Weight Report and Some thoughts on Depression

IMG_20150913_070233When I returned to my program, on September 6, 2015, my weight had gone back up to about 278 lbs. (about a 23 lb. increase, with most of it after rotator cuff surgery). I remember it being within a pound or so of that, but didn’t take a photo. Part of the reason for not taking a picture is that I wanted to get back into fat burn and properly hydrated before reporting my weight. The reason for waiting until properly hydrated over several days is because (as I reported in the past) my weight will differ by as much as 5-7 lbs. Inflammation, as joints and organs hold water to maintain proper function adds weight. There is also the additional weight of a full bowel—sorry to share that.

This past Sunday (September 13) I weighed in at 266.8 lbs. This might seem like a large drop for just one week—which it is—except that it likely includes additional loss for the above reasons. However, I usually lose very fast on this program, at least for the first few months. After several months my metabolism will slow down to compensate for the long term calorie count. But in the first few months my body happily burns major fat.

A couple days in, I stopped feeling any hunger pains. There was the occasional grumbling tummy, but that will come and go any time. After three days, I was in fat burn and my energy levels were back up. My motivation is high and I am very pleased with the program. This actually brought up some thoughts about another time I tried to go back on program.

Last spring, for various reasons I decided to go back on program and, a week or so in, I became terribly depressed. It really came on suddenly. It was also quite extreme. That is one of the reasons I dropped off the radar blog-wise. It got bad enough, that I thought I might need to seek help. I’ve used traditional and over the counter methods for years to counteract depression, and they usually work very well (I’ll share some later). This past spring nothing seemed to work, except for dropping off of program. Even that only brought me out of “the deep dark”, into the “not as deep and dark.” I was still fairly depressed. There was an element of it that continued until recently. This helped me to figure out what happened.

Low Carb diets can affect our serotonin levels and cause lowered moods—and for some even a depressive mood.  I don’t want to say it can cause depression, because depression is something medical. If you suspect depression, see the doctor. I can talk about moods and recommend ways to improve those, but really am not offering advice on depression. I am only offering what I have learned about myself. Please take it in that spirit.

I went back on program right about the same time that there were some new stresses in my professional and personal life. Those stresses and the program joined up with it being the time my doctor lowered my testosterone dose by a third to see if my body would make up for it. It didn’t. Instead I got very low on T-level, and only recently found that out by my latest blood tests (I’ll share some of what I’ve learned about testosterone later). The doctor recently raised my dose back up and confirmed this as the cause of my symptoms.

One problem with health, and trying to return from an unhealthy state, is that there are so many different factors. One thing good for you can actually compound with something else. These together can have an undesirable effect. Throw in three or four changes together and your world can seem to come apart. Take things slow. Don’t try to improve everything at once. We want everything to be undone immediately and to return right away to that healthy young man or woman we once were. The thing is, I didn’t get to be over 400 lbs. with all the health issues I had overnight. It took decades to get there. I hope it doesn’t take decades to fix it—especially since I am not so sure how many decades I have left. The thing to remember is that my goal may be total health. But that is long term goal over the distant horizon. My goal today is to be healthier than I was yesterday; healthier than I was last week; healthier than I was last month; healthier than I was last year…

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New Doctor and Med Changes

Visiting the doctor is very different from what it was a year ago. It used to be that the doctor would look at his chart, look at me, look back at the chart, shake his head and mumble before beginning the lecture of how I was shortening my life and how badly I needed to lose weight. It was always the same. Today, I had to see the doctor to get some meds refilled. Because of insurance changes I was changing doctors so this was a new one. As part of getting my medical history, it was necessary to walk her through everything that has happened over the last few years and the changes that have occurred during within the last ten months. I just love the shocked look on people’s faces when I show them the photo on my license which was taken when I was still over 400 lbs.

The interesting thing was when we went through the usual questions about current condition. My A1C and cholesterol are fine. I am off my C-PAP. I went off of one blood pressure medicine months ago. My testosterone shot volume has been reduced. I am lighter, healthier, and much more energetic. All these are things I’ve shared here before. I haven’t even had a gout flare in a couple months. During the conversation, the doctor asked if I have any medical complaints I needed to talk to her about. This was the first time that I had to think for quite a while to come up with something. I finally remembered the pain in my elbow from lifting, and she recommended an over-the-counter cream—I just used it and it worked wonders. There was really nothing else to discuss but the changes she was making to my final blood pressure medicine—my blood pressure had dropped lower than it should, showing I was now overmedicated.

