Renewed Determination

The five months since my last post have been full, interesting and educational—and some of it depressing. You may have noticed that I dropped off the radar, blog wise. Actually, I’ve had many things going on and several reasons for not posting on this site. Well, I’m back. I have a specific reason for coming back. One thing important is that I’ve learned much about maintaining weight and the difficulties of going from unhealthy to healthy.

In April, I dropped off of program. It wasn’t intentional. My first plan was to lose the weight, which I did pretty well through Medifast. I lost the weight quickly and learned a great deal about myself. Then I switched, in the fall, to lifting weights to build muscle mass—to continue the weight loss from the other direction, gaining muscle to increase fitness and metabolism.

My job changed in ways that made it difficult to get to the gym regularly. This was more of an excuse. Had I truly wanted to make it, I could have. Of course, there were two reasons for not wanting to make it to the gym. One was an issue with my testosterone level (which I’ll address further down page) and the other was arm pain—not only when lifting, but constantly. Having spent several years in the military, my instinct was to just work through it. This had worked in many other situations. But, no matter what I did the arm only deteriorated.

So, I thought if I laid off a few weeks my arm would get better and I could just go back to it. Instead, I discovered that it didn’t get any better—it continued to get worse. During this time I lost the habit of going to the gym. A good habit must be reinforced just as strongly as a bad habit must be resisted. If you don’t go, you develop the habit of not going.

In June, I received confirmation of what I suspected. I had a torn rotator cuff. I had learned a lesson too late. That lesson was to always always always (perhaps I should say ‘always’ a few more times) lift with proper form. If you’re not going to take the time to learn and use proper form, then don’t lift! On June 23rd, I had corrective surgery to fix the rotator cuff and remove a bone spur from my shoulder. I have been in recovery since hen—I suppose physical therapy is a form of gym, right? It really stinks going from lifting weights in the quest to build muscle to working with pulleys and bands trying to regain the ability to raise my arm above my waist. If you haven’t had rotator cuff surgery, please take it off your bucket list. I assure you it isn’t fun.

During the first few months, even without the gym, I maintained my weight with little effort. Some habits were easy. I still avoid most sugars. I try to limit carbs on most days, but allow myself splurge days. I also avoided those foods which are simply not good for maintaining health (notice the past tense in that sentence). This will bring up another lesson learned, later.

I kept telling myself I was going to go back on program later and I’d go back to the gym as soon as my arm was good enough. This morning (Sunday, Sept 6, 2015), because of how my shirt no longer fit, I said to my wife, “That’s it! I’m back on program right this minute!” I went in and ordered more supplies and notified my coach. Fortunately, I have enough Medifast supplies stored to tide me over until the new shipment comes.

The issue of my testosterone was less of a lesson and more of a discovery. Early in the year my endocrinologist tried lowering my testosterone lower than ever. I was doing well, with lots of energy and motivation. This all changed with the new dosage. It took me several weeks to put the lower dose and my newly acquired lack of energy and motivation together. Then it was a couple months until my next round of tests. A couple weeks ago my doctor found that my low levels matched my symptoms and raised my dosage back up to the higher level. We did an MRI to see if there was a pituitary tumor causing problems. This showed my pituitary gland is fine. The doctor and I agree that the problem is that I still have too much body fat (more on this and testosterone in a later post). I should have continued with the Medifast to continue reducing fat and waited to start weight training. Lessoned learned.

Now with my T levels adjusted and my renewed intent, it’s time to get going back on the path of healthy choices. An important part of this will be this blog. The blog gave me accountability. When facing decisions, it helps to consider what I’ll report in this blog—good news, bad news, success or failure.

If you have dropped off your program of health, get back on program. Don’t let anything keep you from it. “When it comes to health, tomorrow never comes and later is a lie.”

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Changing it up a bit–back to fat burning!

