Preparing for my third 13-week season, working to lose weight, control my Type 2 diabetes, and improve my health. You can follow me at my 13 Weeks Facebook page for daily updates, and you can join Fitocracy (free!) and follow my daily exercise, and maybe even start tracking your own. A new 13 week experiment starts June 1 2013. Join in!
Okay, this is a long one, just to warn you. Here’s the basics:
I’ve been rethinking these 13 week sessions and how to do them; I’ve written a new explanation.
I’m starting to see how the emotional part plays into the issue.
I’ve used the pattern as I now see it to start planning my next 13 weeks, and provided that as a “worked example” for other people who want to try it.
I’m looking for people to volunteer to try a 13 week experiment of their own, and possibly to try a web site meant to support 13 week experiments. Volunteers should mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Now on with today’s show.
As I said last week, I’m taking a little bit of a vacation from attempting to strictly follow some eating plan while I think about my results and what to do next.
The vacation has been interesting. I gave in to one of the things I’d been missing, and had a McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder and large fries for lunch, the same day I was going to my niece’s daughter’s first birthday party. Then at the party, I had a nice piece of cake as well as a bunch of things that were actually low carb.
From this I learned two things: I don’t actually like McDonalds as much as I used to, and I really can manage to drive my blood sugar up to the 230′s with carrot cake. But this was a momentary indulgence, especially since I, sure enough, had some of my old stomach troubles for a couple days afterwards.
As they say in Shangri-La, “Everything in moderation — including moderation.”
In the mean time, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about the experiments, and about the emotional/psychological/spiritual aspects of what I’ve been learning. (Let me just say, I don’t really believe there is a difference between the emotional, the psychological, and the spiritual. We’re not made up of a lot of pieces; what we’re thinking is what we’re thinking, and what we’re feeling is what we’re feeling, all together.)
What I’ve realized is that when I started my first 13 week experiment, I was groping toward something that would let me make changes in a way that didn’t scare me with the prospect of endless and unproductive deprivation, didn’t shame me as so many diets had done in the past, didn’t blame me for the lifelong problems I’ve had with weight, and gave me some emotional support in the process.
For me, writing about it has been a good bit of that support — I learned from Twelve Step programs that sometimes the best support you can get is by honestly admitting to the problems and your feelings about them.
Another big part of the support has turned out to be the rooting you, my readers, have been doing for me, and the sense that by talking about this I’m actually helping other people.
I hope to help other people use the things I’ve learned, and that means I need to figure out how to explain them. I’ve made a couple of previous attempts, but in this week’s thought I have what I think is a better explanation.
The First Insight
This is really what got me started: my first insight was not to think of a diet, not to think of of a weight-loss goal, but just to think of performing an experiment. I now realize that this was a first step in insulating myself from the years of fear and shame that had accompanied Dieting.
Not long ago I bought a book, published in 1922, titled Syphilis of the Innocent. Needless to say, the title implied a corollary: for if syphilis could be contracted by the innocent (as, for example, in the congenital form of the disease), it could also be contracted by the guilty.
In general, however, physicians do not inquire after the morals of their patients, except in so far as those morals have immediate pathological consequences. They do not refuse to treat patients because they find them disgusting, because they find them unappealing, because they are appalled by the way they choose to live. They try to treat them as they find them; they may inform, but they do not reprehend.
However, in practice things are sometimes more complex than this ecumenical generosity of spirit might suggest. According to an article in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, some doctors have been turning away patients on the grounds that they were too fat (one physician suggested that she did so because, ridiculously, she feared for the safety of her staff once the patients weighed more than 200 pounds), or that their children have gone unimmunized. Is such discrimination by physicians legitimate or illegitimate, legally or morally speaking? Is there not a danger that physicians may hide behind pseudo-medical justifications to express their personal prejudices or to coerce patients into doing what the physicians think is good for them?
Week 11 of my second 13 week season: low-carb diet and more exercise, tracking my weight, blood glucose, and body fat. You can follow me at my 13 Weeks Facebook page for daily updates, and you can join Fitocracy (free!) and follow my daily exercise, and maybe even start tracking your own. And yes, I have been slack with the exercise this last couple weeks. Gimme a break, I had a car wreck.
Last week, Glenn Reynolds linked an interesting article in The Atlantic with a fascinating animated map.
Using CDC data, the map shows reported incidence of obesity by state starting in 1985. The reporting didn’t get started uniformly, but as you watch the progress, there is an obvious increase until by 2010 every state is reporting “high” obesity rates.
This image has some obvious problems — among other things, the definition of “obesity” here is using body mass index (BMI), which has flaws we’ve talked about before — but it still makes the point that people in the U.S. have been gaining weight for quite a while now.
There are a lot of reasons for this. Among other things, we’ve gotten to the point that pretty much everyone can afford to get enough to eat. As has been pointed out before, this was the first country in history in which the poor people are the fattest. But I noticed something else: if you watch it carefully, the increase in obesity, first in deeper blue then a sort of funny beige color, and then on to red, starts in the early ’90s. I went looking for historical summaries of the Department of Agriculture’s “food pyramid” and found several (see, eg, this.)
It’s an interesting coincidence that this increase in obesity started roughly at the same time that the U.S. government started to advocate low-fat, high-carb diets. I remember that period pretty clearly, because I thought it was wonderful. Entenmann’s came out with no-fat pastries — the no-fat cherry coffeecake was one of my favorites — I could eat as much rice as I wanted, pasta was good and more pasta was better, as long as you didn’t use butter because of the evil saturated fat and cholesterol. But margarine, rich in transfats made by hydrogenating corn oil, was much better.
Oddly, this didn’t seem to do much about my weight. I was a vegetarian for a number of those years, and while I lost weight during the relatively short interval in which I was vegan, I also had mood swings and health problems until I added back at least eggs and dairy.
