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.

2 thoughts on “Me and my belly: Not exactly a love story

  1. I had a quick read of Gary Taubes reviews. Perhaps I thought I had missed something. But his ideas seem passe. I wanted to address Obesity as it seems to be a recurring message in your blogs. This may be longer than is appropriate for your blog, and if so just let me know. But I haven’t addressed this issue in any of my writing, and you made me stop and think about it.
    I have several family members who are obese, and a grandmother in -law who died nearly 100 years old ‘fat and happy.’ It is a topic of conversation, but there seems to be no serious interest in getting slim. I have weighed 165 lbs for several years at 5’10” but there had been a time when I was over 200 lbs. I am 74 and I feel better at the lower weight.

    The Obesity Epidemic in America is a consequence of living in America. To reduce the problem just have everyone move to a country with lower levels of obesity!

    In America we buy more food every year at a rate higher than the population growth, so we eat more food. That’s the American way. People cannot fight the Food Industry and the Pharma Industry. For profits to increase each person must consume just a little more food every year, and a few more drugs to compensate for the damage we are doing to the body from the types of food we consume. We can’t blame Obesity for the increased cost of health care – that cost is driven by the Medical Industry. Hospitals want to be more profitable, so they need to do more procedures and surgeries. Marketing hype brings people into Hospitals for procedures that don’t improve their health. Obesity is just a marketing tool to frighten people into taking medications for diseases they will probably never suffer from, though they get fatter.
    Obesity is 10 points lower in Canada which has a health system that is not for profit. The diet is the same – I lived there ten years. Of course in Japan Obesity rates are very low, but the men all have small penises (this is from World Health statistics.) though they have a high average IQ. Which would be better for America? Skinny people with small penises and high IQ? Or beefy Americans that breed well and laugh a lot?
    I think the verdict is in. Everyone wants to come to America for the benefits!

    Individually, a man can take measures to keep himself at a low BMI, but I wonder if it will make him live a longer happier life? ‘Fat and Happy’ is quite true. Julius Caesar didn’t trust Cassius because Cassius was too slim. And Cassius thrust in the first dagger.
    True if a man stays slim, it may reduce his personal medical bills, but his other costs will go up every year more than his medical insurance premium (because he eats organic foods which are 30% more expensive, pays a monthly Gym bill, etc.)
    Medical cost in America are three times higher than in England, but Obesity rates are much the same. The cost of medicine is driven by the for profit Industries. They will find a way to increase profits every year. And it is mainly done by making people afraid of the lifestyle they have chosen.
    If you could persuade every one in America to get to a BMI of 25, the medical costs for the country would not change. Every year medicine will be more expensive no matter what people do. There is a fixed overhead for Hospitals which swamps the variable costs. A hospital needs a million dollars a day to keep its doors open, whether or not any patients are in the Hospital. If there are fewer patients, then the charge per patient must go up. The only way to stop the escalation in medical costs is to do what Canada and England do which is to close down Hospitals and not build more of them, despite the population increase. But this means elective surgeries are not available for many people especially the elderly. In England even a young man may wait six months for a knee replacement, or back surgery. Here you can get it done with a weeks notice.

    I have lived in several countries for years and my weight was heavily influenced by the environment – types of food, stress.

    What I have learnt is that a person must have a strong desire to be a particular weight – by that I mean you must talk to your body and let the body know what weight you want to settle in at, and follow your intuition. Being Vegan/Vegetarian helps – its hard to eat so much grass that you get fat on it – You can adapt to the tastes.

    In America control of Obesity is a lost cause, it’s just marketing hype to sell more of something, including food. The more obese you are the more you need to eat, they say.
    The health care system will help deal with the consequences. Doctors are paid to cure disease, not prevent it.
    I once called the local fire department chief for advice on installing fire prevention in the house, like I had on my yachts. His comment “we don’t prevent fires we only put them out. Don’t worry about it, we are only 800 yards from our house and will come and rescue you”
    There you have it, a simile of the Medical Profession in a nutshell.

    Sorry for the length of the response, Avram, but you set my mind racing.


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