I’ve been debating over the last few weeks the best time to lay off the weights and go into a high cardio, low carb cycle—known as a micro-cycle. In carb-cycling you go back and forth between building muscle and burning fat. The two processes are dependent on different hormones and require different fuels and different amounts of consumption.

A micro-cycle involves a catabolic state. In this state the body is breaking tissue down into components—it breaks down fat if fueled and worked properly, but if not managed well will also break down muscle and other tissue. In this state you eat low carbs, do cardio exercises and maintain a calorie deficit (eating fewer calories than you actually burn) so your body burns fat stores.

A macro-cycle involves an anabolic state. In this state the body assembles components into tissue—building muscle and other tissues. It requires higher carbs—including some simple carbs—as well as a calorie surplus (eating more calories each day than your body actually uses). The problem is that anabolism will also deposit a certain amount of fat on the body. So, one rotates between the two states to keep down the fat while increasing lean muscle mass.

For the first few months I went back and forth doing a macro-cycle on Monday, Wednesday and Friday with weight training; and a micro-cycle on Tuesday and Thursday accompanied by cardio. I saw improvements to my core and some increases in muscle mass, with no actual increase of the scale. Then about a month ago, I switched to a purely macro-cycle (weight training and higher consumption). I did about an average of 6 hours a week in the gym on weights and core training with no cardio. This brought my weight up about five pounds over where it was, but I have also built muscle mass, especially in areas I had emphasized—chest, arms, shoulders and back. I also tightened up my legs, glutes and abs.

There have been problems. At one point I over did it on my lower back and had to work around that for a while. Now I am having some problems with tendons in my right ankle and right elbow as well as something hurting from time to time in my right shoulder. I have been working around these when needed, but have for a while thought it might be time to drop off weights back to burning fat to get closer to my final goal weight before Easter (2015)—my original target date. This will also have the benefit of allowing these hurting areas to mend for a while.

The other day I decided to finish out the month of January on a micro-cycle to burn fat. As I remove some more fat from my frame, I should get a better idea of just where I need to concentrate my efforts. This means I am back in a low carb cycle and going to replace weights with cardio (rotating between bicycle, treadmill and pool workouts). I’ll switch my five days of weights for five days of cardio (Saturday and Sunday will still be rest days. At the end of January I’ll decide whether to go back to the weights or continue in a fat burning stage (I will still have some weight to lose at that time).

Last Friday (today is Monday) I made this choice and finished out my final higher-carb, weight training day. Because I’ve been on this journey for just under a year, I wanted to test and see how quickly my body would switch back into fat burning mode–having been out of it for over a month. On Friday night, I allowed myself to go wild with carbs and calories. My wife and I went to see a movie and we shared a large tub of popcorn (to be honest my wife had some and I had the rest). We followed that with supper at Fuddruckers. I had fries, and a half pound burger (yes, I ate the bun) with cheese, mushrooms, and bacon (Mmmm! Bacon!). I also ate most of my wife’s fries (I love that woman)…in the name of research, of course. Those of you who’ve read my blog know I’ve discussed the importance of making eating choices before entering the restaurant. I did this on this trip as well. I went in intent on loading down with calories and carbs to see how quickly a low carb regimen would put me back into a catabolic fat burning state—without exercise over the weekend. The next morning I started a strict low carb eating pattern. By that evening, I was already registering mild fat burn on my Ketostix. I’ve monitored since and continue in that state.

I intend to stay in low carb to burn fat for the next two weeks. My plan is, as I said, to do daily cardio during the week (Saturday is for rest and recreation while, as a pastor, Sunday is a very busy work day). However, I don’t want to lose any muscle or reduce my newly developed core strength in any way so I intend to continue hitting certain muscle groups from time to time and doing regular kettlebell routines.

This means I’ll be back to posting weekly weight reports this coming Friday. I look forward to seeing what happens and where I end up. Saturday morning when I weighed, the scale registered 271 lbs. So I still need to lose about 40 lbs. to reach my personal goal.