Week 10 of my second 13 week season: low carb diet and more exercise, tracking my weight, blood glucose, and body fat. You can follow me at my 13 Weeks Facebook page for daily updates, and you can join Fitocracy (free!) and follow my daily exercise, and maybe even start tracking your own.
On Tuesday the 9th of April, about 2PM, I was at work and feeling very strange. I was sleepy, felt sick and shaky, and couldn’t think clearly. I decided to take off early. But driving home, not more than a mile from my house, well, something happened. I zoned out, I fell asleep, I fainted — whatever it was, I was looking at a green light at the interesection and then I was looking at a red light with traffic starting to cross the intersection. I hit the brakes, I swerved to drive around the front of the CenturyLink truck in front of me, and I almost made it. But not quite. I caught the front bumper of the truck with my left rear fender. I bumped my head against the door frame, and came to a stop crossways in the intersection. After a minute, I pulled off the road.
At first I felt — considering the circumstances — okay. I made sure the other guy was okay (he was) and went to stand by the car and wait for the police.
Then I realized I was feeling really really cold, and even shakier than I had felt when I left the office. I went to sit down in the car and when the police arrived told them I thought I needed the EMTs. Or else it was someone who was calling 911, I don’t remember it very clearly.
Anyway, both an ambulance and a fire truck arrived, and a rather cute female firefighter interviewed me for about 30 seconds before trotting to the EMTs, who came and walked me to the ambulance. I’m somewhat proud of myself for resisting my initial urge, which was to tell the firefighter “Hey, I’m just sick, I’m not on fire.”
Having recently returned from Madrid, I confess that I saw little evidence of the Mediterranean diet being consumed there (apart, that is, from the red wine): though, of course, Madrid is in the middle of the peninsula, far from the Mediterranean. Perhaps things are different on the coast. Nevertheless, at over 80 years, Spain has one of the highest life expectancies in the world.
Is this because of the much-vaunted Mediterranean diet? Spanish research recently reported in the New England Journal of Medicine provides some – but not very much – support for the healthiness of that diet.
The researchers divided 7000 people aged between 55 and 80 at risk of heart attack or stroke because they smoked or had type 2 diabetes into three dietary groups. One group (the control) was given dietary advice concerning what they should eat; the two other two groups were cajoled by intensive training sessions into eating a Mediterranean diet, supplemented respectively by extra olive oil or nuts, supplied to them free of charge.
They were then followed up for nearly five years, to find which group suffered from the most (or the least) heart attacks and strokes. The authors, of whom there were 18, concluded:
Among persons at high cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events.
The authors found that the diets reduced the risk of the subjects suffering a heart attack or stroke by about 30 percent. Put another way, 3 cardiovascular events were prevented by the diet per thousand patient years. You could put it yet another way, though the authors chose not to do so: 100 people would have to have stuck to the diet for 10 years for three of them to avoid a stroke or a heart attack. This result was statistically significant, which is to say that it was unlikely to have come about by chance alone, but was it significant in any other way?
Week 8 of my second 13 week season: low carb diet and more exercise, tracking my weight, blood glucose, and body fat. You can follow me at my 13 Weeks Facebook page for daily updates, and you can join Fitocracy (free!) and follow my daily exercise, and maybe even start tracking your own.
A few days ago, PJ Lifestyle ran an excerpt from Leonard Mosely’s book Disney’s World, in which Walt Disney, in a letter to his partner Ub Iwerks, expressed his frustration with the his first sound cartoon, the now-iconic Steamboat Willie.
He’s pretty depressed. he doesn’t like Hollywood, he doesn’t like being away from home, and he’s losing confidence in the still-unfinished film. You can see why, when he was having trouble selling the idea, and animation is a frustrating process anyway. This was in the days of the most primitive hand-drawn animation, where every frame of the film had to be hand drawn on clear acetate, with tiny changes from frame to frame. Twenty-four times for each second of film. In this 7 minute 23 second film, that’s something like 10,600 frames. He was tired, and he was bored, and he had trouble seeing any progress.
Why did this strike me, he asked rhetorically? Well, it reminds me of my ongoing glucose/bodyfat/weight project. Here I am, eight weeks into my second season, 147 days since I first started tracking this, and it’s a little frustrating and hard. I’ve been less diligent about the exercise, and I do find myself missing things I used to eat. Like chocolate. And pasta. And bread. And while I have lost some weight, it’s slow and the day to day variations make it hard to see. It’s like Disney must have felt — another 24 frames, another day’s work, and what did he have? Another lousy second of film. That no one wanted to distribute. He was past the initial excitement and into the slog.
Right now, this project feels much the same. I’m actually losing weight, and I can see changes — more muscle coming back to my arms, and to put it bluntly, my boobs are smaller. I’ve lost six inches around my waist, and I can feel that every time I put on a pair of pants that were in the back of the closet because I hadn’t been able to wear them. But at the same time, the progress is a little slow and hard to see, and it’s a little hard to explain why it should matter to anyone — especially me.
But then I got thinking, and a little Excel-fu got me this. Here’s my actual weight, charted over the last sixty days, with a trend line. This is very much like the other charts I’ve been posting.
Trend line is down. This is good. It’s not down very fast, and the added muscle certainly explains that — but also notice that individuual weights vary pretty wildly around that trend line. So here’s another chart.
Week 6 of my second 13 week season; low carb diet and more exercise, tracking my weight, blood glucose, and body fat. You can follow me at my 13 Weeks Facebook page for daily updates, and you can join Fitocracy (free!) and follow my daily exercise, and maybe even start tracking your own.
So let’s just end the suspense right away: yes, I am feeling a lot better this week.
At one point or another, the draft of last week’s column started with the line “Okay, ‘despair’ may be a little strong…”. I cut it because as I thought about it, I realized despair was the right word. Look it up and we find “Noun: The complete loss or absence of hope. Verb: Lose or be without hope: ‘to despair of ever knowing’” (via Google.) That’s exactly what I was fighting against — the feeling that there was nothing to be done, that there was no real hope. That’s the real enemy of any attempt to change, or to do anything extended really — that moment of no hope, when you don’t see the end in sight. It’s not just diets, either — it happens to me in writing, when I hit the point at which I think “oh, this is awful, no one will want this.”
