Matt Baldwin, a close buddy of mine, has had a truly transformative year. In one of his more recent blog posts, he recognized his own need to set up dietary rules that were specific to him. What is useful is how he goes through a process of reflection, adjustment and recalibration. In a way, it’s a practice that contemplative and spiritual. This year, I’m going to do the same. The fundamental insight I’ve gained from him is that it is about movement and improvement.
I have some good habits already: I’m not much of a sugar junkie. I gave up sodas, candy bars and ice cream years ago, as well as most white food. I’m good about cooking and avoiding processed food, although I do sneak a Zone Bar occasionally. I have three major issues: I’m a heavy drinker; I eat starchy foods, especially rice and potatoes; and I eat very fast. Add a habit of wings twice a week, chicken vindaloo with two cups of rice, and you’ve got a Padre Mambo with a spare tire as a partner.
I’ve read numerous books on dieting, understanding that this is really about a lifestyle change and not merely about making temporary changes. Most fundamentally, there must always be a practice of discipline. I doubt it is possible to stay healthy in this culture without being attentive and diligent. There are, simply put, too many factors, interests and institutions who have an interest in people eating fatty, salty and sweet foods.
So I’ve read the literature. I’ve especially been influenced by Mehmet Oz, Joel Furhman, David Kessler, John Gabriel, Susan Roberts, Brian Wansink and Various paleo authors. Here is my list that will guide me, I hope, until Easter, when I will recalibrate and see what’s successful and what’s not.
I’ve formerly been successful at losing weight. Two times had to do with women. One didn’t drink; we ran a few times a week together. During this time I would have either eggs or oatmeal in the morning; a salad with tuna for my afternoon snack; and a Cambridge shake for dinner. It was a South Beach Diet variation, low carbs. I stopped drinking beer. In August of 2003 I weighed 145. We never dated, alas. The work was for naught.
I met someone else, during which I gained 42 pounds, reaching a morning weight of 187 in October, 2006. My roommate at the time only ate white food, and would buy large packages of potato chips and french onion dip, both of which were comfort foods for me. We’d make popcorn and pour 1/2 cup of butter on it. We ate lots of pasta. We would treat ourselves to ice cream. Then my girlfriend and I broke up, and I changed – or restored – my eating habits.
I followed one primary rule, which helped me lose 25 lobs. I learned to feel when I was becoming full. I tried to eat slowly, and would only eat half what I ate. I would eat nuts before I went out, and was attentive about drinking water. When I had wings, I shared them. I also stopped drinking beer and eating rice, but these were secondary. I kept a very basic food diary.
My goal is to get to my ideal weight, which may be anywhere from 130 to 150 lbs. I have a thin frame. I’d like to reduce my waistline to 36, which would be close to losing about 40 lbs for me – which would bring me to 142, from 182. It’s possible.
I’m also participating in Crossfit Stamford, which is an inspiration for me. I’ve spent this week mainly in prayer and consideration, recovery from writing for my thesis, and mental preparation for this change, and am ready to hit Crossfit on a every day basis, starting on the 11th.
So here are my new rules.
- One pint of beer on Sundays and Thursdays. The rest of the week no more than 2 glasses of wine an evening. Mondays and Saturdays dry.
- Share all calorie dense food (say, wings).
- Pay attention and eat slowly, at a table.
- Eat on smaller plates.
- Half of all plates should be vegetables.
- Drink Water.
- Eat at least one salad a day.
- Say wonderful things about myself and how in control I am.
- No less than seven hours of good sleep every night.
I will be adjusting these, testing them occasionally. I think they are a good beginning. I don’t exclude anything, but that may come when I start the Paleo challenge on January 23rd. Several of my friends are teasing me about this, but we’ll see.
Lent also begins on February 17th, so as Paleo ends I’ll also be completely giving up alcohol and refined sugars (including grains) until Easter. It will be a big shift for me, in part because I’m a heavy drinker, and have used it as a reward for a long day. Your encouragement will be essential as I begin this journey to greater health and power.