Health and Fitness / Uncategorized

Me and my belly: Not exactly a love story

First of all, I am very surprised that I would be blogging about weight loss.  About four months ago, a dear friend told me something that I believe has changed my life.  Richard had lost a great deal of weight.  He told me he did this by  changing his diet not by dieting. He ate as much as he wanted to.  He gave me the name of a book that would explain all of this.  It is  called Why we Get Fat by Gary Taubs.  I highly recommend it.  After, I read it, I discussed what I learned with my personal physician as well as some other doctors who are friends and have followed my health and given me advice from time to time.  All of them agreed with what Taubs said but they never explain the concept (very low carbs) to me before. I guess they thought I knew.  So I feel, I should take this opportunity to share what I learned with those of you the follow my blog.

While I was marginally over weight (my BMI was a bit over 25) before I read Taubs’ book,  I was not fat.My problem was that all the extra fat was located in my belly.  There is a term for this.  It is called Metabolic Syndrome and it can kill you. It causes a variety of diseases.  The most prominent of these  being heart disease.  The key sign of Metabolic Syndrome is belly fat.  Other indications are poor cholesterol scores, high Triglycerides  and high blood pressure.

First a bit of background.   In 1969, I weighted 107 pounds.  I was about 5.9 tall (I am a bit shorter now).  I was really skinny and use to joke that I was a human laser beam.  Over the years I slowly put on weight.  At first I was glad of that.  I was happy being 120 pounds and even 130 pounds.  But the increase did not stop there.  When I left my position at Intel in 1999  I weight about 153 or more.   Something happened to me in 1996 at the age of 51 that accelerated my weight gains.  I was diagnosed with prostate cancer which I have discussed a few times on this blog.  It was thought that fat and in particular, animal fat increase the probability  of developing prostate cancer and also that it might accelerate the growth of prostate cancer.  See this study. It was also though that meat in addition to having animal protein also might contain growth hormones.  So, I like many men dealing with prostate cancer went on a low fast and low meat diet.  In particular I avoided, butter and red meats.  I used olive oil but only a little.  My diet was made up of mostly carbs (both simple carbs and complex carbs).  So I started really  putting on weigh.  By 2003, I weighted 182 pounds.   One of the arguments for the low fat/low meat diet was that Japanese people for instance had almost no prostate cancer.  They also had low fat diets and did not eat much meat.  Of course, they also had no belly fat.

Much of the weight gain went to my middle.  Every few years, I had to buy new clothes. And those of you who know me, realize that I like to look stylish.  When I stood up and looked down, I could not see my feet.  I was really unhappy with myself and decided I had to loose the weight. So I went on Weight Watchers Online.  I liked their point systems.  It was kind of like having a budget.  I had a certain number of points per day and through exercise I could even add points.  Being the scientific type, I figured as long as I burned more calories than I consumed I would loose weight.  While that is in principle true, it is really a vast over simplification of a complicated system which you will understand once you read the book.

I did loose weight.  And the good news is I lost it pretty quickly.  However, I was also kind of miserable because I was not getting enough to eat.  I was hungry but I was disciplined and committed.  In about five months I lost more than 20 pounds and got my weight down to 160.  My stomach was flat and I could see my feet. I had all my clothes taken in because I promised myself I would never gain this weight back.  But slowly it started to come back and I found myself in the high 160s and then I found myself in the low 170s.  So i was back to buying new clothes again and feeling bad about myself.  Then I would go back on weight watchers and diet again.  I would get back to 160.  I was pretty good at staying at 160 when I was not traveling but when ever I traveled the weight would come on.  Probably this was due to all the butter and stuff restaurants put on food even when they say they are not.  More wine and cocktails also probably helped.

In the summer of last year, I had my weight down to about 162 when I went to England, Egypt, Israel and Greece.  When I came back I weighted 172 and I was gone for just three weeks.  I did not go on a diet and it just stayed around 170.

My dear friend, Dr. David Agus, really got on my case about my belly.  He did not like the results of the various blood tests I had taken recently and he could see the belly.  So I got committed once more to dieting.  I started to loose weight as always but also I was hungry.   That is when a chance exchange with my friend Richard resulted in my learning about Gary Taubs and his book.

This book explained it all.  I realized that all the ideas I had about eating were wrong.  I learned that the body really deals with protein, fat and carbs differently.  In particular, I learned about Insulin Resistance and why the crappy American diet which I grew up on could effect how I dealt with carbs (as opposed to how the Japanese).  It was at the role that High-fructose corn syrup probably played in changing the way my body processed carbs.
So now, I the only carbs I eat are vegetables.  I hardly eat fruit.  I eat as much fat and protein as I like.  At first I felt guilty eating such things as butter and steak but I soon got over that.  Now I am enjoying salami and cheese (but no bread).  I still have a vodka cocktail every evening (which turns itself into carbs) I must admit.  In two months I lost ten pounds (the first five very quickly) and got to 160 again.  Then in two more months I got below 155.  My body fat is about 18%.  I am hoping to get to 150 pounds and 15% body fat but I will probably have to increase my aerobic exercise to accomplish that.  The good news is that I can travel and eat out and it is not a problem.  Restaurants can lie about how much butter they put in their preparations but not how much carbs.  I just order a steak and say hold the potatoes and give me some more veggies.

The result of all this was fantastic with respect to my blood tests.  My blood pressure is down. I have great cholesterol results and my Triglycerides  went from 230 to 90.

If you have a weight problem and especially if you have belly fat, please read Why we Get Fat.  I am tell you this because I wish someone had told me earlier.

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