That’s why I started this on the basis of a 13 week “season” — it was long enough to see some real changes, short enough to be bearable. Even so, about the fifth and sixth weeks of the first season, I’d reached the point where I was wondering if it was going to really do any good.
So look at the results this week: my 7-day average weight is down 3 pounds, my 7-day average blood sugar is down 16 points. What happened? I don’t know for sure, but I can tell you one thing I did differently, based on a lot of suggestions from others who’ve done the low carb thing. I broke training. I got out of the no carbs jail for a couple days. I had my ice cream, and I had some congee (zhou, Asian rice porridge). I didn’t go real far off the overall diet except for violating the carb rules, and based on calories I was actualy doing fine.
So now I’m back on the low-carb diet. What did I learn?
First, yes, you can break the diet for a day or a few days and get back on. What’s more, for me at least, if you do it with rice and ice cream, you don’t get sick like I did after Thanksgiving.
Second, your body can get used to anything. In weight training, they tell you to change routines fairly often if you want to keep making gains. The trick is to watch what happens. I broke the rules a little bit, up to maybe 100g of carbs one day, and didn’t have my blood sugar go nuts, didn’t gain back lots of weight. (Right now, I’m on a little bit of a bounce, but I’m basically up to where I was complaining about not being able to break in the downward direction.)
And third — there’s a new-ish idea in the nutrition world: orthorexia. It means an unhealthy fixation on a healthy diet. Maybe, just maybe, an occasional 4 oz cup of ice cream (26g carbs) is good for you.
|Date||7 day Weight||7 day Glucose||7 day Bodyfat||Sum Fitocracy Points||Weekly Fitocracy Points|
|Δ since 2-1||-2.64||-14.57||-3.00%||N/A||N/A|
Week 4 of my second 13 week season; low carb diet and more exercise, tracking my weight, blood glucose, and body fat. You can follow me at my 13 Weeks Facebook page for daily updates, and you can join Fitocracy and follow my daily exercise.
I haven’t published new charts recently, so I think it’s time. Here’s the first one, my weight.
OH, NOOOOOES! My weight is going up! I’m a failure! Eeeek!
Well, maybe not, although certainly if all I was tracking were my weight I’d be mildly hysterical. (And I have to admit I get qualms looking at it this time, even though I swear I’m not primarily interested in my weight. But 50 years of dieting doesn’t go away quickly.)
The thing is, that weight in general isn’t really our primary interest. I asked whether weight itself was a primary concern over at my Facebook page, and got a lot of different interesting answers; almost none of them included weight. “Feel better”, “better health”, “more attractive”, “sexier” all did show up. Now a couple of people with bad knees and backs did say weight in itself was a problem, but for most people it’s more a symptom of something else that troubles them. Certainly so with me — blood sugar, health in general, and as I realized during the first 13 weeks, simply feeling ugly and disgusting were my major issues.
What people use as a proxy for all this is weight, of course, and especially with daily weighings, this can be very disheartening.
What’s worse, I’ve been at least as diligent with the diet — in the last full week, according to LostIt!, I’ve been 8200 kcals in deficit, with an average of about 9g carbs a day net of fiber. Being diligent with the diet isn’t so awful, but still I’d sure like a chocolate bar or a plate of spaghetti sometimes. In anything, I’m doing better with the diet plan that in my first 13 weeks.
Add to that I’ve been pretty diligent with the exercise — not every day but at least five days a week (I’ve got more to say about the exercise, below) so I’m lots more active than I was in the first 13 weeks — and probably more than I’ve been in the last 13 years.
But still, I’m actually gaining weight.
Release date: August 7, 2012
Our great-grandmothers didn’t need nutrition lessons—then again, they weren’t forced to wade through aisle after aisle of packaged foods touting outlandish health claims and confusing marketing jargon. Over the last few decades, we’ve forgotten what “real food” is—and we’re left desperately seeking foods that will truly nourish our bodies. We’re disillusioned with the “conventional wisdom” for good reason—it’s gotten us nowhere.Achieving optimal health without calorie-counting, diet foods, or feelings of deprivation has never been easier. Practical Paleoexplains why avoiding both processed foods and foods marketed as “healthy”—like grains, legumes, and pasteurized dairy—will improve how you look and feel and lead to lasting weight loss. Even better—you may reduce or completely eliminate symptoms associated with common health disorders!
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multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndromethyroid health (hypo and hyper – Hashimotos, Graves)
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a “squeaky-clean” Paleo approach
Practical Paleo is the resource you’ll reach for again and again, whether you’re looking for information on healthy living, delicious recipes, or easy-to-understand answers to your questions about how a Paleo lifestyle can benefit you, your family, and your friends.
Do you want to lose fat and stay young, all while avoiding cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and a host of other illnesses? The Paleo Solution incorporates the latest, cutting edge research from genetics, biochemistry and anthropology to help you look, feel and perform your best. Written by Robb Wolf, a research biochemist who traded in his lab coat and pocket protector for a whistle and a stopwatch to become one of the most sought after strength and conditioning coaches in the world. With Robb’s unique perspective as both scientist and coach you will learn how simple nutrition, exercise and lifestyle changes can radically change your appearance and health for the better.
It is tempting for people to suppose that if a little of something is good for them, then a lot of it must be better. Unfortunately this is not always or even usually the case; and I first realized that people are inclined to make this mistake when, as a student many years ago, I was shown a baby who was bright orange; it was suffering from a condition known as carotenemia. The parents, having heard that carrots were healthy, concluded that only carrots were healthy, and fed their baby accordingly.
A study from Sweden, recently published in the British Medical Journal, examines the important question of whether calcium supplements are good for middle-aged and old women. The question is important because millions of women around the world take such supplements – 60 percent of American middle-aged and old women, for example. There is no one quite like the Swedes for carrying out such epidemiological studies because the medical records of their population are by far the most comprehensive in the world: creepily so, one is sometimes inclined to think.
