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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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.”

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.

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).”

Body Fat Percentage?

IMG_20140829_071627This morning is another weigh-in Friday. I’m now down to 274 lbs. This gives me a total loss of 110 lbs. on program (150 lbs. from my beginning weight). This loss is 67% of my original goal of 220 lbs. This brings me to some other research from this week and some changes to my goal.

I have always been large. I don’t mean fat. I mean large build. In 8th grade I went over 6 feet tall and weighed 210 lbs. While fat was a problem that I had to watch, I had enough musculature to throw off the traditional BMI chart. Being told to shoot for 198 lbs. makes me laugh. Now, don’t take this as my saying to ignore the BMI chart. For many builds it is quite accurate and from what I’ve heard it is more accurate for women than for men. However, for anyone with a large amount of muscle the chart will be unrealistic. For those with very little muscle, the chart may show you at an acceptable weight, but you could still have enough actual body fat to be unhealthy.

This week I’ve done some experimenting. Mostly, it was to figure out my final goal to shoot for. I started out by simply choosing to shoot for 220 lbs. or so. The intention was always to get down close and then fine tune that figure once it was easier to make proper measurements. I downloaded an app to calculate body fat with various methods. First, I did a standard military tape test. This is the test used in the military to calculate body fat for anyone over the mandated weight charts. I spent eight years in the Army and always had to be “taped.” One time the First Sergeant screamed, “Cluck! You’re fat! You’re only supposed to weight 198 lbs.” I responded, “Then you should have recruited me in seventh grade!” He was not amused. I passed the tape and laughed as Top walked off grumbling. Funny thing is the tape method used in the military is extremely inaccurate. After running the military tape test, I purchased some body fat calipers and did a proper “pinch test.” Then, this morning, I used a more advanced tape test method (reportedly accurate within 2%). The military tape test showed one set of results. The other two methods had almost identical results to each other—less than 1% difference between them—and both were very different from the military method.

The main interest for me was not my present fat percentage. This number is of little value. It is little more than asking, “How fat am I?” Well a simple look in the mirror could pretty well tell me that. What I wanted to know was my lean weight. When testing for body fat, you get both a percentage of fat, but also get a lean body weight—muscle, bones, organs, etc. With this number you can simply calculate a target weight by adding the desired fat percentage. I figured I would select the fitness level of body fat and shoot for 15%. I selected this because for men this level is not the lowest possible, but the recommended amount for someone who is physically fit. Women should shoot for a higher level, because most professionals recommend 15% as the minimum body fat for women (other than competition body builders). The female body needs a higher fat percentage for hormonal requirements.

When I took the military tape measurements, it showed 198 lbs. of lean mass. Interesting, this is the exact weight the BMI chart tells me I should be. This means to make the chart, I would have to have zero percent body fat. In other words, I’d have to be dead! With this, however, I can calculate 15% body fat would bring me to a goal weight of 227 lbs. (198 * 1.15). This is pretty close to my original goal, and fortunately does not require death to attain.

Of course, the military tape is probably little better than a guess—when compared to other methods. I wanted to double check. A lot of careers have been ruined by the military insistence on inaccuracy. I purchased a set of calipers and did a Jackson & Pollock 4-site pinch test. This showed me to have 210 lbs. of lean mass. So I would have to lose 12 lbs. of muscle and all of my fat to make the BMI chart—“No!” Fifteen percent body fat would make my weight goal 241 lbs. Ok. So this is a big difference. I needed something else to back it up.

I found another tape measurement system online. It claims to be accurate within 2 percentage points. I did the test and it showed me as having 22.6% body fat. This means I am somewhere between 20.6 and 24.6 %. It gives me a lean mass of 211 lbs. (notice this is within a pound of the caliper test). This would give me a goal weight of 242 lbs.

The first method shows me that my original goal was not quite right, and that the BMI chart is not even close for me. The two latter methods, both being considered far more accurate, being in such close agreement gives me confidence in them. Because of this, I have changed my goal weight from 220 lbs. to 240 lbs. I’m not doing this because it is an easier goal to attain, but because looking at the numbers it appears to be a more realistic weight for my body. Assuming the latter two to be accurate, 210 lbs. of lean mass would require 5% body fat to reach 220 lbs.—a fat percentage sought by cut and defined body builders. That goal is unreal for me. I am shooting for health, not trophies.

This doesn’t end it. I plan to get tested by other methods. I at least want to use the electrical resistance method. It is considered accurate since fat has a different resistance to current than tissue. We’ll see if that changes me back to a lower figure or helps to refine my goal in other ways.

Measuring body fat to know your percentage isn’t very helpful. However, to set a proper goal you have to know what you are building on. It helps to know where zero is. Then you can shoot for optimal weight based on this knowledge. Do you have to do all this? No. For many the BMI chart is the best tool. For others it is unrealistic. Don’t just reject it because you don’t like the number, though. Check into it. Make sure you are basing your goals on reality and not simply on preference, or bad information.

Update on Hydration

Water_glassOver the last two weeks, I had a bad problem (as I reported on Friday) with getting dehydrated over the weekend. I figured this was the cause of my weird scale results. I’d weigh on Friday and be lower than the previous week showing my weight moving steadily, though slowly, down. However, on Monday I would weigh as much as ten pounds heavier and this number would only slowly lower over the week, until I was once again on Friday or Saturday below my previous weight.

