Still Alive…and Thriving

I’ve been meaning to write up a new post for so long, not because I feel the need to express myself on the topic of low-carb, LCHF, Paleo, or fitness anymore, but because I just went to update this site and saw that my last posts were mainly negative in terms of progress, and I didn’t want to give readers the impression that I had given up or that this wacky diet of mine doesn’t work : )

As you may have seen over the past year or so, there has been more and more research supporting lowered carbohydrate intake for health and weight loss. It seems that the message is finally out. When I started this “journey” five years ago, and particularly when I started writing this blog, I made a couple of mistakes. One of which was the tone I used in the writing. One reader wrote me to tell me to “quit mansplaining!” When I saw that I was quite ashamed and embarrassed, as I did not intend to come off as a know-it-all. But I did, so forgive my tone in many of the early posts. But, in my defense, think back just a few years ago and we were still faced with the following myths being considered conventional wisdom:

  • Butter is bad for you
  • Salt is bad for you
  • You have to drink 8+ glasses of water per day
  • Low carb diets or too much protein cause liver problems

Since that time, saturated fat has been the topic of hot debate as to whether it is healthy or not, with the research being pretty clear that it is health, or at least not unhealthy. The vegans/vegetarians are slowly losing their grip on the diet and fitness policies (yes, even fitness – they have successfully boondoggled most of America into thinking that slowly jogging around a track for X minutes a day is the ideal fitness routine….why? Because it requires no protein.). Anyways, you know where I stand on it.

Over these five years I spent the first two or three arguing with people who would, as I felt at the time, “have the gall” to question my diet when I clearly was losing weight and getting into the best health and shape of my life. Couldn’t they see/feel what I did? Hence my tone in those posts. After the first few years I stopped debating with people about diet completely. Not worth the time or frustration. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that debating diet and fitness with currently obese and/or unfit individuals is like debating the importance of going clean to a drug addict. They’ll argue you tooth and nail over it. With regards to diet and fitness, I’ve specifically found that overweight men over the age of 30 will insist they know what they’re talking about when it comes to diet and fitness. They will argue until they run out of breath (and they often do) that their approach is the best. Of course, they’re not actually following “their” approach but they apparently think about it. Nowadays, I simply avoid the subject. If I am really annoyed and don’t care for the person, then I’ll just look them up and down slowly and then reply, “How’s that diet working out for you?” Enough said.

My Current Status

Simply, I’m doing really well. I struggled for a long time with fitness – trying to dial in the right fitness program for me has been a constant and evolving struggle and will continue to be tweaked, but over the past year or so I’ve found what works and what doesn’t for me. More importantly, my weight is just about perfect. I am at 189lbs, which sounds a bit high to a lanky jogger type but I was blessed with a muscular, athletic build (large thighs, v-shaped upper body). Hypertrophy training (i.e., “bodybuilding”) is now my primary “workout” though I do sports as well, such as squash a couple of times per week, some basketball, and soon some soccer. I’m in the best shape of my life. And guess what? I eat a lot of carbs these days. My typical routine is to eat < 100g of carbs during the weekdays. Often less than that. One night per week, although I don’t plan on it, if I feel I need more carbs to fuel a more intensive workout, then I’ll indulge in something sweet or starchy. The weekends? I eat very low-carb during the day and pretty much whatever I want at night. Keep in mind that I don’t ever want bread or pasta, though I would give it a go if I desired it. But I enjoy beer and fried foods often on weekends. I’m able to do this now because I feel my body is working properly, and the weightlifting and squash really allow for this.