What the Swedish researchers found was that the graph of the relationship between calcium intake and death rates was a U-shaped curve. People with a low consumption of calcium had a higher mortality than those with a moderate consumption, but so did people with a high consumption.
The sample of women was not small, and in the period of study 11,944 of the 70,259 women studied had died. Those with a high dietary consumption of calcium alone had an increased death rate of 1.4 times for all causes of mortality, 1.49 times for cardiovascular mortality, and 2.14 times for ischaemic heart disease (heart attacks) compared with those whose who consumption of calcium was associated with the lowest mortality, that is to say a moderate consumption.
So, as far as my own progress goes, the last couple weeks were kind of boring: I wasn’t losing any weight, my glucose was coming down, but nothing very dramatic was happening.
Since the last time, though, I’ve done several things: I got “after” pictures taken for the first 13 weeks, I have started tracking bodyfat as well as weight, and best of all, I got my post-13-weeks bloods done.
Those are the most fun, so let’s hit them first.
Glucose. My A1c is now down to 5.9 percent, from a starting A1c of 7.5. That means I’ve lowered my average glucose from roughly 170 mg/dL, or just over 100.
My doc was more or less slack-jawed. I had to talk her into doing the A1c, as she didn’t think it could have changed much since the one I had in January.
I’ve cut my metformin to 1000 mg/day from 2500 when I started this.
Cholesterol. Or more generally, blood lipids. Now, remember that I’m following what is, by traditional medical measures, the perfectly wrong diet for cholesterol — heavy on meats, no grains at all, and with roughly 60 percent of my calories coming from fats.
My total cholesterol is down to 123. That’s the bottom of the normal range; that’s a score that the ultra-low-fat Ornish diet would be happy to reach.
Low-density lipoproteins — LDL, the “bad cholesterol” — is down to 70.
High density lipoproteins — HDL, the “good cholesterol” — is up to 26 (up in this case being the good direction.) Although it’s still low as an absolute number, what’s perhaps more important is the ration of HDL tot total cholesterol. HDL of 26 makes my total cholesterol over HDL ratio about 4.7. This is now well under the boundary the American Heart Association recommends.
In other words, while my HDL could be better, I am now in the “good” to “very good” range.
Body fat. I’ve just started tracking this, so the numbers don’t mean a lot yet, but as you can see from the chart, it is showing a real down trend. I’m somewhere around 30 percent right now, and obviously I hope it’ll drop significantly in this 13 weeks.
So far, I’ve mainly been tracking Fitocracy points, which are a kind of arbitrary measure of various kinds of exercise, but handy because it converts various exercises into one easily-tracked number. (I hope to have an interview with some of the Fitocracy people in the near future; in the meantime, if you want to follow me, you can sign up for Fitocracy here.)
Since this 13 weeks season has started, i’ve accumulated 2800 Fitocracy points.
Of course, David Steinberg is doing his own series on this. I sent him some videos which didn’t work out, but I’ve just taken another set. Have a look at his piece this week, in which he makes some entirely unsubstantiated suppositions about how I’ve managed to practically break every bone in my body over 57 years. It’s pretty funny, and good advice.
I like your Plan. A great idea for people of any age.
A book suggestion for Point # 6:
Perfect Health Diet: Regain Health and Lose Weight by Eating the Way You Were Meant to Eat by Paul Jaminet, Shou-Ching Jaminet
Also the blog: http://perfecthealthdiet.com/
(I first heard of this on InstaPundit. Glenn posted a plug by Paul Jaminet for his own book.)
A lot of research and thought has gone into what they recommend. It’s very enlightening, even if you don’t choose to adopt all their ideas.
Suffering from chronic illness and unable to get satisfactory results from doctors, husband and wife scientists Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet took an intensely personal interest in health and nutrition. They embarked on five years of rigorous research. What they found changed their lives— and the lives of thousands of their readers.In Perfect Health Diet, the Jaminets explain in layman’s terms how anyone can regain health and lose weight by optimizing nutrition, detoxifying the diet, and supporting healthy immune function. They show how toxic, nutrient-poor diets sabotage health, and how on a healthy diet, diseases often spontaneously resolve.
Perfect Health Diet tells you exactly how to optimize health and make weight loss effortless with a clear, balanced, and scientifically proven plan to change the way you eat—and feel—forever!
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
On Tuesday I turned 29. Apparently this is one of those “milestone” birthdays meant to suggest that now I’m really growing old and should start worrying or feeling worse about myself in some abstract way. Apparently when you’re 30 it means that the party decade is over and you should scrape the cheeto dust out of your navel, put some pants on, and finally grow up.
So be it. Growing old has never really bothered me. (Though I wish the hair wasn’t going so fast…) I’ve felt like a cranky old man trapped in a young person’s body since at least junior high. So how about this for an old-fashioned way to really put the last 362 days of the third decade of my life to use: actually writing out a plan for the year. Here’s what I’m going to try to do so that when the 30th birthday hits in 2014 I can look back and not feel too much embarrassment at another wasted year.
In December I declared my “7 New Year’s Resolutions I Invite Others to Steal” and then began the process of integrating these general self-improvement goals into both my daily routine and the weekly schedule of my PJ Lifestyle blogging. I left them somewhat vague so over the course of the month more concrete goals could materialize. And here they are, revised from my original list but generalized so perhaps others might still find them useful to consider as potential additions to their own Lifestyle self-programming.
1. Family Life on Monday: Rediscover and Celebrate Your Family’s Origins.
On Monday this week I blogged an open letter to my wife informing her that the time had come to change directions with our Netflix diet. The number of Dexter/Battlestar Galactica-level cable shows on DVD had dried up and new releases offered little hope of consistent entertainment satisfaction. We had to start mining older regions of film and TV history — but could we agree on a path forward?
