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13 Weeks: Is Health a Thing of the Spirit?

Has this all been about the way I think, not what I weigh?

by
Charlie Martin

Bio

May 4, 2013 - 2:00 pm
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As a child prodigy, I’d learned that being exceptional in something was barely good enough, and that merely acting like an eight year old when you are an eight year old was a horrible failure — if you were an eight year old taking college classes. As a fat kid, I’d learned that I was disgusting and weird. As a nerdy kid, I’d learned I was disgusting and weird, and heard too often that really smart people went crazy. I learned that if you get a bike for your sixth birthday and don’t learn to ride it quickly enough, it becomes your brother’s bike, and I learned that if you are learning to hit a baseball and hit one so well the ball is lost, you don’t get another ball or another lesson.

I learned to think that to be acceptable meant to be perfect, and I learned that it was hopeless because I could never remain perfect in anyone’s eyes for very long.

Well, in the last 26 weeks, I’ve learned that while not perfect, I have been useful; and I’ve learned that when I help other people with their problems, it helps me too.

So here’s the plan. I’m asking you-all, all my readers who are inclined to try to improve their health, lose weight, start exercising — or improve yourself in other ways, like with Dave Swindle’s 13 week reading program or Sarah Hoyt’s 13 week novel-writing program — to come out about it and make your own 13 week experiment.  I’ll do what I can to help. Tell me what tools you think are useful, and what tools you wish you had. (For example, I’m thinking about a web site where you can track your own 13 week experiment and potentially share it with others — or not.) What do you find easy? What do you find hard?

Do you feel, as I do down deep, that being fat is a moral failing, that having diabetes is not just a disease but a fault?


Date 7 day Weight 7 day Glucose 7 day Bodyfat Sum Fitocracy Points Weekly Fitocracy Points
2013-02-01 272.50 116.43 33.1 447 447
2013-02-07 272.63 114.57 30.79% 1881 1881
2013-02-14 271.91 110.43 30.36% 2606 725
2013-02-21 273.79 115.29 29.16% 3775 1169
2013-02-28 274.44 104.00 30.00% 4929 1154
2013-03-07 273.11 115.86 30.24% 6022 1093
2013-03-14 269.86 101.86 30.10% 7233 1211
2013-03-21 272.08 112.25 30.64% 7681 448
2013-03-28 270.57 113.86 30.26% (??) 8180 499
2013-04-04 271.31 103.86 29.95% (??) 8404 224
2013-04-11 275.20 109.57 29.80% (??) 9185 781
2013-04-18 273.97 111.86 (??) 9185 0
2013-04-25 270.09 111.43 (??) 9185 0
2013-05-02 271.17 115.86 (??) 9185 0
Δ since 2-1 -1.33 -0.57 (??)% N/A N/A

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Charlie Martin writes on science, health, culture and technology for PJ Media. Follow his 13 week diet and exercise experiment on Facebook and at PJ Lifestyle

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All Comments   (34)
All Comments   (34)
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I have a new 13 weeks challenge that will be a little different. What I want to change: I need to get out more, out of my house, out of my own head. And I need to get back into helping others. I was emotionally devastated at the detah of several seniors I cared for through my church and as a result ended up somewhat paralyzed in a cocoon. Starting Sunday, every Sunday for 13 weeks I will be advocating and raising awareness about an initiative which has captured my heart and my mind. I'll be at a Farmer's Market (outside!!!) in a strange (to me) section of town, talking to *gulp* people! To say I'm a little nervous is an understatement. Staplehouse.com is the home for the initiative called The Giving Kitchen. I hope I can make a small difference for Ryan and Jen and I hope to cut through some of this overgrown garden of weeds in my head. Wish me luck.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
At 70 I find there is a spiritual aspect to physical activity too. Boredom is a powerful signal to keep an open mind and try new things. I have had to change and change again to find my way to a pretty reasonable balance to my life around diet, exercise, personal growth and meditation practices. And I have been at it long enough to know they are all interconnected. I never had your weight problem. 225-230 maximum under 200 for years and now 191. I've recently discovered fasting with Mosely's BBC doco Eat, Fast, Live. I'm doing the under 600 calorie fast (on two nonconsecutive days a week). And right this minute I am at that point in a mid evening when I really want something to eat! You have to concoct your own approach, and be medically safe, but this is exciting and feels doable. And dropping in to see how you are going has helped me stick to my guns too. Thanks.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You may want to look at The Hacker's Diet by John Walker (the founder of Autodesk, Inc., and the co-creator of AutoCAD) This free resource has been a great help to me and could also be used in conjunction with other plans and programs. Possibly, it is only effective for engineers and programmers. Overweight friends that have seen me lose 40 lbs and maintain an ideal weight (within ~5 lbs), don't seem to pick up on the hint.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well, of course, I *am* an engineer/programmer.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You are doing great. Isn't it interesting that just feeling good and maybe being at a plateau in the weight loss makes people say you must be doing something wrong. You may have a goal to lose more and that is laudable, but so far just your lifestyle changes have worked wonders for you. Be proud!