I’ll be turning 44 in a week. I started this way of eating back when I was 39. I somehow have been able to not only keep the ~80lbs off but continue to get in better shape. Not sure how I’ve accomplished it but I have. And I have learned a number of things through continual self-experimentation. Some quick thoughts:

  • Hypertrophy training is best for me. The “lift heavy” thing didn’t result in worthwhile change to me. What does “worthwhile” mean to me? Not adding more plates to the bar. It’s like when I talked about my now disdain for crossfit in an earlier post – I didn’t join a CrossFit box to increase my “Fran” time. I did it to lose weight and get in better shape. Neither happened as a result. So while I certainly do not regret doing CrossFit for 6 months, or my 2 years doing a heavy lifting (i.e., Starting Strength and/or StrongLifts) type routine, the bottom line is that after doing those protocols for long enough they did not result in worthwhile, positive change for me. Going to a 8-12 rep, higher-volume weight routine, coupled with some HIIT (in the form of squash primarily) has been the key for me.
  • I no longer buy into the bullshit that carbs are completely unnecessary. This is simply not the case for me. When I was obese and needed to lose weight, cutting out all carbs from non-vegetable sources was absolutely the best way to go. But once I lost the bulk of the excess weight and turned my attention to fitness goals, I unfortunately found out the hard way that our bodies were simply not meant to lift heavy things or run around at fast paces for extended periods of time without the extra fuel that carbohydrates provide. THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT LOW CARB IS BAD. What I am saying is that, for me, low carb is the ideal weight loss approach. It is not the ideal diet for an athlete. If you are overweight, then I suggest you ditch your athletic goals and go on a very low carb diet until you lose the excess weight, then scale up your carb intake to fuel your athletic goals. There I go mansplaining again : ( …. but really, that’s what’s worked for me. And I learned this stuff the hard way. Believe me, I spent a year trying to do heavy lifting on low carb. Didn’t work.

So that’s it for now and probably for a while. I just wanted to give a quick update on my status. I’m alive, well, and thriving. I wish you all the same.

I’m Fat Again, But At Least the Achilles is Healed

I’ve been dreading writing this post. But after a 45 minute walk at my local track, where my usual “I’ve got life by the balls!” feeling was trumped by a pity party, it’s time I step up and admit it.

I’ve let junk food kick my ass. I went from feeling lean and muscular to sloppy fat, seemingly overnight.

Not sure if this post will come across as tongue-in-cheek but I assure you I’m not feeling very witty or funny. I’m downright sad and angry at myself.

A Slow, Downward Slide

To recap (for the hundredth time, but for those of you new to my story…) – I started eating a low-carb, loose Primal diet about 2.5 years ago. A year later, I’m down ~65lbs. In total, I’m down about 71lbs. From ~260lbs down to a steady 189lbs. It was great. I never felt better. My energy level went through the roof, and mostly remains that way to do this day in spite of recent mistakes. Of course, any of you who have read my prior posts know I’ve done everything in my power to screw it up. Like beating myself to a pulp doing that stupid ass CrossFit, or overdoing the stretching to the point of ripping a hole in my achilles tendon, in hopes that I could finally someday achieve a proper depth back squat, etc.

But in spite of my idiotic and obsessive compulsion towards achieving some serious level of fitness, things have been mostly good. Still a struggle to keep eating ‘clean’ while surrounded by continuous temptation and flat out scorn/disgust by those around me it seems. Allison over at PaleoNonPaleo said it perfectly in her latest post:

“I know your family thinks you’re crazy. I know you feel completely alone. I know you feel like it’s never, ever going to work.”

I never let that other people’s attitudes about this stuff bother me before. Well, it did. But I ignored it. For a while, I was right out front telling everyone and anyone about how to lose weight and feel great through Paleo/Primal, and particularly the low carb version of it. Over the past 6 months or so I’ve given up on that. People don’t want to hear it. And it’s always the obese guys who will want to debate with me about it, so I tend to keep quiet now when people ask me about diet. Some people just don’t want to hear it.

I also started questioning things about my approach to diet. Honestly, I’m really annoyed/sickened by the money grab that is Paleo these days. So many bloggers, podcasters, presenters, etc. coming out of the woodwork and Paleo is just so commercialized now. I guess that’s a good thing but I think it will ultimately lead to its demise as another ‘fad’. Someone will come up with a new name for the same way of eating and it will be over. It’s inevitable. But, back to my downfall: So thinking I had my body hacked and this thing called diet by the balls, late last year, sometime before Thanksgiving, I started ‘treating’ myself to a weekly splurge dessert. Often a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. And as I type this, I’m thinking the same thing. As I’ve done for a long time now, I would try some new foods and then see how it impacted my weight. And, surprisingly, the weekly splurge treat didn’t have any effect. Then the holidays come around and a series of corporate happy hours/parties full of beer, then family parties full of beer and what-not, then the holiday dinners and the pressure there, because God forbid I say “no thank you” to some in-law’s shitty food and not receive a look of scorn…

Too Much of This Crap
Too Much of This Crap…and it didn’t even taste good.