Turns out we still can. April selected the first option:
1. Watch the entire Criterion Collection. Maybe in order?
You’re always complaining (rightfully) that the past few years I’ve spent too much time on politics and don’t show you weird, artsy movies anymore. Well here’s the mother lode and now we should start exploring it.
April suggested we call it “The Criterion Challenge.” We’re going to attempt to watch as many as we can this year — and yes, as close to in the order of their release as we can. We started last night with my copy of The Seven Samurai (spine #2) and watched the first hour. I’d forgotten how entertaining a film it was — and was delighted when April got into it too.
In charting this new entertainment course for us, we’re really going back to the origins of our relationship. I never realized what a role my oddball movie tastes had for April. When we began dating seriously for a second time in the fall of 2006 (a few months after I’d graduated and she was starting her sophomore undergraduate year), I would drive up to Muncie from Indianapolis on weekends with different art movie DVDs to share with her.
But in the years since our marriage I’ve neglected this original film guide role. My movie obsession fell by the wayside to make way for political warfare and new media trouble-making. Now’s a good time to correct course as I seek to re-balance my life between the legs of culture, religion, and politics. (Instead of the ideological focus that it’s largely been for the last three years…)
And we’re both on the same page in why we’re watching this series of classic films — to further develop our own understanding of the visual arts. What makes a beautiful, powerful image? How does film tell stories and evoke feelings? April and I are going to explore these questions together and I’ll try and blog a few thoughts on each film. Also, keeping with the return to film, for our year off from Disney Land I’m going to make a point to explore the ideas that brought it into existence.
Monday Bookshelf and Blogging Focus: Research the life, work, and ideas of Walt Disney to separate the wheat from the chaff.
It turns out that I happened on a picture I took of myself on the 16th of October, which is just about the time I started finding myself writing in my morning pages that I was only 12 years younger than my father had been when he died….
Here’s a picture from a similar angle with the same (iPod Touch) camera, taken today (Friday):
I see where I’ve lost the 30 lbs: it was all from my neck. Jaysus.
So, even with my troubles seeing myself clearly, I’ve got to say, now I’m seeing some differences.
I’m continuing to plan for my next 13 weeks experiment, and you know, there’s a question I’ve been asked multiple times now: why 13 weeks? Honestly, the answer is probably “I don’t know.” Some of it is pure superstition: I have good luck (contrarian that I am) with thirteens. Both of my parents were born on the 13th, and they married on the 13th; I’ve lived at #13 addresses many times. But there are some practical points about it.
Thirteen weeks is exactly one calendar quarter — there are 4 of them in a year, with a day left over. Thirteen weeks is long enough for longer-term trends and effects to show clearly, but short enough that I can foresee an end. If I hadn’t decided to do this experiment for thirteen weeks no matter what, there have been a couple of weight plateaus (and sudden weight gains) that could have been very demoralizing — about which more below. Thirteen weeks is right around the average lifetime for a red blood cell, so an A1c (average blood sugar) taken next month will be from entirely within the experiment. (As you’ll recall, it’s my blood sugar that concerned me more than weight in itself. Even though, dammit, I do tend to obsess about the weight loss.)
Now, I’ll say, the thirteen has put some people off for the opposite superstition from mine, the common triskaidekaphobia. I do intend to write this up in book form; I’ve had people tell me that I’ve got to change the title. But I have to say, 13 weeks seems to have worked for me.
As far as consolidation. The pictures above do show the difference I think, and I’m really feeling other differences. I’ve got a two story house; I’m not putting off trips up and down the stairs as I used to. I feel exceptionally good. I got a CPAP about 10 days ago, which is also helping — I may be sleeping well for the first time since puberty. I’m sure that the apnea has been helped by the weight loss and I’m hoping continuing weight loss will help more. And, of course, my blood sugar has showed a marked improvement — as I said last week, from diabetic to post-diabetic (although it’d be more correct to say “type II diabetic in remission.”) My mood is better too, which for someone who has had paralyzing depressions is a good and useful thing.
I seem to have more energy, both physically and mentally. Again, this isn’t too surprising. I buy water in 1.5 liter bottles from Eldorado Springs Water Company, in cases of a dozen. That’s basically 40 lbs; 9 bottles is just about 30 lbs. The effect is like if I were carrying around nine of these bottles in a backpack and I took the damn thing off. But I’m just finding it easier to do things, and not just physical things — I’m actively studying Mandarin again, and getting more writing done. Some of that also may be the CPAP — I don’t think I understood the effect of actually getting a decent night’s sleep.
As I’ve promised, the next 13 weeks will be more about exercise, physical activity, and so forth. i’m accumulating a number of experts to help me with this, and reading a bit more widely. Now, you may have noticed that there is a fair bit of controversy about different diets — low fat, low carb, paleo, and so on.
Great news — for me at least, we report you decide — the 13 Weeks series has been renewed for another 13 weeks. (You can follow it day to day on the associated Facebook page.)
It’s actually kind of fitting that I’m announcing this now: today as I type this is the 11th of January, and the one year anniversary of my mother’s death. It will be published on Saturday 12 January, and Sunday 13 January would have been her 78th birthday.
As I said when I started this:
A sense of mortality struck me on my birthday, 57 this year; arithmetic started showing up for me. My father died in 1994, at 69. That’s only 12 years older than I am now. Mom at 77, only 20 years older than I am now.
Now, my Dad weighed in the neighborhood of 450 lbs when he died, and he smoked. My Mom, around 200 lbs and she’d smoked heavily, drunk heavily, and generally been rode hard and put up wet nearly her whole life. I’ve got some advantages, since I don’t drink or smoke; on the other hand, I’ve been struggling with my weight since I was literally 6 years old. You can hear a lot of bad diet advice in 50 years.