I’ve been on Lisinopril for years. My dosage kept creeping up until they added HCTZ to it. Then they doubled my intake to twice a day. About a year before starting my health journey, the doctor added Amlodipine once a day, trying to keep me from stroking-out. Then came the change—no, not menopause. I started my health changes and after a few months the doctor dropped the Amlodipine. Today, my new doctor removed the HCTZ and cut my Lisinopril dosage by twenty-five percent.

I don’t remember doctor visits ever being so fun. We talked and I shared what I’ve experienced and learned over the last few months. I also shared the way my life has changed from losing the weight. The doctor paid me two great compliments—I could get used to this. She said I should hang around and talk to her other patients who just don’t seem willing to make changes. She also, when handing me the obligatory reading material, said, “Here’s some information for you to read, but based on our conversation, you could probably write it.”

It is amazing the difference in doctor visits when you take control of your own health and make positive choices. Most doctors go into medicine to help people. They can only help those who listen. They are also greatly limited when so much of our health is determined by our life choices between visits. There is no magic pill/drink/food/shot/operation going to make you healthy. The only thing that will either sustain your health or rebuild it is wise choices. These choices about what you take in (diet) and how much you burn (exercise) have to be made day by day, moment by moment. You have to develop a habit of choosing health.

Sneaky, sneaky!

Anyone on a regimented diet program; like Medifast, Atkins or various others; quickly learns to read labels looking for hidden little diet bombs that will blow any hope of progress. One such item is sugar in its various forms.

Many people think, “Time to get healthy.” So, they switch to “fat free” and “diet” items. They also decide to eat more veggies and fruits. Changing what you eat to reduce your intake of fat is admirable, and expanding your diet to fill up on healthier options, like fruits and veggies, is also fine. The problem is what the food producers do to these.

Most “fat free” items have sugar in various forms added. This is because it’s the fat which makes foods so satisfying. Without it, they would be bland and unsatisfying. Of course, since our bodies crave the simple fast energy provided by sugar, they can fool us into thinking the food is still as tasty by putting in sugar.

The most surprising for me was learning that many “healthy” foods are doused with sugar as well. Most canned green beans, for example, have added High Fructose Corn Syrup. So here you are trying to get healthier by eating more greens and you get torpedoed by hidden sugar. And it helps no one to start eating fruit only to also consume it with sugary syrup. In this case it would be better to take a vitamin supplement and fiber instead of the fruit.

Look for fresh and frozen greens, and fruits that are either fresh, frozen or packed in water alone. Always check the label. It is that little unexpected addition used by the processor that can just destroy your diet. Their bottom line and your waist line have very different needs.

Stumbling into Health–Not Likely!

latest before and afterIt’s been a while since I posted a before and after photo. I took a selfie this morning and edited it into an old photo that was taken right around the time I started my program. Over the last few weeks I’ve transitioned off of the weight loss regiment I was on, and am now concentrating on weights and increasing muscle mass. Once I get where I want to be there, I’ll go back to burning fat down to my desired weight.

The changes, both physical and psychological, are hard for me to take in. I compare today to back then and I can’t fathom how I ever got that way. Even though I am no longer in fat burn, I don’t have cravings like before. Yes, at times I just want something to eat. However, I don’t want sweets or crave carbs. When I was heavy, my Kryptonite was Ice Cream. The only ice cream I’ve had since Easter was about a month ago when I was experimenting with Bananas Foster and I had it twice, with no need to have it again. Personally, I don’t care if I ever have it. I used to love beer. I still love the taste of it. But it dawned on me that I no longer care if I ever have another.

I have to admit that at times I have to eat things I would not ordinarily eat on my current eating plan—or any healthy eating plan. For example, a few days ago I was at a meeting where the choice for lunch was sandwiches or sandwiches. So I figured I would have to order a sandwich. However, there was a problem. I shouldn’t have bread. I don’t want to go back to the carb cravings. About 10 years ago I lost a lot of weight on the Atkins diet and when I dropped off I went into major carb consumption mode, eating so much bread, pasta and sweets that I quickly gained the lost weight back with an additional 25 lbs. I see where I am now, and where I used to be and I do not want to go back. So, you might be saying “Then eat the filling and throw away the bread.” I have always had a hard time doing that. I can give you several reasons why I went ahead and ate the bread, but none of that really matters. I chose to eat the whole sandwich—I chose a 6” rather than a 12”, at least.

The nice thing is that I find at such times, when I allow myself to eat things that aren’t the best choice, I don’t enjoy them. I find myself thinking about what could happen. I find myself wondering what it might be doing to my hormone balances and what I may have to do to bring things back into proper state. Will I start craving bread? Will I need to go into Ketosis again to balance things back out?