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.

Slaying the Scale Monster!

The scale can be a real monster sometimes. Using it to know where you are and if you are going in the right direction is helpful. However, it can also be a real kick in the shorts when you are sure everything is doing well, you step on the scale and it attacks—giving you a number far above what you expected. It is hard to not get worried. There are so many things that can cause a scale fluctuation—inflammation, dehydration, etc. But one can still get quite scared and even emotional when that scale doesn’t say what you want it to say.

To prevent this, you can weigh infrequently. Rather than weighing every day you could pick a day of the week to weigh. If that day, you happen to be in a small scale fluctuation it is likely to be after a week of weight change so even a number higher than it should be will be welcome. This is a good method when doing the same thing over a period of months and you are confident it works. When you are weighing like this, you aren’t trying to figure out if your plan is working. You are just checking to see where you are. This isn’t as helpful when transitioning or changing things up. During these times, it may be necessary to weigh every day—as I have been doing over the last few weeks.

Recently, I transitioned over from trying to lose the maximum amount of weight in the shortest possible time, to trying to build muscle. I reached one goal and now have set another different one. Because of this I transitioned over from MediFast on the Take Shape for Life program (which saved my life and set me on a good path), to using Carb Cycling with a combination of weight and cardio days. Unlike the earlier program, in which everything was so well laid out and easy to follow, the new program takes a lot of study, practice and learning to know what to do. This means there are more chances of screwing up. Since this program means eating more carbs, and I have a history of carb cravings, there is a great deal of apprehension when adding in new things, and watching the scale helps to tell if I am going the right direction, and weighing each day has become part of this.

To handle this I adopted a practice similar to a skill learned in the Army. In the Army I served as an Infantryman for eight years. One skill that you learn is calling in artillery on a target. Artillery is an area target, meaning that you aren’t trying to hit a target on the nose. You are trying to get a special projectile within a certain distance of a target (within the effective area). In the days before laser guided and smart munitions, you began by calling in initial coordinates; then, the gun bunnies fire a shell; the observer sees where it hits, calls in corrections and then another shell is fired. The observer tries to walk the shell impact onto the target with a technique known as bracketing. For example, the first shell lands 100 yards north of the target. Call in a correction and the next shell lands 100 yards south of the target. Correct the next shell back to the north for 50 yards and see if it hits.

When I use the scale I have an area that is acceptable: “If I weight between A and B, then everything is fine.” I also want this area to slowly move down. I notice over time that the lower number of my acceptable range slides down and the upper number is lower and lower. This way, scale fluctuations are built into the expectation. If I am supposed to weigh 260, then anything between 255 and 265 is acceptable. Slowly over time this becomes 250 to 260. For some it might be a ten pound spread. For others it might be five.

In my new program, big week to week changes in the scale just don’t happen—this really makes me miss being on the full TSFL program. Seeing that big drop of pounds each week was nice. However, my goal now is muscle building and changing my body fat percentage by both reducing fat and raising lean mass. One thing that helps to monitor now, is regular tape measuring. For example, my weight hasn’t changed much over the last three weeks. However, my clothes are loose. My muscles seem to be tightening. In my arms and legs I can start to see some new definition. Now I still weight regularly, but I find a tape measure a far more useful tool. Besides measuring various locations, I like to give myself regular tape tests. I use the military tape test because it is the easiest. I know it is not the most accurate, but it gives me a good picture of direction and change that the scale may not see. I found an app for my phone so I simply enter the measurements and it gives me my range.

Even though my scale hasn’t registered any big changes—just a very gradual movement—the tape shows a different story. According the tape I am now out of the obese range and into the acceptable range. This means I am not yet “fit” but would pass a military tape test. That is progress. If you are working and working but not seeing change where you expect then look somewhere else. Are the scales not moving? Well, are your clothes looser? Are your body dimensions changing? Have things disappeared? For example, one day it seemed I wasn’t making progress until it dawned on me that my “moobs” were gone. Yesterday, I realized my “love handles” were gone. One day I looked down and realized I could see the bones in my knees. The fat that usually surrounded them was just not there.