The long and short of it is that I want to change this and need to change this, and there’s relatively new science that suggests there are better, faster, more efficient ways to change this. So I’m doing an experiment: for 13 weeks, which I plan to start a week from today, 4 November 2012, I’m going to start an experiment where I’ll be keeping a very low carb, more or less “paleo” diet, and doing “high intensity interval training” and “high intensity strength training” two sessions a week. This scheme has good reasons behind it, biochemically and otherwise.
Then I’m writing about it, and I’m going very public with it, so, frankly, it’ll be too embarrassing to quit.
Well, it appears to have worked. At 271.5 today, I’m down 30 pounds from my October high of 301.5, and down 18 pounds from my official start date of November 4. My A1c is down from 7.5 percent to 6.2 percent, making me officially post-diabetic, and I’ve got hopes that by the time this thirteen weeks is done I’ll actually have my A1c into the normal non-diabetic range. That is to say, remission.
Publication Date: January 5, 2011
Hailed a “medical breakthrough” by Dr. Mehmet Oz, EAT TO LIVE offers a highly effective, scientifically proven way to lose weight quickly. The key to Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s revolutionary six-week plan is simple: health = nutrients / calories. When the ratio of nutrients to calories in the food you eat is high, you lose weight. The more nutrient-dense food you eat, the less you crave fat, sweets, and high-caloric foods.EAT TO LIVE has been revised to include inspiring success stories from people who have used the program to lose shockingly large amounts of weight and recover from life-threatening illnesses; Dr. Fuhrman’s nutrient density index; up-to-date scientific research supporting the principles behind Dr. Fuhrman’s plan; new recipes and meal ideas; and much more. This easy-to-follow, nutritionally sound diet can help anyone shed pounds quickly-and keep them off.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
Starting on November 4th 2012, I began a 13 week experiment in changing my eating and exercise habits, for the best of all reasons: I didn’t want to die. I was chronically ill with stomach troubles, I was sleeping badly, and my average blood glucose was in the neighborhood of 150 mg/dL — well into the range of type II diabetes mellitus. For the experiment, I’ve cut my daily consumption of carbohydrates to a net of 30 grams a day and cut wheat out entirely, and I’ve added exercise following a Tabata Protocol, along with yoga, kettlebells, and (too rarely) weight lifting. I report my results here at PJ Media Lifestyle, and also on my 13 Weeks Facebook page.
If you’re been reading 13 Weeks since I started, you’ll remember that I had realized on about October 15 that I was 100 lbs or so overweight at 301.5; I was in chronic ill health with both gastric reflux disease and irritable bowel syndrome; and I had moved from pre-diabetic to flat-out diabetic in the span of about a year. At 57, I realized I was only 12 years younger than my father when he died, and only 20 years younger than my mother was when she died on January 11, 2012. Twenty years wasn’t enough, and twelve years was for damn sure not enough; something had to be done.
Now, after Week Nine, the effects of what I’ve done are starting to really show up. Here’s the chart I’ve been keeping to plot my progress. The plus signs are my weight in pounds, the x’s are my blood glucose as measured with a drugstore glucometer, and the lines are the linear best fit line to the data.
As you can see, the lines are headed down — which is the good direction. On Wednesday I went to the doctor, and got weight and my bloods done again. My weight’s down 30 lbs since October 19, 19 lbs since I started this November 4th. But I swore I wasn’t paying attention to the weight (gloat). Even if I lost a lot. (Gloat.) One of the blood tests I did was the glycosylated haemoglobin HbA1c test, which is a diabetes test. I’ll tell you my results below; before I do, however, I want to explain the test and why it’s important.
With diabetes, of course, we’re primarily concerned with the blood glucose level. When I was a kid, my “second mom” Julia Medina took care of us; Mrs. Medina was diabetic and dependent on insulin, but home glucometers weren’t available; the only real test diabetics had was to watch their urine for ketones using test strips, and the only real measure they had for control of diabetes was whether you tended to fall into a coma, either from low blood sugar, or from high. If your blood sugar stayed too high, you risked blindness, advancing neuropathy and pain, and kidney disease, hearth disease, or — worst of all from my point of view — creeping necrosis of the extremities. (Your fingers and toes die and become gangrenous; they’re amputated. The stumps become gangrenous; they’re amputated a little higher. Eventually you run out of pieces and you die. Don’t even google “diabetic necrosis”, you don’t want to look at those pictures.)
Luckily, Mrs. Medina was well-controlled; she lived a long life. A whole lot of diabetics didn’t. Three things, put together, improved the chances of a diabetic living a long life over the last 20-30 years. The first was inexpensive direct tests for blood glucose levels; the second was bio-engineered human insulin (before then, insulin extracted from the pancreases of hogs was used, but it doesn’t exactly match human insulin. It was better than nothing but still had problems.) The third was the wide availability of the glycosylated haemoglobin HbA1c test (which we’re going to just call the A1c from now on.) What the A1c let doctors do is infer what your average glucose had been over about the last three months.
Here’s how it works. Hemoglobin, the chemical component of the blood that carries oxygen and makes the blood red, can bind to glucose, forming glucose-bearing (or glycosylated) hemoglobin. The rate at which it binds is proportional to the concentration of glucose in the blood. It binds fairly slowly, so your hemoglobin doesn’t just suck up all the sugar right away. Instead, over the life of a red blood cell (an erythrocyte), which is about 100 days in the normal human, a fairly small percentage of the hemoglobin will glycosylate. At the end of the average 100-day lifespan of the red blood cell, it’s broken down by the body and it’s components recycled; part of that process separates iron from the hemoglobin, which also liberates the glucose.
Remember, though, that the rate at which the glucose binds is dependent on the concentration – the more glucose, the more it binds to the hemoglobin, and once bound it stays bound until the red blood cell dies. The result is that the percentage of cells with glycolated hemoglobin in the blood is proportional to the average blood glucose level for the last several weeks.
Still with me? We’re getting to the payoff. From my blood glucose readings, I’d known things were improving.
In October, A1c was 7.5 percent. You can compute the equivalent average blood glucose, which comes out to be about 170 mg/dL. An A1c of 6.5 percent or more is diabetes.