All the while, I started indulging more and more. My occasional treats turned into twice a week, then more. About a month ago I even started partaking in the occasional grains, cornbread at a local BBQ place to be exact, for the first time in a long time.  All the while, I would check the scale and I wasn’t gaining weight. And I didn’t feel or look like I was getting fatter. And my waist size was no bigger and in fact, over time, was still shrinking (I’m now down to a 34). So I think I’ve got life good: I’m able to eat whatever I want, so long as I mostly avoid the grains. Mind you, I was still eating clean for breakfast (eggs, sausage, bacon) and lunch (salad). But because of the achilles issues I stopped lifting weights. And the cardio training took it’s place…..

About 6 weeks ago I got the go-ahead from my physical therapist to start running, in order to build up my legs for an eventual 5k race that I needed to run with my daughter. That race was this past Sunday and we did well. All the while during the training leading up to this race, I fell back into the mistaken mindset of, “I’m burning all these calories with all this long-distance running, so I can eat more junk!” And for a while it seemed I could. And then a couple of weeks ago I woke up one morning and went to brush my teeth and looked in the mirror and it’s man-boob city. And a gut that seemingly popped up out of nowhere. I felt fat again for the first time in a long time. And then my newly purchased Summer wardrobe of shorts and shirts in a size that was just right before, were now a bit tight.

After the 5k
After the 5k

I finished the 5k and am glad I did it. But I now know that Mark Sisson and so many others were right when they talk of how useless cardio training is when it comes to fitness and/or weight loss/maintenance. It has robbed me of the muscle tone I had, seemingly overnight. The cardio thing is complete bullshit. Will I ever run another 5k? Yeah, absolutely. I will probably start running them pretty often as a ‘fun time’. But will you ever catch me jogging distance at the track or training FOR a 5k by jogging? Hell no. And the sad part is that I knew better…

Starting now, I have to go strict on a 30 day challenge. It will be difficult. But I don’t have a choice. I’ve got to nip this thing in the bud. I’m seriously thinking about a Whole30. And back to the weight training, but this time I’m going to take it slow and focus just as much on mobility. Oh, and in case you still think I’m not completely nuts, I got a doozy for you: I recently bought a 1 month unlimited pass to a local Hot Yoga studio. LOL. I plan on going there for the first time this week and will surely blog about it. : )

The Achilles Is Healed!

On to a happy update…the achilles is healed! The physical therapy, specifically Active Release Therapy (ART), was what did the trick. Doing eccentric calf raises helped too I’m sure, but not until I found a physical therapist that understood that those like myself with insertional achilles tendonosis need to *alleviate* the stretched tendon and not stretch it out worse. A combination of some rest followed by heel inserts, along with the ART is what worked for me. But I’m not completely out of the woods – my other achilles has been sore recently, from the distance running. So I have started doing the calf raises and will be doing some serious mobility work to ward off messing that tendon up too.

Low Carb and Paleo Stigma Still Alive and Well

Saw this article pop up on Lifehacker.com, which is one of the handful of sites I check most days. Always a good tip or something of interest on there:

http://lifehacker.com/5930378/how-i-lost-100-pounds

While this guy does everything he can to avoid saying it, what his formerly-Vegan ass realized is that it’s all about the carbs, and that eating meat is pretty much necessary for optimal health. Why won’t he just admit it? Cus there’s a stigma about eating low carb. We can thank big agriculture, government, and the animal activists/vegans/vegetarians for that. Oh, and the countless personal trainers, dietitians, and doctors who continue to misguide so many people with the whole ‘Healthy Whole Grains!’ bullshit.