There are health targets to shoot for other than numbers on a scale.

Battle of the Buffet

Last night my wife and I went to a restaurant we have frequented for years. Raising kids on a limited pastoral salary meant learning to economize. One way to do this was to eat at buffets like Country Buffet or Golden Corral. This gave everyone a wide selection of their favorites and we could be sure everyone would get plenty.

A problem though is the difficulty with overeating. Being on a weight loss and health journey, meant either not going, or finding tools and techniques to help. In the past I have worked hard to only eat what was allowed and quantities that were appropriate. Avoiding carbs was always pretty easy. However, it was not uncommon to find at the end of the meal that I had consumed more meat than I should have. Also, to avoid having too much often required white knuckling it through the last few minutes of the meal—resisting temptation while waiting for my wife to finish her latest plate.

While in the past I’ve found personal techniques and tools to help get through such situations, lately I’ve been reading Brian Wasink’s book Mindless Eating: Why we eat more than we think. It’s been a fascinating read and is filled with suggestions and tools to help with changing our eating habits. The book talks about the reasons we overeat and the things which contribute to this, though most of us may be totally unaware of them.

Rather than sharing all of the ideas, I’ll concentrate on ones I used at the buffet. When going, I have learned to start with a salad. In the past my usual plan was “eat the meat and dessert first, then if there is room pass slowly by the salad on the way to seconds on sweets.” Now I make myself a fair sized salad first and finish it. This gives me my greens and I work hard to keep it low carb—as low carb as possible. This time, inspired by my recent reading, I started with two differences: (1) I took time to talk to my wife and ask her questions about her day. Over the many years of being married we spent so much time monitoring the kids we got used to not really conversing when eating. Talking slowed me down and turned my focus off of shoveling food into my mouth. However, do not just mindlessly eat while talking. Before you know it you will have overeaten without paying attention. Instead, from time to time, put down your fork or spoon and talk for a few moments. Then return to your food. (2) I ate my salad slowly while talking to slow down, but also stopped after the salad and waited five minutes before getting my entre. This gave my body and mind time to register the eating and to sense that though my hunger was not satiated it was lessoned. Since it takes about twenty minutes for our mind to recognize satiety, this gave my mind time to catch up to what was happening in my body.

After my salad and the short break between courses, before getting my entre I walked through the buffet area, without a plate, looking at all the foods to decide what I wanted and what I could or should have. I had already decided before going in that I was going to allow myself more carbs, because today was a weightlifting day. My body needs more calories and more carbs on lifting days because material and energy are needed for building muscle. However, I was going to avoid the simple sugars, grains, fried foods and starchy foods. I looked for everything that offered protein, but was not breaded or fried: roast chicken, broiled fish, etc. I also looked for foods that offered more complex carbs: sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes, etc. Then there was low carb greens, like broccoli. No bread, no pasta and no other grain products would be allowed. So, without a plate I walked through thinking, “I can have that, but not that. I could have that but should avoid it because I already had X today. That will be OK, but should be limited. A nice side benefit was that this slowed down my eating more. With my plan and decisions made beforehand, I grabbed a plate and went back through grabbing the foods I’d already selected.

After that plate was finished, I sat for a few minutes talking to my wife and having a decaf coffee. It was then that it struck me that I didn’t want anything else to eat—my hunger was fully satisfied, but I was not stuffed. Also, by doing it this way, I didn’t have to sit there telling myself “I must not have more; I must not have more.” I didn’t want more.