Yesterday, my A1c was 6.2 percent, or an average of around 130 mg/dL. An A1c of between 5.7 percent and 6.4 percent is considered enough for a diagnosis of pre-diabetes.
Or, in my case, post-diabetes. By blood sugar is controlled now, down to healthy levels — and I’m only about two-thirds of the way through the life span of red blood cells that were new when I started this; I can expect the A1c to go down. If it keeps declining at the rate it has been, it might be as low as 5.5 percent by the end of this 13 weeks.
That would be normal.
One more thing I want to mention. A dear young friend of mine has decided she wants to enter the military, but to do so she needs to lose ten pounds, and wants to get in better shape. As a result, she’s started a blog of her own, 14 Weeks for Freedom, where she’s making her own open commitment to some life changes.
I am extremely proud of her; please drop over to the blog and give her your support.
Episode VIII: A NEW HOPE. It is a period of gluttony and excess. The Taubes rebellion, striking back from a hidden base of scientific papers, anecdotal stories, and statistics, has managed to win its first high-intensity battle against body fat and blood glucose, only to find itself stymied by the holiday season, plateauing weight, and coffee cake. Follow Our Hero at PJ Lifestyle and Facebook as he enters the eighth week of his thirteen week experiment.
Yeah, okay, it’s a little cheesy, but it sure worked for Lucas. So this is Week Eight, and you remember all that stuff about plateaus for the last two weeks? Well, you can forget about it. This morning’s weight was 272 pounds, which is 5 pounds or more off in the last week and within a hair of 30 pounds off since I first had my mortality wake-up call in October. Blood glucose has a bigger variance, so since day numbers aren’t as useful, but my average morning fasting blood glucose for the first week of the experiment was 142; for the last 7 days, it has been 122. This is progress.
Twelve-steppers are told to “trust the process” and it’s good advice, but it sure is a helluva sight easier to trust the process when it’s actually visibly working.
Now that I’m well past the halfway point, however, and the end of this experiment starts to be something foreseeable, people are starting to ask me what my next goals will be. This goes along with the people who ask you what your New Year’s Resolution will be?
My New Year’s Resolution is not to make any New Year’s Resolutions.
As I’ve said a couple of times, the physiology of this whole low-carb eating plan is interesting, but the longer I go into the experiment, the more the psychology of “dieting” and weight loss, and socially-conditioned feelings about diets and weight, and my own personal baggage (two steamer trunks, three suitcases, and an extensive scrapbook) involving all of this has become the most interesting part.
This week, in addition to the sudden weight loss itself, I had what I think has to be described as a therapeutic insight about my weight and that baggage. How I came to that realization would be a long, extraordinarily geeky but eventually boring story involving, of all things, MMORPG computer games, but the upshot is that I realized that in my day-to-day life, when I’m interacting in person with other people, I’ve always — always — had a subconscious awareness that I was fat, and that being fat was disgusting, so therefore I was disgusting.
I suspect this may have had some impact on my confidence in social situations.
These are the adventures of Charlie Martin, his 13-week mission to follow a Taubes-inspired low-carb eating plan with high-intensity training, to find out what the hell happens and hopefully lose some weight and improve his health besides. Follow me here on PJ Lifestyle, and on the 13 Weeks Facebook page.
Yeah, it’s Saturday. I forgot to mention last Sunday that to fit in with the new weekly schedule for Lifestyle health-related posts, we’re moving to Saturday. So strictly, this is really sort of week 5 1/2, but roll with it.
This really has gotten to be sort of the boring middle — my blood sugar continues its slow decline, and I’m still more or less plateaued: my weight hovered at 278.2 exactly for 6 days before breaking below that this morning. Except, maybe it’s not a real plateau: my weight is still fitting a trend line of about 1 pound every four days. We’ll see on Sunday.
In the mean time, though, there’s been one thing I’ve noticed: I’ve been letting the exercise slide. There are several reasons, or excuses, for this — I really did feel bad right after Thanksgiving, and last week was a terror, with one all-nighter programming and a cold. But still, I’ve been back to my old habit of the most exercise I get being the trip from the parking lot to my desk at the office, and I’ve been parking closer to the door than usual.
And that nonsense has got to stop. Starting today, I’ll be carefully recording the exercise on Lose It! and I’ll be announcing it in my morning updates on Facebook. Every time. Days with no exercise I’ll also mention in my morning updates. That’ll keep me honest.
I did notice one interesting thing this week. Here’s my Physics Diet chart from the start of the experiment:
The line along the bottom is daily weight; the straight line is the linear-fit trend line and the blue line is a exponentially weighted moving average. What’s interesting is the way it seems there’s almost a pattern to it — a bump up, a plateau, then a sudden decline. I don’t know what to make of that. In any case, the current plateau is going to be challenged quite a bit this weekend; I’m having a little procedure done this Monday, so I’ll be on clear liquids for the weekend.
What? What procedure? Just a procedure.
Oh, all right: it’s a colonoscopy. Happy now? Another of the joys of middle age.
In Our Last Episode: Our Hero – having dived into a 13 Week Experiment with a high-protein, high-fat, low carb di… eating plan inspired by Gary Taubes, and high-intensity training inspired by Tabata Izumi’s Tabata Protocol and the high intensity weight-lifting described in The Power of Ten and Body by Science — was confronted by the Thanksgiving Monster on the Weight-Loss Plateau. Now, we find him crossing the Slough of Despond pursued by ghosts from his past and burdened by excessive baggage.
Yeah, I’m not having as good a time.
It’s predictable: any time you do something like this, there’s initial excitement and enthusiasm, but eventually you’re in the middle of it and the excitement abates. This week the excitement has definitely abated. A lot of that has to do with things outside of the experiment itself: as we said in grad school, life is something that happens when you’re just trying to do your damned research. I had a programming project with a hard deadline for a demo; it wasn’t working and I got stubborn, resulting in my working from 9:30AM on Wednesday to 11:30AM on Thursday — 26 hours straight. And I can tell you, I’m getting too old for this crap. Adding insult to injury, I’d hit 276 pounds on Wednesday morning, and was back up to 278 when I got home on Thursday, even though I’d actually not had much to eat over that 26 hours. I then had some unhappy news on another issue that was stressing me when I got to work on Friday morning.