I know many reading this will take exception to that. Most people don’t want to give such thoughts to their food and their health. We want to be healthy, but we want to be mindlessly healthy—no work, no thought, no learning; just “eat, drink and be healthy,” if you will. The problem is that with our lifestyles and the foods available to us, this is just not possible.

We live in the most blessed time ever in human history—especially if we live in the United States. If I wanted something to eat at 2 AM and had nothing in the house, I could get out in my car and drive to any of a hundred places in our city that will still be serving. We have 24 hour a day groceries and fast food. Food is everywhere. Neither are our foods today really tied to seasons. I’ve walked in the grocery store in February and found piles of watermelons for sale. When I was a kid this just wasn’t possible. You got certain foods when they were in season and you wouldn’t see them again until the next harvest.

I remember in 1989, when my wife was expecting our middle child, she wanted watermelon and asked me to go get her some. Problem is that we were in Korea, it was March, and it was the middle of the night. I got out and scoured the village market finally finding a small shop with some small (tiny) watermelons. The shop owner was not happy to be woken by a big American banging on his door wanting a watermelon—good thing I spoke enough Korean. That little bitty watermelon cost me hours of searching and $20 (in 1989!!!!). Not to mention the cost of the taxi because it was freezing outside. But my wife got her melon. We no longer have these problems. If I really want anything, it can probably be quickly and easily found.

Not too long ago, most communities only had a few ethnic selections. I grew up in Fort Worth and there was our food or Mexican food. If you wanted something really special there was also a German restaurant in town. Of course, there were likely others. But we just did not have the exposure to other foods like we do today. We can find the richest, most decadent, most enticing foods from all over the world and drive no more than a few minutes.

This ready access to abundant foods is not the only change. Few of us work as hard as our ancestors did. I spend most of my day working behind a desk. My father spent his days roofing. My maternal grandfather spent his days behind a plow. Yes, some still work hard. But even our hard jobs today are easier with the many labor saving devices we have created. I still remember watching a home improvement show with my wife years ago. She had never seen a nail gun before. She asked what it did. She thought maybe it made a hole for the nail. When I told her it actually shot a nail into the boards like a gun so there was no need to swing a hammer, she said, “Americans! Always finding an easier way to do everything!” Well, it’s true. We do find the easiest and most efficient way to do things. Even when we work hard, we don’t work as hard as our ancestors and don’t burn as many calories as they, so what makes us think we can eat like they did?

Back when food was limited to what was readily available and when work was hard and toilsome we could simply eat whatever was available and whatever amounts we felt like eating. Some foods had to be intentionally carb and fat heavy in order to get enough sustenance. This is no longer the case for us. We have to think differently about our foods. We have to think differently about what we put into our bodies.  We need to learn about our bodies, and our needs. We need to understand what each bite can do to us.

I am a detail guy. I overthink everything. I like to know ‘the nuts and bolts’ of things. I find articles in magazines and online. I read books on the subject. I am trying to lay down a foundation of knowledge that will help me to make quick healthy choices in the future. In time, these choices become second nature.

Don’t just let your health (or ‘un-health’) happen. Take control of your body and of your life by first taking control of what you eat. However, you cannot control what you eat unless you first understand what you eat. You have to know what is healthy and what it unhealthy and, if you are like me, it is helpful to also know why. Commit yourself to controlling your food and not being controlled by it. For most of us health is not going to just happen. It takes effort to attain, and effort to maintain.

New Weight and an Italian Dinner

IMG_20141017_075717I haven’t posted anything in a while on the blog. I haven’t gotten bored, neither have I given up, nor have I “fallen off the wagon.” Things have been pretty busy career wise, and I’ve had to put more emphasis in some new directions there—which leaves less time for other endeavors. Of course, one of the biggest improvements to my career has been losing weight. I now have the energy to match my drive giving new joy from my work.

There are several differences over the last few weeks. As I said before, I transitioned off my earlier program onto a different one because my goals have changed from losing weight to building muscle in order to impact my lean mass to fat ratio from the other side.

I’m on what Roman Malkov calls a macrocycling rotation in his book The Carb Cycling Diet. This means I am doing more than one day a week working to build muscle. One or fewer days per week on weight-lifting (a regiment concentrating on weight loss and cardio) is referred to as microcycling.

Here is what I’m doing now:

Monday: Weights—high resistance, low repetitions; higher carb; higher calorie.