So, here are my steps for dealing with the buffet:

  1. Start with salad.
  2. Eat slowly, by enjoying the company of others—occasionally put down the fork and talk.
  3. Wait between refills to give time for the brain to sense the body’s sensations.
  4. Browse through the buffet foods without a plate to prepare a plan of action.
  5. Get only the foods you planned in the amounts you planned.
  6. Repeat step 2.
  7. If still wanting more, repeat step 3, then reevaluate.

Cheating and Deserving

IMG_20140910_083912675Last night, my wife made a Korean dinner in honor of our son. Whenever we have all our children home she feels a strong desire to feed them her cultural cuisine. I understand that and always encourage her—especially since I love Korean food and truly love my wife’s cooking. Now to understand the rest, you have to know that my wife is the best cook on planet earth as far as I’m concerned. When making food she’s passionate about, no one can beat her. She cooks Korean, of course, traditional southern American cuisine, Italian, Mexican and some French. I’ve described my wife’s cooking skills by telling people, “If you make something and my wife likes it, she’ll ask you what’s in it and before long will make it better than you.” This is important to understand, because if my wife pours her whole heart and a whole day into making a single meal (she literally started cooking at 8 AM for a meal to be eaten at 6 PM), I am not going to pass any of it up—diet or no diet. These meals are rare, and deserve to be enjoyed—my wife also deserves to be honored.

Keep in mind that when I started this journey I was so unhealthy I no longer had choices. I had to choose to change or die. I wanted to get down to a low enough weight and healthy enough condition that I would be free to make real choices about what to eat and when. I wanted to free myself of the fat to be free, not to be chained to a freakish inhuman way of eating for the rest of my days (some of the diets out there are bizarre). I wanted to be healthy enough that if I chose one day to indulge in something less healthy—or even flatly unhealthy—I was free to make that choice. The problem with most people today is the false belief that they have this freedom. If your body is craving unhealthy foods then you are not choosing them freely.

I have done well on my program. I’ve lost about 150 lbs. from my lifetime highest (110+ lbs. from my starting point on program). My blood sugar, cholesterol and other numbers look great. Keeping all this in mind I had to decide how I would approach my wife’s special meal. There is a great deal of talk among various diet programs about “cheat days”, etc. Many will also convince themselves that they have done so well they “deserve” to splurge. Both ideas are poisonous. Both show a different view from mine.

A cheat day implies “forbidden fruit.” I am bound. I am chained to a program, but choose to cheat—“Just once, I can come back to it tomorrow.” The idea of cheating makes the program something bound upon me by someone else. I owe that someone else loyalty and am cheating with a special forbidden meal. Giving yourself permission to cheat does not change this. But if I have chosen my program and do so every step of the way, nothing I do is cheating. I cannot be tempted by forbidden fruit because there is no forbidden fruit. I can have any of it. I just have to understand and remind myself that I can have food A and a fatter body or I can have food B and a lighter body. The laws of science make it impossible to have both—I have to choose. That is part of our problem as Americans. We want to have both. “Cheat days” are a stupid concept. I make my choices and cannot “cheat” on myself—when I try I only end up cheating myself. If I choose to eat foods that slow my weight loss then I have chosen and should live with the results—or look for alternatives.

As for deserving a splurge or something special for all the hard work, “deserving” is a special concept that is often misused. Think about what you actually deserve in life. If you define the term properly then we deserve very little. We deserve what we have earned—because that is how an exchange works. I agree to work for you for 1 hour and you agree to pay x dollars. After one hour of labor the dollars are no longer yours, they are mine. I deserve them because they are mine. If I opt to not work for you for that hour, and find no one else to offer more then I deserve my empty pocket. Another similar concept is the respect we deserve from others. Why do we deserve respect? Years ago I had a fellow teacher challenge a student to ask me a hard question she could not answer. The student said, “Mr. Cluck, why is it wrong to be disrespectful?” I answered, “Because the respect is owed to that person because of either whom they are in relation to you or what they have accomplished. It is theirs. If you refuse to give them respect, you are stealing from them.” So let’s say I work hard for six months to lose weight by closely following a diet. What do I deserve? If I follow the program and lose weight then what I deserve is the weight loss—I earned it. It is reaching the goal itself that one deserves when striving hard for a goal. To say I deserve a special fatty high carb meal for all my hard work dieting implies something that violates simple science. It would be more accurate to say, “I’ve worked so hard making good choices so I will allow myself to make a different one tonight.” But that is far different from saying I deserve it. The only reason one would say it this way (deserve) is to either alleviate guilt or to prevent the judgment of others. But if you are free to choose moment by moment, meal by meal, bit by bite, then why feel guilty? Why worry about the judgment of others? Your program is your business. Claiming “I deserve a splurge meal” is a lie. Stop using lies. I can choose a “splurge meal” but I can’t deserve it. I will still reap the results of any choice I make.

