Sunday, December 1, 2013

Paul Epstein's Diet Challenge: Thanksgiving Week

Beginning weight 11/3/13: 209 lbs.
Height 5'8" Age: 61
Goal weight: 165 lbs.
Total loss goal: 44 lbs.
Beginning waist size: 43 in.
Current waist size: 42 in.
Weight end of week 4: 197 lbs.
Gain/Loss this week: -1 lb.
Total Gain/Loss: -12 lbs.

I actually chose to make Thanksgiving (okay, Thanksgivakkah), a "low carb day." This was partly because my wife and I had hosted a large contingent of family and friends for dinner on Tuesday, and I hadn't wanted that to be a low carb day.  If you've been following this blog, you know I'm using the book, "2-Day Diet: diet 2 days a week, eat the Mediterranean way for 5." On the two "restricted days," you eat low-fat protein foods in limited amounts like fish, lean meats, eggs, some dairy, vegetables, and a small amount of fruit, and the rest of the week you can add in carbs. Though the quantities are measured and smaller than I was accustomed to eating at each sitting, I've never gone to bed hungry or couldn't "afford" to have a small snack if I was hungry between meals. Sometimes my snacks have been vegetable based, like celery or slices of sweet peppers with salsa or hummus, sometime dairy or protein based, like cottage cheese or yogurt and canned fruit or a few crackers with low-fat cream cheese and canned fish (sardines, kippers, smoked oysters or salmon). The book suggests that a protein or dairy snack will stay with you longer.

After slowly working my way through a plate (I'm working on eating more deliberately, savoring each bite) with probably six ounces of turkey (a bigger portion than I might have had on a normal day), a small dollop of mashed sweet potatoes (not allowed on a low carb day), and a large portion of green beans, I sat back satisfied. I had fended off offers of home baked bread and suggestions that I must have some stuffing by saying, "I've got everything I want, thanks!" And after most had had seconds and pushed away their plates with complaints that they were stuffed to the gills, I was feeling quite self-righteous and pleased with myself: satisfied, but not full.

The book warns that weight loss will slow down as you lose pounds and your body adjusts its metabolism to your new intake levels, and that certainly is true for me. But so far, anyway, unlike other times I've tried a diet, lost a few pounds, reached a plateau and given up, this time I feel like I can stay in for the long haul. After all, this "diet" is truly teaching me a new way to eat that will be a healthy approach to food for the rest of my life, I believe. The Mediterranean approach, developed by studying how those who live in that area tend to eat: lots of oily fish and monoglycerides like olive oil, low fat cheese and yogurt (traditionally goat milk based, but of course skimmed cows milk here), and more fresh green, leafy vegetables and fruits than complex carbohydrates (not as much pasta and bread as you might think), is widely recognized as heart healthy, diabetes resistant, and longevity producing.

Honestly, I wasn't too far from this diet in my normal eating habits. I had long ago decided that sweets, cake, donuts, and such were pretty much off limits. If I gave in to them too much, I quickly gained weight, so had largely given them up. I did so by convincing myself that they are "poison." I used to be a pack a day smoker, so I know how hard addictions are to give up. Sugar, chocolate, donuts--these are potential addictions. If you allow yourself a little, your body will cry out for more and your mind will make excuses for your behavior. "Just this once," or "this is a special occasion," or "just a little--and just a little more." Of course, even my poison ploy hadn't completely stopped me--after all, saying to myself, that's poison to me, it will eventually kill me if I eat it has to compete with the voice that says, "you mustn't waste food," and "think of the children starving in India or China or Africa." So plenty of those big cookies that come with the Panera box lunches passed out at meetings I've attended found their way into the inner tube surrounding my stomach.

In the last couple years, my carb addiction has been tortilla chips. Somewhere along the line I'd decided that cutting out the shredded cheese melted on top of my standard nacho snack and limiting myself to just a few chips with salsa would be a fairly healthy low calorie snack. Wrong. It didn't take long to stop limiting myself to a few chips, and over time I was going through two or three family sized bags of chips a week.

So, I know addiction, and carbs are addictive. Especially the kind with sugar, but also just the kind that come from those "white foods" that your body can turn into quick sugar, like white rice, white pasta, potatoes, corn, and white flour breads. So the Mediterranean diet, at least as described in the 2 Day Diet book is fairly low carb, even on the "unrestricted" days. While it doesn't ask you to count grams or calories, it does ask you limit your servings to a recommended range for your age, sex, and weight. And there are charts to help you determine serving sizes of various foods. A "serving" of protein is about 1 oz., and after some online research and conversions of ounces to grams, I've determined "serving" of carbs is 10-15 grams. For my age and weight, I'm allowed 9-14 servings of protein and 11 servings of carbs. For most of the first three weeks I measured my servings and kept a tally each day on the number of servings I ate. This week, I slacked off, as I've adjusted to the portion sizes and amounts, but figure I will need to check and recalibrate myself, especially if I'm not losing the average of 1-2 pounds a week expected.

To any of you reading this who are trying the diet or thinking about it, I welcome your comments, advice, questions. I appreciate any of you reading this who are friends just checking my progress as well. I'm starting to hear comments from people who know me on how good I look. It's starting to show!

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