Diet progress

Back in February I noted that I had hit a record weight of 220 (and that was first thing in the morning).    I vowed to go on a diet and get back to my “ideal” weight of 186.    I had gotten to the point that even my ‘fat pants’ were getting tight, and I heard myself grunt a bit while lifting my body off the ground, especially after playing on the floor with the kids.   I have finally lost 22 of the 34 pounds I need to lose, so I’m making progress — just over two pounds a week.

In Mid-May I’ll be blogging from Vienna, Munich and Berlin while teaching a travel course (much like my blogs from Italy last year), assuming we’re not grounded by volcano ash.  If I reach my goal of 186 (or am at least close), I’ll allow myself to go wild with Kuchen, Torten, Bier and restaurant dining.   Since we walk so much on those trips, I doubt I’ll gain any back.    That goal is one which keeps me going on this diet.

So let me share my dieting secrets.  Up front, know that this is not the kind of diet a doctor would recommend, and the harder thing for me to do will be to create healthy eating habits once the diet is over.   For me losing weight is all about a strict, disciplined regime of eating as little as possible, while exercising daily.   Screw all the stuff about balanced diets, lifestyle changes, and point counting.   I want to lose it as quick as I can, and the key is discipline.   That means when I’m out for dinner at a friends’ or at a party, I’ll eat small portions, and take only one small helping.   At home I’ll wait until I feel out of energy, and my main snack is a Boca vegan soy burger with ketchup.   70 calories, all but five of them from protein.   The ketchup adds a few more.

Now, if you’ve had Boca burgers before, you might say “yuck, I couldn’t eat 25-30 a week, with no bun and just ketchup.  Some days I eat as many as six.   But first of all, it’s soy so it’s really healthy and sticks with you.   But most importantly, when you’re really hungry almost anything tastes good!

Second, mostly boring meals.   I love pizza.  I make my own dough, so I can control the portions and have perfected the 300 calorie cheese pizza.   A delicious break from the boca burgers.   Add maybe a few M&Ms (and only a few), some soup now and then, or some Hormel prepared dinners (you can store them at room temperature — 230 calories or so) and small sized portions of Chef Boy R Dee beefaroni or spaghetti — about 210 calories each, and that’s about all I eat.

That does mean I eat more often than usual — maybe two soy burgers for breakfast (170 calories, counting ketchup), a prepared dinner from the microwave at work mid-morning (230), two more soy burgers early mid-afternoon (another 170), a late afternoon beefaroni (210), and a cheese pizza for dinner (300), and I hit 1180.   Add maybe 150 for small snacks and I reach 1330.   The one luxury I allow myself is a drink at the end of the night before bed.  It’s useful because the alcohol hits me quick when I’m eating so little, and I actually then can fall asleep without thinking I’m hungry.   Also, it’s a reward — if I can avoid eating too much, I know I have the luxury of a Rum and Diet Coke while watching Jon Stewart.  Add 100 calories for that, and it’s 1430.   I’d say most days I end up having to have small snacks, or maybe some toast in the evening, and it probably ends up hitting 1600 calories or so.   Still, that’s reasonable.

Then, there’s the exercise.  For that I either walk, or use my step machine.  It tells me I burn 500 – 560 calories per work out (as I have been losing the number of calories burned goes down unless I increase the pace).   Put my head phones on, and push myself through the workouts.   It’s really hard early on, but I tend to do seven or eight days in a row, then a day off because of some social event.   Discipline.  (I’ve done 16 days in a row in this stretch).

Once I’m in this routine, it’s not that hard to stay disciplined.   One key is no exceptions. We were at a community fund raising “mystery theater” the other day, where teams try to solve a murder mystery, talking with people who play characters in the mystery.   They had lovely donated cookies, and rich Gifford’s ice cream that all indulged in.  I had nothing.   I could not do that in my normal routine, only when I’ve disciplined myself to this diet.   We had a big communal Russian feast at our place a couple weeks ago, and a friend cooked us Indian food — my favorite — last weekend.  Each time I kept my intake low, trying everything, eating slowly, and cutting foods earlier in the day to make sure I stay at a reasonable calorie count.  Since February 12th, I’m sure I’ve not gone above 2000 calories once, except maybe at the Russian feast thanks to vodka and wine (alcohol does provide empty calories).

So, how can one get disciplined?   It’s actually not hard once the routine is established.  You see yourself dropping pounds, feel better, and your body gets used to getting by on less (unfortunately the body also burns less calories, working against the diet, but c’est la vie).   But having many failed attempts where I vow to start a diet, and then can’t get going, it’s sort of like a hard to start lawn mower, where you have to pull the chord over and over before it finally works.  A few things help:

1.  Goals.  I’m going to a conference in Chicago later this week.   My goal is to fit into a suit I bought back when I was in very good shape.   I don’t think if I’ll make it, but that keeps me especially disciplined now.   I mentioned the Vienna-Munich-Berlin trip.  I want to be very much in shape during that travel course (gotta keep up with the students!)

2.   A sense of certainty.   When I started this diet, I was certain I could keep it.   It just seemed like ‘this time it will work.’   Other times I think I’m only half in it, I didn’t see it as a major part of my life.  It just isn’t optional this time.

