Weight Loss & Unconventional Eating Habits
Now that I’ve been on TRT for a month, I’m feeling a bit better (though I am getting these weird little bursts of depression that last up to a day as the hormones re-balance themselves). I’ve also decided to change my eating habits to better fit my own biological rhythms. BUGGER conventional wisdom – I’m not your average bloke by any yardstick, and none of the common knowledge healthy eating crapola really fits with how my body works & responds. So instead of reading up on the latest dietary research trends for the general public, I’m going to search out research that’s directly relevant to my own habits and rhythms. And you know what? There’s lots out there!
So let’s get this party started. First I’m going to outline where I am and where I want to be, then I’m going to go over what hasn’t worked for me in the past and what I’m going to do going forward instead.
So, I am going to go about this my way and see if that works better than torturing myself with the “conventional wisdom”. Today I am 340 lbs (the heaviest I’ve ever been!), with a 46″ pants size. This isn’t as bad as it might sound if you’ve never seen me. I’m 6’3″ and an endomorph. And my fat distribution is pretty good – I don’t have it all concentrated in a huge gut and ass; I’m padded pretty evenly all over. Most people are shocked to learn how much I weigh, as I just don’t look obese.
My goal is to get down to 230 lbs and a size 36 – this was my weight & pants size when I was a dancing on speakers in my underwear and worked in a gym i the 90’s 🙂
I’ve always hated breakfast. 95% of the time the last thing I want to do when I get up is eat. I can choke down some food if I must, or a smoothie for preference as it’s less nauseating… but eating after waking is a trial at the best of times. And you know what? That’s OK. The body is designed to fast, and can do so easily for quite long periods of time. For the majority of people the best fasting interval may be 8-12 hours – from dinner until breakfast. For others though it might be longer or shorter, and for me it’s longer. I generally go 16-20 hours between feedings, and I feel best eating on that schedule.
When I do force myself to eat breakfast I am always ravenous a couple hours later and want to eat enormous quantities of food. Forcing myself to eat when I’m not hungry seems to kick start my appetite into overdrive – perhaps some kind of primitive response to an unexpected windfall of food, triggering my body to try and scarf as much of the unanticipated food as possible while it’s still available. And if I’ve always got food in my gut, I feel logy and blah as my body diverts resources to keep the digestive track going all day long.
As I said, I hate breakfast. And honestly, I’m not that hungry during the day. Eating six meals is exhausting, as I’m often having to eat when I’m not really hungry, and then over eating as my appetite gets kicked into high gear by the smaller meals I’ve choked down earlier. Plus for me eating usually shuts down everything but my digestion; my energy level goes into the toilet, and all I want to do is nap after a meal.
I’ve always liked intermittent fasting, and go for a day without eating once or twice a month. There’s lots of health benefits associated with that. However, there’s also lots of health benefits to be found from regularly fasting most of the day as well. I first read about it in the book “Fitness for Geeks: Real Science, Great Nutrition, and Good Health” (some interesting highlights, but mostly blah blah blah about using tech toys & services in conjunction with getting fit… half of which are no longer available). The author details several eating plans that revolve around fasting. The one that appealed to me the most was called “The Warrior Diet“, wherein one fasts most of the day and then eats simple, basic foods at night. I read the book, which was terrible (the author rants and rails about what it means to be a real man and puts forth all these completely unsubstantiated ideas about history, nutrition and eating). However it was a good jumping off point for my own research.
For me, fasting 16-20 hours a day works best. I get up, swim at the pool for an hour, and then go about my day. Usually around 4PM or 6PM I am hungry enough for a meal, so I have something fairly light. It has to light, or my body turns off the blood supply to everything but my gut and tried to put me to sleep – and naps at that time of the day are a very bad idea indeed. No sleep for you! Usually I have a cup or so of greek salad that I make myself (not much oil, sauteed onions instead of raw, lots of vinegar, and goat feta – not cow). Then I have a heavier snack/meal around 8PM or 9PM to set me up for bed; usually something carb heavy, like Cheerios with granola or a tomato, egg & mozza sandwich on Lucy’s delicious multi-grain bread.
#3: Count ALL the calories & practice portion control – keep to strict daily limits!
If there is one thing I learned when counting calories, it’s that daily caloric limits are counter productive. When I over ate calorie wise, it was always compensated for over the next day or two by eating fewer calories. Listening to your body is important here. It knows better than some generic calorie counting book or app what you need for the day. My body isn’t on a strict 24 hour regimen, looking at it’s wristwatch and waving a baton up and down – it has it’s own cycles and rhythms. When examined over a weekly period my average daily caloric intake is almost exactly what it should be to lose weight at the rate I’m aiming for.
I love chocolate, and rich savoury foods. Eating healthily and to lose weight doesn’t mean that I utterly deny myself those things – that would eventually be self defeating as my will power wore down (there are lots of studies showing that a person only has a limited amount of will power to go around). Plus when one eventually breaks down, there’s lots of research that shows that one breaks down big time. You’re in a weak and vulnerable state at that point to begin with, and you’ve just suffered what you feel to be a set back but it’s hugely rewarding (further eroding your will power), so you just say “Ah, to hell with it” and binge out – possibly for days, or even wind up junking the whole diet habits change altogether: “I just couldn’t make it work”.
So I don’t deny myself those things completely. I have “Indulgence Saturday”, where I eat what I like regardless of it’s dietary value. I don’t (usually) pig out or eat yummies til I puke, but I don’t limit myself. Most of the time this means just adding something I normally wouldn’t have to a regular meal, like having a side of fettuccine Alfredo or a chocolate milkshake. Or even going out to a restaurant and ordering some delicious entree without a thought as to it’s health benefits or drawbacks. This makes it a lot easier on other days to avoid high calorie or less healthy choices – I can always say to myself “eh, I can wait til Saturday to have that”.
Some times though, my body is just screaming for something and trying not to eat it is extremely difficult. What do I do about that? Well, conventional wisdom is to stay the course and resist, brethren, resist – fight the power! Which brings me to my next point:
Lots of people approach changes in diet as a set of hard and fast rules that they have to suffer through, no matter what their body is telling them. BUGGER THAT! I am pretty in tune with my body. I mediate & do yoga, and I understand most of the signals my body sends me… out of self defense! when my poor abused body sends me a warning message, I had better listen or I suffer very badly indeed. So being extremely sensitive to my internal state, I’m usually very aware of exactly what’s going on with my body and it’s reactions.
Which means that I may be fasting 18-20 hours a day in general, but if my body sends me an urgent message saying “hungry NOW, dammit!” I listen and go with the flow. The real trick is determining the difference between a craving and a message. It’s taken some time and work to get to know my body well enough to distinguish the difference in the signals, but they are different. My main problem is that I like to be stimulated – I bore easily, and food is stimulating or adds more stimulation to what I’m doing. So I have to try hard to avoid eating because I’m bored or just want more stimulation.
And sometimes less healthy food choices are what my body is telling me I need, as well. If that’s the case, I don’t make myself suffer – if I know I can’t wait til my usual indulgence day, I go ahead and do what my body is telling me I need to do. I don’t pig out (usually!) and I don’t feel guilty about it either. I am listening to what my body has to say, and I’m good with that. And over time, it balances out. I might eat less high calorie foods on Saturday, or just less overall the next day as I still have lots in reserve from the less healthy choice I made a previous day. It’s about rhythms and flows, not regimens and discrete counts.
So that’s it really – where I’m at, where I’m going, and how I plan to get there. Now that my hormones are back in whack, let’s see where this takes me!