All this came up because my wife’s traditional meal, being Korean, includes a large number of carbs that I have to avoid on my program. Quite a few of these carbs are actually refined carbs. Also, the meal is being served as a feast in honor of family and friends. Eating copious amounts is expected.

Most of the food was perfectly fine for my program—beef and pork Bulgogi. I could simply avoid the onions and the carrot IMG_20140910_085037100slices. There were also two kinds of kimchi—turnip and cabbage. Then there were bean sprouts and fish slices, called O Daeng (I love the name because, “Oh dang! This stuff is good”). I could have simply skipped all the other stuff and grazed off of these. However, I wanted to do an experiment to see if there was another option. I’ll explain what I actually did in a moment.

Besides the foods that fit fine, there were several that were not going to work with the program. We had Kimbap. This is what many Americans know as Sushi rolls. It is white rice, carrot, spinach and turnip rolled inside of seaweed wraps. I could eat for a year on nothing but Kimbap and never get tired. One other food takes a bit of explaining. One day, when my wife and I were dating, I went by her house and saw she wasn’t home. The landlady told me that she had gone to the market. Understand that the market was a huge area with various stalls, like the Asian open air markets you may have seen in movies. She was shocked when I snuck up behind her at a stall where she was having lunch. She ordered me some Duk Madu Guk (wonton soup) and we shared some Sun Dae. That was about the time I started feeling very deeply for her, so Sun Dae holds great comfort for me. Any time we find it at the market we get it and eat it together. It is also an important part of any celebratory Korean meal served to our friends. Sun Dae would not be allowed on my program. Now as I explain what it is, I already know what to expect from the average American reading this. Keep in mind that we eat stuff that Koreans think is gross, too. Sun Dae is a wonderful traditional sausage. It is a mixture of ground pork snout, beef blood and sweet potato noodles stuffed into a natural sausage casing. It is cooked, sliced and eaten dipped into a mixture of salt and other spices. The blood, meat and casings would be fine with the program, but the noodles blow it right out.

I had a choice to make. I could ignore the meal and have a regular Lean & Green then simply enjoy my family while they ate—but I had invited friends over. I could stick to the foods that would fit with the program and skip those high in carbs. I could choose to eat any and all of it, and simply roll the dice to see what happens to the rest of my program—would I start craving carbs or get knocked out of fat burn? Another option was to prepare in advance to blunt the effect of the carbs.

I decided to do the latter as a test. I have been reading lately on the effect of carbs and how they are metabolized. When eating carbs they are transformed into glucose. This is burned as energy, and any excess if pushed into fat reserves. It is false to think this works as a sort of balance system and when you get to end of the day your body decides whether it is in a negative or positive balance. Actually this works moment by moment throughout the day. If you eat a high level of carbs and your body at that moment does not need the excess, it immediately stores the excess. The idea that I can have one huge high carb meal now and really cut down for the rest of the day is fallacious. Our bodies are much more efficient at storing fat than at removing it. Everyone who has tried to lose weight knows it goes on easier than it comes off.