As I reported previously I assumed it was likely due to getting dehydrated over the weekend. I noticed during the week the weight going back down seemed to be tied to water intake. This weekend I set myself the goal of staying well hydrated all weekend. It can be a bit hard on Sunday morning—leaving the pulpit during my sermon to pee would not look good, after all. However, I was able to get plenty before church and after.

I’m happy to report there have been no great scale fluctuations over the weekend and this morning I am one pound lighter than I was on Friday. This brings me down to 274 lbs. I’m not counting on this weight too much though because my official weigh-ins are still on Friday. However, since I changed nothing over the weekend but the amount of water I consumed, this confirms—in my mind—the importance of, and benefits of, proper hydration. Make sure you are getting plenty of water. If you see weird things happening on the scale or in your body, look first at your hydration to see if you need more water.

Weight-loss as Lifestyle

IMG_20140801_072619This is my first official weigh-in after changing my program a little over a week ago. About a week and half ago my doctor asked me to drop off the diet program I was on because of some abdominal pain. He thought I either had gallstones or right-side diverticular disease. Since the purpose of this journey is to build habits through healthy choices, I chose to follow his advice. I decided to drop off the actual program but keep following the principles it taught (eating small meals every 3 hours, low carb, with controlled levels of fat, and lots of fluids, etc.). A couple days later I had continued to lose weight and that was last Friday. I also discovered that my pain was caused by several factors combining with some strong antibiotics the doctor had placed me on. These had given my liver a hit and it had become inflamed. Everything is better now, no more pain.

After that point, I still had a choice—go back fully onto the previous plan or stay where I was to experiment with using the principles I’d learned, without the foods purchased through the program. I chose to keep experimenting with choices to see what would and would not work. The danger was that one of my experiments would drop me out of fat burn and it would take several days of very low carb to get me back into it. I decided to check at least twice a day for a couple days with my Ketostix after each addition. The questions I wanted to answer were several. When I tried and then dropped off a famous low-carb diet back 10 years ago I quickly went on a carb bender and gained back all the weight I had lost as well as an additional 25 pounds. Because of this I wanted to see if I would do the same this time when introducing some new carbs into my routine. I added carrots, Greek yogurt, bananas, as well as the occasional onions. I also wanted to learn how the principles worked with regular store bought food. If the principles are sound, then they should not be material dependent. If the principles work with regular food then the principles are sound (and key to being healthy). If the principles did not work without the packaged foods then the foods were primary and the principles played only a supporting role. Another question I wanted to answer was whether I could actually treat this as a lifestyle rather than a formula. With a formula you follow A to B to C to D and do not waver from this. With a lifestyle you make choices naturally and easily at each step deciding the best route to get from A to D. With a lifestyle you make choices because they fit with the life you are living. With a formula your choices are limited to following the formula or wavering from it. A formula is very effective, especially when first making changes. But it can only be kept up for so long before some variety is desired.

I have been living the principles I learned as a lifestyle for about a week and a half. I have used no packaged foods from my program, but only what I can buy in my local grocery store. Last week I weighed 292 pounds. This week I weighed 286 pounds. I actually weighed lower earlier in the week, but I only take whatever happens on Friday as my official weight. I lost six pounds this week only using the principles I learned and living them as a new lifestyle.

Before you jump to conclusions and think there was no need for any of the other elements of my program—coaching, packaged foods, support network—you are wrong. It was these that helped me to learn the principles I now follow. It was these that made practicing them easy. To try to jump straight into this without that step would have lasted about a week—if that long. I know me well enough to know that early on, if I didn’t have a little box where I could go and take out a package and eat it when the alarm on my phone went off I would have given up long ago. Will I stay off of the packaged items? I don’t know. They are awfully convenient. Besides, I know if following the formula with the packaged foods there is no danger of falling out of fat burn. As it is right now, when I add something new it takes several hours to discover if I screwed up. This wait and the anticipation can be quite discomfiting. I choose to continue this way because I have questions I want to answer and because I want to practice making choices for my health.

I’ve noticed after eating this way for over three months that I no longer crave the things I once craved. I don’t crave potatoes, pasta, bread (though I would still, occasionally, be willing to trade one of my children for a flour tortilla), etc. Last night my wife made chicken for our supper. I asked her how she was going to fix it (in the past she would have fried it). She said she’d bake it because of my diet. I came in the kitchen as we were getting ready to sit down and saw the chicken. It was breaded. I asked her if she had put flour on the chicken. She responded, “No. It’s not flour. It’s bread crumbs.” I got a bewildered look on my face and told her they were ultimately the same thing. She responded, “Well I can’t bake it without putting something on it. I thought you would just scrape it off.” So there I stood over the sink scraping and washing my chicken before I could eat it, even though I was hungry. The interesting thing is that I considered just eating it breading and all, but knowing it would make it harder to make my goal the idea of eating the breading actually repulsed me. I have a weight I want to get to, a level of health I want to return to, and anything that gets in the way of that is not really attractive.