and once you restrict that down to less than 20 grams per day, it rebells. You feel like dazed ass during the first couple of days (or dazed ass with a headache, in case you decide to follow their suggestion of avoiding all caffeine--a suggestion I quickly chose to ignore). However, once your body goes into ketosis and starts burning your own fat reserves for energy, your brain starts working better again and you feel normal. In fact, you feel pretty darn good because empty carbs, for all their tasty-goodness, do tend to clog you up in more ways than one. I liken the feeling to how C3P0 felt after his lube-bath in Star Wars. Also, you lose weight. I lost an impressive amount of weight and quick, peeling off 20 pounds within the first couple of months. I then kind of tapered out into a regular 1 to 2 pounds a week as I settled into the program and found new and more inventive ways to bend the rules of what I was supposed to be eating. (Which amounted to eating more nuts and sugar-free peanut butter and cheese than the letter of the law would allow.) But after the first seven months I'd lost 40 lbs.

There's a lot of confusion over the diet in popular media and word of mouth. You tell someone you're on Atkins and they immediately think and often say, "Oh, so you're eating nothing but meat?" This is patently untrue, at least if you're actually following the program. Sure, there's meat involved, but also a lot of vegetables. In fact, we commonly explained to people that we could eat pretty much anything they could minus flour, sugar, rice and potatoes.

We both stayed on Atkins program for a couple of years. Trouble is, even when we were "on" the low carb diet and doing well with it, it was problematic to remain on it full time. Each year from Thanksgiving through New Years was just a gauntlet of fantastic food opportunities were were hard pressed to avoid. Going off diet for a meal is something you can recover from fairly quickly. Going off diet for a week is much harder to turn around and pretty much requires going back on the two-week induction period. We also always found though that going off diet for any multi-day period of time left us feeling bloated and generally crummy, whereas we felt pretty sweet on the diet itself.

After the wife began her residency, and the copious amounts of hospital cafeteria food (which was actually extremely good stuff) not to mention drug rep lunches became commonplace, she found it increasingly difficult to stay low carb and decided to ditch it. I held fast, though, and remained with the program until 2008, right about the time we moved to Borderland. That was when I basically decided that I didn't want to live in a town with a Biscuit World and Indian Food and have to avoid those delicacies. I also determined I could maintain my weight through exercise alone and joined a local gym.

Of course, I was wrong--or, more accurately, I haven't done NEAR enough cardio to come close to being right.


1 comment:

crsunlimited said...

I'm guessing your numbers there where pants sizes. I think I was a 15 when I was 10. Once I hit the age of 15 I was pretty much a size 30 plus, and I wasn't even considered fat. I have a wide build.

I completely understand about the teeth. Although they may not have been hollowing. Your gums need calcium too. I read somewhere. You have to take my word for it... I work in a library. lol