However, there is one part of carb metabolism I decided to experiment with. You see, besides fat, the largest carb storage in our body is as glycogen in the muscles and liver. This muscle storage is used when those muscles move. Glycogen stored in the liver is slowly released between meals to keep blood sugar from crashing when no food is being digested. One option for preparing to eat a meal with excessive carbs—especially refined carbs—is to eat them within a couple hours of an intense workout. After the workout! We were going to eat between 5:30 and 6:00 so I went to the gym and worked out hard for over an hour. I wanted to drain my muscles of as much glycogen as possible so my body would take those refined carbs—like the white rice and the sweet potato noodles—and move them into muscle glycogen instead of fat. I also wanted my body to be forced to keep burning fat because the carbs were going into the muscles. This was my preparation for the meal.

During the meal, I ate everything. I ate smaller than I would have in the past, mostly because I did not want more—I get stuffed so much easier. I also enjoyed the items with refined carbs, but kept them to a minimum. For example, I only had three pieces of the Kimbap and a few of the Sun Dae. I also passed up on the traditional bowl of rice. This still honored my wife’s hard work and our guests without blowing my goals.

I checked twice during the night and again this morning. I am still in fat burn. While this will not be a regular practice, it is good to know there is another option for those times when I either need to have something I otherwise would not, or even for those times when I really want those items. Once again, it makes my choices my own. It liberates instead of binding. By the way, doing this also helped to drive something home. It helped to show just how costly on the system such a meal can be—I worked hard for over an hour to make room in my muscles for the meal. Everything has a cost!

“’Everything is permissible,’ but not everything is helpful. ‘Everything is permissible,’ but not everything builds up (1 Cor 10:23 HCSB).”

Great Lessons Learned on a Family Trip

IMG_20140906_170218522This week, my son has been home from Colorado and we went to visit family in Fort Worth, TX and North Eastern Oklahoma (also known as God’s country). The trip was a great deal of fun and my wife was beside herself getting to spend so much time with our son. I always joke that, “I know my place in the family. My wife keeps me around in case she needs to sell me to buy our son shoes.” We all loved the trip, and I learned great lessons to share here.

As I shared last week, I was a bit apprehensive about the trip, wondering how I would stay on program eating meals prepared by various relatives, as well as eating on the road. I prepared in advance before going. I also set myself three goals in order.

My goals were:

  1. To stay in fat burn.
  2. If knocked out of fat burn, to keep carbs low enough to prevent carb cravings.
  3. If knocked out of fat burn with no choice but to eat excessive carbs, to not eat enough to gain weight.

I didn’t really expect to lose any weight during the week. I would have been happy with just being 274 lbs. as I was the previous week. For one, I would be spending long hours in the car not really moving. My UP 24 kept vibrating telling me to get up and do some activity—hard to do at 80 mph (yes, I drive 80; this is Texas so don’t judge me). Also, I would need to stop for food for my wife and son. I chose to switch over to a 4&2 system of eating so I could enjoy more meals with the family. This means that instead of one Lean & Green meal and five meal replacements a day, I would do two Lean & Greens to enjoy eating with others and four meal replacements. We also carried some olives (yum!!!!), pickles and almonds in case I wanted snacks. I didn’t limit these exactly, and never was able to make all my scheduled meals.

During the trip I was knocked out of fat burn twice. We left on Wednesday and came back home on Saturday. Wednesday night, I ate some food that I didn’t know had added sugar until I had already eaten it. That night I could feel my energy levels drop and knew I was out of fat burn. The next day (Thursday) on the way to Oklahoma, we stopped for some “Mexican” food. I didn’t catch the beans and rice in my meal until I had eaten half of it. Since I had already been knocked out of fat burn I went ahead and finished it and thought I would work to get back in when I got home. I decided to just watch my eating the rest of the time to keep down carbs without much thought about fat burn. I wasn’t going to let obsessing over my diet ruin the fun with my family—that is not a lifestyle; that is a chain.