My particular bugaboo (if you will) is making myself do something outside of a class. As you know from other comments I've made on your fb page, I do 3 advanced pilates classes a week. I also walk on weekends - my husband and I have several walk routes of between 4 and 5 miles each that we manage to fit in. When sailing season starts we only get in one day otherwise we go both weekend days. Exercise is not a problem.

My problem is I really really really need to make myself stretch every day. I consistently start a set program then fail to do the stretches I need to do. As I get older, my flexibility gets worse (although I'm hoping the gluten-free diet will help there it will be months before I know if it will or not).

So my goal is simple. To make stretching such a habit, I don't "not" do it. It takes lots of time and effort to build these habits and I'm lazy...

Now I have written it... maybe I'll be able to do it :)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Congratulations on your weight loss! Not to be hypercritical, but at what point do you abandon a program if it is not working? Your weight essentially remained the same over the past 3 months. Most medical weight loss programs have ~2 pounds per week as the reasonable goal. Have you considered something more severe like medifast?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
On your second question, there are a couple answers. The first thing is that I've tried pretty much every diet program you've ever heard of, and at least three more. There was a point, in fact, where in these columns I wouldn't say the word "diet". But my intention isn't to lose weight per se -- it's to get to be really really old, as slowly as possible. As I note above, I've made some radical improvements to my health even if I've only lost 10 percent of my body weight (which, as others note, is a pretty big success statistically.) But there's a second point to it as well -- I can't stay on something like Medifast forever, and I'm kinda hoping for another 50 years at least. So I'm looking for something a little less like 90 days on bread and water.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I guess I am confused as to your specific goals. Less diabetes means less body fat which means losing weight. And to do that, one must run a calorie deficit. Period. By definition, that ain't sustainable indefinitely. So whatever program, you chose, it's not indefinite.

But definitely congratulations on losing and maintaining a ten percent weight loss. You're absolutely correct in that is NOT trivial.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Another 50 years? Seriously? I'm looking to check out in 10 or so. Obviously there's something wrong with me.... besides the obvious.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Oh, *that* question's easy: 13 weeks :-)

That's sort of the reason I chose 13 weeks -- long enough to see results, short enough it doesn't seem like eternity.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
100 consecutive push-ups is extremely optimistic. Good luck with that!

When my patients ask what is a reasonable level of fitness, I refer them to the U.S. Army Physical Fitness Test. Its standards are based on weight and sex. A 57-year-old man is expected to do 18 push-ups, 27 sit-ups, and cover two miles on foot in 19 minutes and 54 seconds or less. Its a starting point, at least.

A website called FitDay allows you to track your weight, food intake, and exercise. And it's free. (I have no financial connection with them.)

-Steve
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well, you know, that goal thing comes in here. I don't *do* goals -- if you have goals you can fail at them. I do experiments, and I'm curious how this one will work. I suspect 2K Fito points will be a bigger net effect. On the other hand, for various reasons I've never been good at push ups and pull ups, and I think doing them would be cool.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm following on Fitocracy, and I hope you get back at it soon. I made a point a number of weeks ago that I think are largely born out here. The main one is that there are no shortcuts. People choose the low carb diets because they are easy. No restrictions, eat a pile of bacon and eggs every day and still lose weight. But unfortunately not usually true.

