Sunday, June 13, 2004

The Weight Thing

A couple of years ago I was in a somewhat heated discussion with "CyberBob" the very talented webmaster for our radio/TV station website over the content we should provide. I was reluctant to put too much of our news product on the web because I thought it might give people a reason not to listen to the radio or watch the TV station.

Bob responded, "It's been my experience that you can't go wrong if you give customers what they came to you seeking in the first place."

I mention this only because I made a remark a few posts ago about my recent weight loss and the fact that I haven't detailed too many specifics here because my experience has shown most folks don't really want to hear the specifics. There's still a lot of truth to that statement, but it was also a little flippant - I tend to be that way, you can ask Amy...or for that matter anyone else who knows me, including CyberBob - who by the way won that previously mentioned argument.

When I wrote that post, I received a few comments and emails from folks asking for more information, and Clarence essentially called me out....something I rightly deserved.

I certainly don't want to minimize the struggle so many people have with their weight or act like I lost weight with ease and there really is no need to discuss it further beyond, "eat less...exercise more".

In truth there was a great deal more to my weight loss than that, but also it must be said that the way I lost weight is not going to work for most people. My circumstances were very specific and happened to make weight loss at this particular time much easier than it has been in the past. However, perhaps my experience will provide others with some encouragement, and if nothing else I won't feel like I snubbed Clarence who currently weighs almost exactly what I did several months ago.

First off, I didn't start off intending to lose weight. Admittedly I had thought about it as does everyone who gets up, looks in the mirror and decides that mirrors, like cameras, add 10 to 40 pounds. However I was truly seeking a time of spiritual growth.

I decided to fast and to walk beginning last Ash Wednesday.

For at least the past seven years during Lent I have fasted in one form or another. For the past two years I adopted an almost identical regimen. I call it a modified version of the Daniel Fast. The modifications are that I wasn't maniacal about it, I might sample a dab of pasta salad at the church pot luck and more importantly I added small portions of fish 2 to 3 times a week, usually tuna or salmon...although lately I've really begun to like tilapia which I can buy frozen at Sam's in individual packages. They take 5 minutes to cook. I also allow myself to drink iced the gallon, and I don't scrimp on the no-cal sweeteners, preferably equal.

I vowed to walk for at least 40 minutes every day...a brisk walk, rain, shine, or unbearable heat not withstanding.

Last year I did this and I did not lose a pound. Not one pound. I still found the experience spiritually enlightening.

Here's what I did different this year:

Spiritually - I decided to study the book of Acts during those 40 days...and only the book of Acts. I read small portions every day for 40 days, and I used a commentary to learn more about that particular time in church history.
Physically - A few days into my walking regime I began carrying hand weights - five pound weights.
Dietary - I gave up my almost nightly indulgence of a glass or two of red wine and I also abstained from all breads, even those made with whole grains.

I started losing weight almost immediately and even after Easter I decided to maintain the basics of the discipline, although now I am allowing myself a glass or two of wine per week...and I read more than the book of Acts.

It's a very rigid system, but it worked for me. Here's why it probably won't work for most anyone else.

First off, my best friend who happens to be the woman I'm married to, Amy, has been unable to eat conventionally for many months...she is fed intravenously. That, in combination with the fact we're broke, means we don't go to a lot of restaurants.

Second, Amy has been in pain much of this time and our lives have revolved around her health care a great deal. During Lent I recognized I was becoming obsessed with her health and that would in the end be unhealthy for her and for me. I made a conscious decision to focus a small portion of my energies on losing weight as a healthy release from stress. It is certainly much better than the paths I have chosen in the past to cope with the realities of life.

Thirdly, all our kids are either in college or are on their own so the nights when the house is full and the communal thought arises of, "Let's call out for a pizza" are virtually nil.

Lastly, I am one of those people who can eat the same thing every day and not complain. Every day since Ash Wednesday I have had the same breakfast...almonds and raisins. During the week for lunch I have a banana, a 12 ounce V-8 juice, and maybe an orange or tangerine.
Most nights I have a small salad, or fish mixed with stir fry vegetables.

Again, I tend to doubt most folks are going to be happy with such a monastic approach toward food.

However I think there may be one or two universal truths in my experience.

I believe everybody has "trigger foods", things you eat that make you want to eat more. Mine are cheese and breads. If I steer clear of those, I find I rarely get hungry, no matter how little I eat.

Diet soft drinks make dieting harder. If I drink a diet coke, my stomach demands food minutes later. I don't know if it's the carbonation, the caffeine, or the sweeteners they use, but it's true. If I am trying to soft drinks are not my friend.

Alcohol, even in moderation, slows down your metabolism. If you are serious about losing weight quit even that one glass of wine for a month or two and see if it doesn't make a difference.

Portion size is way overlooked when people try to lose weight. You can eat much less than you think and still be full. Restaurants that serve meals as big as your head are not giving you a "good deal"; they're giving you a "big butt".

If you exercise you will feel better, even if you don't lose weight. I've had gym memberships that made my bank account thinner. I've tried various home exercise gadgets that we ended up hanging clothes on before selling at garage sales. Walking costs nothing and there's almost no excuse that really flies to get out of it besides laziness or blizzards.

No matter what it is though, the key to exercise is to find something you actually enjoy doing. If you hate it, you ain't going to do it.

"You can't go wrong giving customers what they came to you seeking in the first place"

That statement applies to more than a website. If you come to yourself honestly seeking a way and acknowledging you need God's help...I don't think you can go wrong.