Even in spite of the research proving that cutting carbohydrates is the best ways to lose weight, there is still a stigma about admitting one’s success on it. This started, I believe, back in the initial Atkins era. While I myself have bashed the Atkins plan on numerous occasions, I also am quick to recognize that he seems to have been the first to ‘re-discover’ what our grandparents and descendants already knew – that bread, pasta, sugar, and starches were fattening, and that exercising just made you work up an appetite.

The problem I have with the Atkins approach is that it is strictly about the carbs. Eat all the Splenda and other processed stuff you want. Eat those slimy processed pepperoni slices they sell in the plastic container at the grocery store – as much as you want – even though that shit will last a century without spoiling. And guess what? He was right. Most people WILL lose weight without hunger that way. I know I did. I ate all that shit for a while and dropped 65 pounds painlessly and felt great doing it. But what I found was, when I really started to succeed, I *really* focused on what I was eating. And that’s when I limited all of the chemicals and processed food out of my diet. I don’t know if it made a difference, but logic says it would. I’ve continued to hone my diet, almost without thought, to the point no where I’m pretty darned strict Paleo with the exception of dairy in the form of grass-fed butter, heavy cream, and occasionally cheese. That said, I still do a ‘cheat’ once a week that is quite extravagant – either an ice cream with the family, or a dessert of some sort out, or, if none of that happens, I will go and grab a pint of the most delectable ice cream on the planet: the Ben & Jerry’s “Everything But The…”. I get away with that because of the CrossFit, or at least I tell myself I do.

Regardless, I figured I’d post the above article. An interesting, yet somewhat annoying reminder of the depths to which folks will not just come out and say it: cut the carbs, lose the weight.

 

Lap Band Requires a Post-Surgery Low Carb Diet?

Let me be clear up-front: I am a proponent of the idea of gastric bypass for morbidly obese people with hundreds of pounds of fat to lose. While I was able to lose my excess weight (and enjoy the process), there is a huge difference between losing 70 pounds and losing three or four times that.

That said, after reading “Father, Son lose 260 Pounds After Weight Loss Surgery”, which is basically just an ad about a father and son who had the “Lap Band” installed, it makes me wonder why they bothered. I take that back – I know why they did it. But it just seems so unnecessary. Because it is predicated on the simplistic and very flawed theory of calories-in/calories-out as a form of weight loss. The purpose of this Lap Band thingy is to “make you feel fuller sooner”.

I think they would have done just as well, but perhaps not as quickly, by just making the changes to their diet that they were forced to make to comply with the discomfort that the Lap Band requires, post-surgery.

The most interesting quote from one of them:

“Carbohydrates are pretty much off-limits as well, Matt says.”

It is not uncommon for people to lose hundreds of pounds on a proper diet (i.e., one that is low in carbohydrate). I would bet that they would have successfully lost the weight (though it looks, based on the pics, that they still have a ways to go) much easier and certainly more safely had they just eaten right to begin with. With the Lap Band screwing up what they can eat (they say fibrous vegetables are tough to eat now!), I think they may have had an easier time just avoiding the surgery completely and going on a low carb diet.

What do you think about these surgeries?

Article About the Lack of Evidence Correlating Exercise with Weight Loss

Just wanted to post a link to an article that discusses the lack of evidence to support exercise as a cause of weight loss. My own n=1 testing/experience confirmed this for me. That said, as I’ve repeatedly said, exercise is good for you and you should do it unless you are obese and trying to lose weight and it causes you to eat more, as it does many of us.

With my weight at a point where I’m happy with it, I exercise every day, or at least try to. I just know that it won’t help me lose more weight and, in terms of pure pounds, it actually increases weight for me as I gain muscle. An excerpt from the article:

Thin people exercise a lot compared to overweight people, and assume that they’re slim because of all the exercise. Meanwhile, overweight people tend exercise much less, and we all assume that explains their bigger waistlines.

The truth, very likely due to genetics, is that the body composition of both groups explains the exercise habits, not the other way around.  Continue reading Article About the Lack of Evidence Correlating Exercise with Weight Loss

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