I'm a fan of Tim Ferriss, and I think his slow carb diet will be good, but I can tell you I tried it, and the legumes cause gas, and you have to eat a lot of legumes on this diet. I moved on after a week. Give this a good chance, and if you don't see the success you want, look into intermittent fasting. This can be done with either an 8 hour per day eating window, or 5 days on 2 days fasting, and there are incidentally fitocracy groups which explore this.

Tabata intervals sound great because they only take 10 minutes a day! but the thing is, they don't burn many actual calories, and the after burn (EPOC) is really only 7-12 % more. And most importantly, you really need to be in good shape to even achieve the targets in the protocol. I am in good shape, and Tabata knocks the crap out of me, cycling or kettlebells.

There is a lot to be said for standard steady state cardio, and I highly recommend a 30 minute walk every day, 7 days a week while fasting before breakfast. Hold some dumbbells if you want, speed walk, stop every 10 minutes for bodyweight squats, or whatever you like, but do it. Mix it up with cycling or swimming or anything else, but get those 30 minutes in.

In the end, there is absolutely no medicine, herb, diet or supplement that can hold a candle to regular exercise in terms of health and well being, and mortality rates.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm seriously thinking about doing intermittent fasting. I've had some success with juice fasts in the past.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I would love to see a site where users could post their own progress and ideas.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I seem to have sort of randomly spelled the name Coehlo and Coelho. As far as I can tell, the book covers have it right. Also, my Portuguese sorta sucks.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I do agree with you that being fat is a moral failing. I think it's part of living the overindulged culture we turned this country into. Some people overmortgage, some oversex, some overeat.

I've failed for about the past 20 years, but I'm down 12 pounds since the beginning of April. I hope to be normal weight by some time in September.

You will reach your goal. The fact that you've stuck to your plan, even when you suffered a blow to your morale, demonstrates that you''ll make it.

I can help you with the technical aspects of the website if you decide to do it. I've been doing web development for about 15 years.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hm. Well, that's kind of a surprise; I was rather looking at the notion that being fat is a moral failure was an error that was getting in my way.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As fond as I am of sugar, I don't want to sugarcoat failures. Rationalization is just another form of indulgence that we Americans have overborrowed. I don't understand the alcoholic or gambler who claims to be a victim of a "disease". These people made choices and are responsible for those choices. Fatasses like you and me brought it on ourselves. Our redemption will be complete when we're at a normal BMI.

That being said, your moral failing is certainly not on par with a "real" crime. Your only victim is yourself, the loved ones you might leave behind prematurely, and perhaps a few tasty pigs that might have been spared if you hadn't boosted the demand for bacon.

Good luck. But I'm confident you'll make it, and I say that as someone who doesn't sugarcoat.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hardly. Certainly caloric excess plays a role, but after a time hormonal regulation, changes in metabolism, bacterial gut balance and numerous other factors conspire to prevent weight loss. Obese people are often malnourished due to inadequate calorie and nutrient intake. Stigmatizing and labeling do not help, and probably hinder.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Sorry, correction to my post: 35% of Americans are obese, not 20%
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Sounds like a good bit of pseudoscience intended to help rationalize obesity. It reminds me of John Candy in the movie Stripes when he said that "retains water."

Sure there are other factors that cause weight gain. But it's hard for me to believe in a country where 20% of us are obese that there's not a larger cultural problem at work. I don't have any of the problems you describe. I just like cereal and ice cream a lot. The foods were always easily accessible and I believe that I felt I "deserved" them the same way some people feel these deserve a McMansion or a boat they can't afford.

I know other people who have lost weight by controlling their calorie intake. They didn't have to eat fancy yogurt to rebalance their gut bacteria, and they didn't even require a psychotherapist.

Enough rationalization. if someone needs to lose weight he should cut calories, exercise, suffer a little. If that still doesn't work, then see the doctor about your hormonal imbalance.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Willy, honestly, the pure thermodynamic model really doesn't turn out to be very predictive. For a first look at it, try Gary Taubes book "Why We Get Fat".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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