3.  Daily weigh ins.   Every morning and night I weigh myself.  Now, the body loses weight unevenly.  So my morning weight chart may be: 208.3, 207.4, 206.9, 208.1, 207.7, 207.4, 206.3, 205.2, 205.4, 206.2, 204.8, 205.1…you get the picture.   The key is that the trend is down.  It can be depressing when you “plateau” at a certain weight for awhile, but sticking to the diet, it always goes down.

4.  A sense of control.  I can have the body I want to have, have the health growing old that allows me to be active and not worry about heart attacks and high blood pressure, and be confident.  I don’t care what people say, but when I weigh 186 I’m a lot more confident and self-assured than when I weigh 220 (which I have hit).

Alas, I love food and I know the diet will end when I reach a certain point, and while I have been able to maintain a good weight level for a year or so, I usually start inching upward.  The challenge this time will be not to.  Otherwise, sometime maybe in 2013 or 2014, this blog will be reporting another diet, Boca burger sales will increase (I wonder if they notice it at the grocery store?)   So, now I’m under 200 and still losing!

  1. #1 by Steve on April 20, 2010 - 06:14

    Warning about soy.

    I did the same sort of thing about 3 years ago (instead of soy burgers I did turkey sausage and broccoli). I cut calories and pushed myself to exercise every day. Yes, I lost 45 pounds, but I gained it back once I quit the strict regime, which was often drudgery.

    What works for me (which I mentioned to you in February) is eating whole foods, avoiding processed foods and grains, and doing strength training and sprints for 20-30 minutes twice a week (in a fasted state). Unlike the calorie-cutting, aerobic exercise every day diet, I no longer have cravings for ice cream and Mexican food, constantly feeling like I’m deprived and waiting until I can splurge. Sure, the exercises can be uncomfortable, but only for short time periods.

    One problem I see with your approach is that you have a goal, after which you “know the diet will end.” For the rest of my life, I plan on eating real food that I prepare, ordering simple dishes like steaks and veggies in a restaurant, or even grabbing a plain burger or taco on the go, tossing out the bread/tortilla. Yes, I rarely have a “cheat” (which is almost never worth it and often reminds me how junk food makes my body feel bad). While losing weight is great, it shouldn’t just be about the number on a scale, but about being healthy even when you reach a given number. You want to reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Eating processed food and grains may very well contribute to those “diseases of civilization” according to many studies I’ve read.

    I’m not trying to tell you how to run your life. But you might do well to consider a long-term approach to living based upon the science of evolution, recognizing that our ancestors didn’t pass genes to us based upon agriculture or industrial processing.

    Good luck, either way.

    • #2 by Scott Erb on April 20, 2010 - 14:03

      I agree with what you right, and in some ways this is the easy part — losing weight quickly. I know I can do this, but the transition to a healthy long term lifestyle will be the challenge. I am definitely going to try the kind of approach you suggest — though after I return from being part of a travel course to Germany and Austria. I can’t resist German breads and cakes, but I know at least there I’ll walk off the calories!

    • #3 by Steve on April 22, 2010 - 13:24

      I forgot to mention sleep. Be sure you get lots of it.

      I have poor sleep habits (staying up to surf web, etc.) which I have to fight constantly. I’ve read there is a correlation with obesity and lack of sleep, but I don’t know if it’s a chicken or egg thing. I just know that my energy level and ability to recover from exercising or fasting is much greater when I have good sleep discipline.

  2. #4 by Lee on April 20, 2010 - 16:04

    I adore boca burgers but we do eat them with a bun! that is our typical Saturday night supper. Baked potato wedges and a side salad. Yum! (we are vegetarian though!) Keep up the good work, and i agree, it is finding the healthy balance that is always the tricky part.

  3. #5 by mike lovell on April 21, 2010 - 14:26

    Hey Scott,
    Good Luck on your weight loss goals. Can be difficult. I’ve always been the kind who had (past tense emphasized!) been able to eat anything and everything I wanted without worry. But that has since ceased. I managed to lose about 17 lbs last year to go from my record high 192, down to 175ish. For me, I think it was more a matter of taking random breaks from work, and the mandatory cutdown on OT, that allowed my body to feel less stress overall which helped, since my eating habits didn’t change a whole lot.

    When it comes to exercise, I still tend to be motivated only when I have someone to work with. The flying solo thing lends itself toward me returning to Lazyville. However, If you want to burn calories in a major way (so you might enjoy some of the tastier things in life a little more often without the weight gain), and have a few others who’d like to do the same, we can always have you write up a grant where I can come visit Maine (never been there before), and work you all to slimmer figures, and I can do the same while making a few bucks!

  4. #6 by David Erb on April 21, 2010 - 16:18


    You and I are a lot alike. Here we are both hitting 50 this year; both topped out over 200; and both have an ideal weight of around 185. I too am trying to keep the calorie count low, but I am not as disciplined as you. I am reasonably disciplined when it comes to exercise. I ride an exercise bike 15-30 miles a day at least 4 days a week. I was fairly dedicated gym goer for several years until I suddenly abandonned it last December. I am determined to get back into the gym at least 2 days a week and continue the bike miles at home. Might add the South Beach diet. At this age exercise is nowhere near enough. Best of luck on the diet so you can enjoy the kuchen!

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