13 Weeks: Week 10 -- In Which We Scheme

My mother, on what turned out to be her last birthday, with my sister-in-law Tawney.

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.

Me after 10 weeks.

Nearly as important, I feel good. After some hesitation and a lot of rearranging the baggage, I feel pretty good about myself, and I’ve gotten a sense of where my life-long feeling of being “fat and disgusting” came from and I’m coping with it better.

Hell, maybe I think that’s more important.

Maybe most important of all, I discover I’m actually inspiring other people. I’ve got more than 500 followers on my Facebook page now, and a bunch of them are starting their own programs of low-carb eating; there are a lot of other people who’ve used the low-carb approach to great success now, cheering us on. “Community” has become a horribly overworked buzzword, but this is at least a bunch of people who are finding this helpful. That makes me feel good too.

At the same time, the first 13 week experiment certainly wasn’t a 100 percent success. My intentions to exercise were overwhelmed by things like holidays, my first-ever gout attack, and general sloth. And while I’ve got a handle on my feelings about physical appearance, I still have healing and re-evaluation to do.


So, it’s time to start thinking about the next 13 weeks. I don’t expect right now to change my eating plan; frankly, it’s working great. I just had a four egg omelet with shallots and longhorn cheese for breakfast, and I’m not feeling even a little deprived. (And when I’ve indulged in something heavy in easily-absorbed carbs, I’ve felt like hell; heavy in wheat, even worse. Powerful reinforcement.)

What I do want to do is formalize an exercise plan. I didn’t in the first 13 weeks because, frankly, I hate formal exercise. There’s a good bit of fat-boy-in-gym-class baggage with that too. But this time I’m getting some help.

First, David Steinberg, our New York City editor, is a certified CrossFit trainer. I’ve alluded to this before: the truth is that there’s been a lot learned about the physiology of exercise in the last 20 years that often directly contradicts the common wisdom — like the notion that you must perform hours of low-intensity aerobic exercise to improve cardiovascular fitness. CrossFit is an interesting bunch of techniques, and while I’m not sure I want to be forged into “elite fitness”, the basic ideas of CrossFit are in line with the best new science on fitness: varied exercises; using what they call “functional movement”, which means not building around isolation as a lot of weightlifting routines did in the past; and high intensity intervals. All of these are in line with what I’d been talking about before; this time I’ll have a published routine for people to track me against, and some well-established metrics to track, like body fat. I also plan to include at least one Pilates lesson a week. Because I like Pilates. And Pilates studios full of dancers are a lot more fun than sweaty old gyms.


David and I will be pulling in some guest experts as well. So far, I’ve been working with my own reading; now we’re calling in the heavy guns. Or the skinny guns. Something like that.

Second, on the mind-body side, hell, I live in Boulder. My old friend Nicky Lee is a neurolinguistic programming guru and expert hypnotherapist; I’ll be working with her and her associate Jack Schaefer at Mountain West Wellness, using hypnotherapy, and perhaps Chinese medicine, and acupuncture. Don’t know where that’s going to go, but I’ve had a lot of success with hypnosis in the past, and Nicky has a lot of experience with the kind of issues I’m talking about. I don’t know where that’s going yet but it will certainly be interesting.

So stick with me; I think we’ve got lots of intriguing new things to learn.


Also follow Charlie’s Buddhism writings on Sundays, here’s the first installment:

Buddhism Is Not What You Think

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