For the first time in 30 years I can wear jeans that aren’t so large that they don’t look like they came from the interior of an old Pontiac. I can sit in the middle of a row at the movie theater, because now if I want to get up I don’t have to worry about stepping on everyone’s feet and sticking my formerly huge ass in their faces during the film.
Back in my obese days, the neighbor kids used to enjoy watching me getting into my 1976 Corvette Sting Ray. I’d have to completely lay down sideways perpendicular to the car while grabbing onto the steering wheel column to hoist myself into the vehicle. It took me five minutes each time and I eventually bent the steering wheel to the point where it required an expensive repair.
My three-decade battle to lose weight consisted of an unending series of false starts and bad endings. When I do the math, I can honestly say that from 1976-2006, I lost an average of 20 lbs. per year, but the problems occurred when I gained approx. 25 lbs. back, like clockwork every year. It’s called yo-yoing and it’s worse for your body than actually keeping the weight on.
My seasons were like this—I’d start off the year with a great push, but I’d lose the weight too quickly. When the weather got cold, around Halloween, I’d start eating like a bear preparing to hibernate. Buffets and happy hours in my town closed down during this time of the year--because of me and a couple of my fellow fatty friends.
So, if I look at the numbers, I can see that in 1976 I weighed roughly 180 lbs. Gaining five-six lbs. per year over 30 years means I gained a total of 150 pounds, to the point where I weighed 340 lbs. So, I know exactly how I got there. Suddenly, the health problems that were predicted became real, including diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a wide assortment of other health issues.
Over the years, I attempted several different diets. Actually I think I tried most of them. Many failed immediately while others worked initially, but eventually I gained all of the weight back. I’ve done it all—from the pineapple diet to Atkins all the way to South Beach and back.
From my personal experience, I can tell you that many of these diets are ineffective, while several are actually dangerous. Here is a quick review of some of these:
NutriSystems is a rip-off for many reasons. The main one is the food tastes nasty. In addition, after you’ve purchased a month’s food, you still have to go to the store to buy fruit, vegetables and dairy. They don’t provide complete meals.
If I’m already going to the store, why can’t I buy all of the healthy food I will consume there? It tastes better and costs less overall than what they’re selling me. Some people say that they will lose weight more easily by eating pre-measured controlled portions. If you don’t have enough will power to determine portions on your own, how will you do after you go back to eating normally? Will you live the rest of your life eating out of these little TV dinner trays? The failure rate with NutriSystems is logically high.
Weight Watchers is a little better, but the meal substitutions are still not a great idea. You need to learn new eating habits if you’re going to keep the weight off and this is essentially not the way to do it. The food with Weight Watchers is bland, but at least edible. The meals contain a lot of sugar and fat. And the customer service is terrible. If you do get somebody on the phone, it’s usually someone clueless. Once I asked one of their reps about how much one particular entrée contained cholesterol and she said, “I just looked at the ingredients listed on the side of the package and there’s no cholesterol in it.”
Both of NutriSystems and Weight Watchers make money by selling you sub-par frozen food. Everything else—like counseling or support—is weak or non-existent. Weight Watchers promotes group counseling, which really wasn’t effective for me. Sitting around with a bunch of overweight people talking about food is an exercise in frustration. One time several of us left a counseling session to go to In ‘N Out. It was more enabling than anything else.
Jenny Craig is the worst of all of these types of diet programs. They’re so hard-sell that if you agree to buy all their food, management tapes and extras, you’ll end up broke. It’s the timeshare program of the diet industry. And once they’ve got you hooked, they’ll try to sell you anything and everything. It’s the ultimate “turn and burn” program and I can’t recommend it even remotely.
I’ve also tried things like Isagenix, Atkins and The Zone. All of these have admirable aspects, but in the end you have to change your life gradually. The diet might give you a good start, but in the end replacing meals is a formula for failure. Losing 60-80 lbs. in 8-10 months will make you look and feel good, right up until you gain every pound back.
Atkins was popular until people realized that meat-heavy diets lead to heart attacks. High-protein diets with lots of red meat and very few carbohydrates are not healthy. Evidence proves that these types of diets will eventually result in atherosclerotic plaque build-up and cardiac arrhythmia.
So, what’s my diet technique? After all my research and hit and miss experiences, I am the ideal guinea pig for how do lose weight right.
So, here it is. I call it the Shut Your Pie Hole Anti-Diet. And it’s simple. The ideal amount of weight to comfortably lose and keep it off is in increments of 10. That’s right, 10 lbs. You slash your calories by cutting out dairy (sorry, no cheese and ice cream), bread and sugar. Then, you limit eating red meat to a maximum of twice per week.
Then, start with physical exercise 5 times per week. Start off walking for 20 minutes twice per day. Do it at your own pace. Soon you will feel better and within no time you’ll be running, biking or whatever you prefer. I like swimming. It’s a gradual thing, but the more energy you get, the more you’ll want to do work our harder. When I started, I couldn’t make it to the corner without panting. The old bag ladies in my neighborhood were racing past me on these insane San Francisco hills, but now I lap them and they don’t like it.
Then, I joined Club One on Fillmore Street in San Francisco. The people there are so supportive and they really inspired me to get into a workout regime that I can stick to. Physical exercise is the key, because if I cheat and eat a chili dog or a few slices of pizza, it's not a tragedy!
Why lose only 10 lbs. at a time? Here is the logic. If you lose 40 lbs., for example, in three months, your body freaks out. It starts asking you what happened. It feels like you’ve starved yourself and soon your body will try to re-gain that weight back any way it can.
If you lose just 10 pounds, your body is not shocked. Lose it and maintain that weight for 5 months. Then, go lose another 10 and do it all again. You can only lose 20 lbs. per year with this system, but you’ll keep it off using this technique.
The problem is that most people want to lose the weight fast, just like everything else. And many folks don’t want to work out on a regular basis. How many of you bought club memberships that you never used? All of us have probably done it.
Regular exercise is the key. If you embrace physical exertion of any type, it will allow you to treat yourself to your favorite foods once in a while. If you feel deprived, you won’t succeed. My theory about food is pick your spots and enjoy a decadent, unhealthy meal as an exception. Just because you’re trying to lose weight doesn’t mean you can’t live it up now and again.
So, that’s my plan in a nutshell. The 10-lb. set point concept makes a lot of sense. It took me a long time to find the right approach to shedding pounds and this is it. The one thing to remember is that it’s a complete lifestyle change. If it takes four years to lose 80 lbs., so be it. You’re not in a rush, because you know you’ll eventually get there. And the best thing is you’ll never gain it back.
Many folks have helped me in my quest, including of course my wife, who implemented a healthier diet and Greg Hubbard at the Haight Ashbury Clinic, who has been so supportive and has given me nothing but great advice.
Make 2010 the year you do it. It will change your life in so many different ways. And living is the best part of it!