Friday morning I checked again, just curious, and was surprised to find I was already going back into fat burn. I was elated. About four hours later I sat down to lunch at a pretty good Mexican restaurant (in Northern Oklahoma—if you can believe that). Being a Texas boy I have a true appreciation for Mexican food (actually Tex-Mex). When I lived in Colorado, years ago, some tourists asked me where they could find a good Mexican restaurant. I asked where they were from and they said, “Texas.” I pointed south and said, “About 300 miles that way!”

I was sitting in the restaurant with my son and my Uncle. Now understand, my Uncle is the kind of man that when he speaks, you listen because it will be worth more than gold. So I was really listening to him when I started eating my meal. I ordered a taco salad. I saw the Spanish rice—which I forgot to ask about—and, while avoiding it, didn’t notice the refried beans until I had already eaten them. Sure enough! When I checked later, I was totally out of fat burn, again! Back to just paying attention to carbs until we got back home.

The next morning, when I checked with my Ketostix I was surprised to find myself back into pretty healthy fat burn. Since Saturday was on the road, where I could pretty well control what I would eat, I stayed on program and did well the rest of the day. Now back home I am religiously on program again.

The lesson I learned was to not give up when things beyond your full control torpedo your program. I also verified that one does not have to put a lot of pressure on friends and family to conform to your dietary needs—unless it is an allergy, of course. Some of my family would ask about my needs. I would answer and some would seem to get uptight and worried about fixing the wrong foods. I simply told them, “Don’t worry about it. My diet is mine, not yours. If I can eat it, I will; if I can’t eat it, I’ll pass.” They all did wonderfully and really were caring about it. Everyone was excited to see how much I had changed. It also felt great to be able to have the energy to go down to the ditch and shoot my handguns and rifle. To walk over and see my uncle’s soy bean field. I also had enough energy I was tempted to sneak off one evening and see if I could shoot a nice fat wild hog. I decided not to. I figured my wife wouldn’t be very tolerant of hauling the smelly thing home in the car.

Each time I fell off of fat burn it was tempting to just give in and eat whatever—pasta, bread, potatoes, etc. However, I had already set goals. The first didn’t last long, but I could hold to the second and control my carb intake. I stuck with this, hoping (almost beyond hope) that I would at least not gain any weight.

This morning when I weighed in I was shocked. I was hoping and praying that I was at least no heavier than the previous 274 IMG_20140907_083038lbs. I was blown away when I looked down and the scale said I was down to 268 lbs. In a week that I fell out of fat burn twice and ate far more than I probably should, I lost almost six pounds (I was actually 268.8). How did this happen?

IMG_20140907_092629900I credit it to three things. One, I was fairly active when we were there visiting—it was hot enough I probably sweated out a good pound or more. Two, though many things were off plan I still kept down the carbs and bad stuff. Three, (sorry to preach the same sermon again) I stayed properly hydrated. For this last I have to share the second best investment I’ve made in my health. The first was the program itself. The second best investment was a water bottle purchased from Walmart for this trip. It holds 20 ounces, so I need seven of these a day for proper hydration. The bottle has a numbered ring so I can track my water consumption. On the trip I would buy gallon jugs of water and just keep refilling the bottle. It was never more than a few feet from me most of the trip so I could stay hydrated. If I had to be away from water for any length of time (such as when visiting one museum) I would drink the full 20 ounces when I got back to it.

So the lessons learned or reinforced by this experience:

  1. Stay hydrated, at all cost.
  2. Don’t obsess and drive others crazy. Just take life as it comes and make corrections as needed.
  3. If something happens beyond your control, or a mistake happens, don’t throw up your hands and surrender to the temptations to eat whatever.
  4. Preplan for how to handle things beyond your control. This doesn’t mean, “I’ll do this if someone does that.” It means simply knowing, “If something knocks me down here, I’ll do this to reduce the damage to my program, and just keep going.”
  5. Did I mention hydration?