By Friday afternoon I was not a happy man. (This, by the way, is a cliffhanger to remind you to follow to the next page.)
Okay, last week was on Thanksgiving survival; this week is the aftermath, and then I’ll talk about high intensity training. But first the aftermath.
Basically, I gained about 6 pounds directly after Thanksgiving. Now, as I said last week, there was no way that was “real” weight gain — that would have implied I’d eaten 21,000 kcals over what I need to keep my weight level in the span of a couple of days, when in fact by my food diary I’d eaten 7,700 kcals under. And as I’ve said all along, this is an experiment to see what happens, especially to my blood sugar, not about weight.
Well, I talk a big game, but the fact is that with 50 years of baggage, I can’t help but pay attention to the weight loss, and I was pretty unhappy about the whole thing. Not unhappy enough that I was tempted off my eating plan, mind you. I was really uncomfortable the weekend after Thanksgiving. If I ever ramp up the carbs, it’ll be very carefully.
The first 4 pounds came back off in a couple of days, and then I plateaued — I hit 281 or thereabouts and bounced along for five days. Five freaking days. Now, 280 has been a hard level for me for several years — I could lose down to there but hard to break through. (To end the suspense, yes I did finally — I’m back to 279.)
Here’s what the weights would have looked like if I only weighed on Sunday, just as I only do measurements on Sunday:
Matching the scale etc, the Thanksgiving weight gain is a very small alteration; the trend line is still down. In fact, since the long plateau isn’t included, the slope of the trend line is rather greater — 0.27 pounds a day versus 0.21. Once again, I think the lesson is that normally, maybe weighing yourself every week is enough, if you can stand it. (I couldn’t: I’d have to throw away my scale or hire someone to bring it over once a week.) Now, let’s get to what I’ve promised for a couple weeks, and talk about the training routines I’ve followed. That will start right below the fold, so follow this on to the next page.
So, Thanksgiving is over, and I’ve got to add to that “thank God” because the whole thing has turned into what a therapist friend of mind called an “AFOG” — “Another, (Freaking) Opportunity for Growth.” (No, he doesn’t actually say “freaking”.) On Thanksgiving, I had 60g of carbs, and then Friday I had 80g at our traditional day-after-Thanksgiving leftovers feast. A little bit of mashed potatoes and stuffing, a sliver of cheesecake for dessert Thursday, and a half-piece of apple pie on Friday were the main culprits. So, I had, actually, quite small amounts of two things I’d nearly completely avoided: refined sugars, and wheat.
On Saturday morning I’d gained nearly six pounds. I also felt like hell — my GERD was back, I was achy and headachy. Back to the eating plan.
Naturally, my first dark thoughts were ones of panic. But here’s the advantage of keeping a careful food diary: looking at the diary, in which I’m pretty diligent, I still had a net calorie deficit for the week of about 2700 kcal. An actual enduring weight gain of 6 pounds would require an excess of 21,000 kcals (using the conventional 3,500 kcal/lb). Didn’t happen. (I wrote, middle of the week, about some deductions from my first weeks of data. Basically, my actual weight loss is hard to account for by the “calorie is a calorie” thermodynamic model — either I’m losing weight 3 tiems faster than the observed calorie deficit can account for, or my metabolism has stepped up by 40 percent or more.)
Back in my teens, when I was trying the Stillman Diet and didn’t know much chemistry, physiology, or frankly much of anything else except that I was still hurting from being teased and insulted at Baptist Church Camp, I took a one-day vacation from the Stillman diet for my birthday, had biscuits at breakfast and potatoes at dinner, and gained seven pounds overnight. And I was hysterical: was I going to have to eat nothing but boiled chicken and boiled eggs for the rest of my life? Luckily, schooll starts shortly after my birthday; I went back to glory and acclaim — I’d lost about 50 lbs — and the girls were suddenly paying attention to me. The seven pounds didn’t make as much difference then.
I’m doing a low carb Gary-Taubes-like diet and adding high intensity training for 13 weeks to see how it works. This 13 Weeks series is my diary of the experiment; you can also follow me day to day at my Facebook page.
Yeah, yeah, I know it’s not Sunday, But I noticed something so interesting I decided to do an extra post; I’m still planning to talk about high intensity training this Sunday. I’ve been doing a food diary at LoseIt!, and tracking my weight in a spreadsheet and at Physics Diet. So I’ve got a pretty solid diary of what I’m eating and its nutritional contents. Now, Physics Diet is pretty solidly devoted to the traditional thermodynamic “a calorie is a calorie” model of weight loss. When you enter your weights, it computes some interesting statistics and charts them; it also computes how many calories you have been under (or over) your needs based on the rate of change in your weight. So, without further adieu, here are some charts.
First, a chart from Excel showing my weight and fasting blood sugar, both taken immediately after awakening every day. (Click to enlarge the charts.)
Notice that both trend lines are going down quite nicely.
Now, here are my charts from Physics Diet. First, here’s a chart for the whole time since I started watching carbs on 19 October.
Now comes the arithmetic. Nominally, a pound of weight is 3500 kcal; you have to cut out 3500 kcal to lose a pound, and if you eat 3500 kcal too much, you gain a pound. As of today, I weighed 278.6; I’ve lost roughly 23 lbs since 19 October, when I weighed 301.5. That means by the “calories are calories” model, I had to have cut 80,500 kcal over that month and a day, or about 15,000 kcal a week — 2515 kcal a day — under my metabolic needs in order to get an average weight loss of 4.25 pounds per week. Honestly, that seemed unlikely.
But then if we look at the chart for just the time I’ve been really running the experiment, it gets even more interesting.