Tuesday: Cardio—one hour on the treadmill; low carb; low calorie.

Wednesday: Weights—high resistance, low repetitions; higher carb; higher calorie.

Thursday: Cardio—pool workout; low carb; low calorie.

Friday: Weights—highest resistance, low repetitions; higher carb; higher calorie.

Saturday: Rest—no cardio or weights; moderate carb; moderate calorie.

Sunday: Rest—no cardio or weights; moderate carb; moderate calorie.

Each day I have a protein shake for a meal replacement and on weight lifting days I have two. I still eat six times a day and try to get half my body weight in ounces of water per day.

The scale results are not nearly as impressive as they were on Take Shape for Life and Medifast, but I am looking for different results. My weight is down to 262 lbs. This is a loss of about 4 lbs. over the last month. It’s about 10 or 12 lbs. under the rebound weight that I recorded shortly after changing over. My most important measurements are with the tape. My waist is down two inches and my chest is up about 3 inches. The other day my daughter asked me to print something for her on my computer. I sat down at the desk without a shirt with her standing over me. She looked down and said, “Dad, your abdomen goes down straight from your chest while seated and I can see the muscles in your shoulders.” She was shocked. She didn’t know me as a young soldier—she was born after I got out of the Army and had gained a ton of weight. She had always seen me fat, and was shocked at the transformation.

Keep in mind that transformation is the goal. If the need is to transform the numbers on the scale then concentrate on those. If the goal is other transformations then don’t get worked up over scale results.

I want to share some lessons gleaned from the book Mindless Eating, which I’ve referenced here before. On my weight lifting days I get higher carbs, and can even allow myself carbs that I would previously have passed on. My wife and I love Italian food. One day, a weight lifting day, I decided to take her out to an Italian restaurant—a treat I hadn’t allowed myself in months. I won’t name the restaurant, since they aren’t paying me.

Restaurant meals are usually larger portions than anyone actually needs—unless you are eating at one of the pretentious, sanctimonious, hoity-toity eateries, which my wife and I wouldn’t be caught dead in. Besides large portions, the restaurant we went to, like most, would serve in courses, so I would make decisions about multiple courses. Thanks to Mindless Eating, I’ve started doing such meals like this:

The meal would include several course options:

Bread

Beverage (Could be alcoholic, or sweet, or neither)

Appetizer

Salad (Keep the dressing in mind)

Entre (high carb, or low)

Dessert (Sweets, fruit, etc.)

Mindless Eating recommends you take such a list and pick three or four. I did a form of this, but adjusted volumes and options by carb content of each choice.

I would only consider Italian food on a high carb day, but I still had to watch it. Carbs would be the driving force behind my choices. My entre was going to be higher carb—we had already decided to split a pasta dish. This meal would give me more carbs, but splitting it with my wife kept the carbs and calories down. One point on pasta: from what I’ve read, if cooked properly pasta has a lower glycemic index than other wheat products because ungelatinized starches are trapped in a web of gluten if cooked al dente. While the GI is low, one still has to keep down the amount to avoid a high glycemic load.

Since my meal was higher carb (and contained wheat) I decided to have no bread. I also chose to refrain from an appetizer because all of the options were breaded and fried. I also did this so I could have a bit more freedom on my choice of salad dressing—I wanted Ranch, and some places add sugar to it. I also wanted to allow myself to have a few of the croutons with my salad.

For beverage, I chose unsweetened tea (my go-to drink in restaurants). Had it been later in the day, I might have had a vinaigrette dressing and ordered a glass of wine. The alcohol can disrupt the system as it switches from burning fat to metabolizing the alcohol to clear it from the system. However, once the alcohol is clear it quickly returns to burning fat. Like most things moderation is called for, but when trying to lose weight moderation usually means abstaining. You make the choice. Now, if I were on a low carb day, wine would not have even been an option, but of course we would not have considered Italian food either. On weight lifting days I am not trying to burn fat or lose weight. On those days I’m trying to build muscle. However, keep in mind that even on those days excessive alcohol can be a problem because your system uses testosterone and Human Growth Hormone in the muscle building process and excessive alcohol can reduce testosterone production—sucks huh? Allowing yourself a glass of wine is one thing. Allowing yourself a bottle of wine is totally different.

Some might look at this and think, “That’s just too much to think about!” The point is that one of the biggest problems with our health is eating with little or no thought. If we just eat without any thought we eat too much, too often, too imbalanced and just too wrong. That might be acceptable if you have the health and metabolism to handle it. The problem is that when we get out of balance and our health deteriorates thoughtless eating just makes things worse.