I needed to lose 75 pounds (at least!)
Most of my life has been a real struggle with excess weight. In the photo here, I’m on the Great Wall of China around the year 2000 and I’m look pretty big, but that wasn’t my biggest! In 2005, I reached my highest weight which was 265 pounds (120 kgs) and, luckily, a good friend of mine said to me “you need to go on a volume reduction campaign!”. That had a good effect even though it hurt a bit. Today, after a lot of effort, troubles and difficulty, I’m at just about 190 pounds (86 kgs) and people are commonly saying to me “wow, you look good, how did you do it?”. Well, that’s a long story and one of the important reasons behind this website.
As far back as I can remember, even in my late teens and early 20’s, I used to wear size 36-inch jeans. By 2005, I was wearing size 40’s. Today, I’m wearing size 32’s and that feels right. I can’t remember ever wearing size 32’s before, and I can’t remember ever feeling physically better.
A book that began to change my thinking
After reaching 265 pounds in 2005, I started reading the book Fantastic Voyage by Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman (2004, Rodale International Ltd.). Some parts of this book are a bit extreme. Interesting, but a bit hard to accept and take in. One of the catch phrases of the book is “Live long enough to live for ever” and they say this because they believe that scientific advances will be coming along so rapidly this century, that at some point we’ll have enough knowledge and capability to avoid aging. Personally, I don’t think we can rely on science to this level – maybe we’ll be able to live much longer, but is that what life is really all about? I’d like to have a great quality of life for as long as possible – I don’t want to have a low quality life extended indefinitely. Anyway, the book also has some excellent chapters looking at almost all aspects of health – food, carbohydrates, glycemic load, fat, protein, body weight, sugar, insulin, inflammation, methylation, toxins, detoxifying, prevention of heart disease, prevention of cancer, brain, hormones, supplementation, exercise, stress and balance. It’s a really good resource for all this stuff (I want to read it again!). One thing that came through in this book, over and over and over, is that almost everything related to your health will improve if you change your diet to one based almost completely on vegetables and fruit and avoiding bread, rice, pasta,potatoes and sugar. This came through in almost every chapter and in every case, Kurzweil and Grossman backed up the conclusions with evidence from real scientific studies. It’s very convincing.
So, in 2005, I decided to make a change in my diet that seemed very radical at the time. I decided to avoid meat for the most part (not completely) and avoid bread, rice, pasta, potatoes and sugar. That’s not easy to do! Nearly everything in a standard restaurant or cafe has one of these ingredients. It wasn’t always easy to find something to eat. Anyway, I did it and got used to it and I started using vitamin and mineral supplements like Kurzweil and Grossman suggested. My weight started dropping and I started feeling better. I kept this diet up until the end of 2006, at which time I’d reached a weight of 210 pounds (95 kgs) and I was feeling pretty good. In early 2007 I moved to France and gradually I started eating more of the things I was trying to avoid. I don’t know how it happened. It just gradually changed. What I know today is that there’s much more to being healthy than just what you eat. Sure, what you eat is a huge factor, but there’s a lot more to it than that. What’s going on in the mind is crucially important as well.
The weight started to creep back on until I got a scare
Somehow, by mid-2010 my weight had gone up to 228 pounds (103 kgs) and I was really starting to get worried about it again. I started to track what was happening with my weight and began to use a web application (www.skinnyr.com) to keep my weight records. See the graph below which is a screen capture from skinny.com. I really don’t recommend obsessing about your weight in this detail. Getting a lower number on the scales is not the target. The target should be getting a healthier body with less unnecessary fat. I was using this to try and understand how what I was eating was effecting my body and I was hopefully not obsessing on the actual number. Anyway, even though I was trying to eat better, my weight rose gradually to 244 pounds (111 kgs) by the end of 2011. It seemed like I had no control over it. What could I do?
In early 2012, something really significant happened. I had some really bad blood test results. It turns out that this was only because I didn’t fast properly before the test, but it was enough to shock me enough into thinking I’m going to die if I don’t do something quick. So instantly, I cut out alcohol almost completely and began avoiding bread, rice, paste, potatoes and sugar again. Some good quick results (as you can see on the graph) but then I plateaued. At about this same time I was reading a lot of health related stuff, and this is where the next impetus came from.
Another book that had a significant impact
I read a book called Raw Knowledge, Part II : Interviews with Health Achievers by Paul Nison (2003, 343 Publishing Company – I have the 2006 e-book edition) and I was, at the same time, fascinated, disbelieving and shocked. The book consists of in-depth interviews with 15 people who have been successful on raw food diets.The reason I was reading this book was because I’d seen the movie “Simply Raw : Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days” which clearly showed how eating raw food (avoiding standard cooked food) can have a profound and rapid effect on you health (see this post), and I wanted to learn more. Well, while reading through the interviews in Paul Nison’s book I was confronted with lots of new issues and possibilities. There was a lot of talk of “being 100% raw”, fasting (even for long periods like 10 days or more) and the spiritual effects of a raw diet. Well, I rolled my eyes at a lot of this and thought these people had to be a bit kooky (I don’t think that anymore). How could somebody fast for 10 days or more? It couldn’t be possible, could it? And then talking about lives becoming more spiritual on a raw diet sounded like a very strange connection. But I was interested in this raw food thing. There might be something in that. I was also fascinated to see the pictures of the people being interviewed – they all looked so alive and vibrant. I felt the pull to be like that. And they all sounded so energetic and happy. It was definitely attracting me.
So, in April 2012, I made the decision to try and eat mostly raw food. That meant mostly salads, fruits and nuts. It actually wasn’t too hard and I seemed to like it. It was a bit hard to say no to other people who were wanting to give me some food they’d cooked, but I was able to do it and eat mostly raw food. As you can see from the graph above, my weight started dropping relatively quickly on the mostly raw diet. I was eating as much as I wanted, and the weight was dropping at the same time.
Progressing on from there, I started doing some intermediate fasting in late 2012. I’d not eat for periods of up to 18 hours (more on this in later posts). Today I’m having at least a 12-hour period everyday without eating. In early 2013, I was very happily remarried (so far, 2013 has been an absolutely wonderful part of my life – couldn’t be better) and changed the scales I was using in February 2013. The new scales had the effect of putting a 5 pound jump in the recorded weights in the graph because they weren’t calibrated the same as the old scales (the old ones were wrong). If you look along the graph you will see plenty of jumps in my weight and then gradual returns to normal afterwards. These jumps are almost always associated with trips or holidays where I ate more cooked food and drank more alcohol. It’s amazing how quick I can pack on the weight on these occasions. Today, I’m still learning to manage this better.
The result of all this is that today I am about 191 pounds (87 kgs). That’s almost 75 pounds (34 kgs) less than I was at my biggest. I did lose 75 pounds! Wow, that’s a lot! I feel so much better physically and mentally and I’m really enjoying life. I now know that all these things are intertwined – food, fitness, mental calmness, harmony, spirituality. There’s no easy equation or simple solution that explains how to get to this point. It’s a rather complicated issue and I’m sure the details will be different for different people. But it’s obvious to me now that there are some pretty clear signposts left for us to follow and all we need to do is be prepared to look at them and follow them. If we do that, we’ll keep moving in the right direction.
Today, I feel so much better (and I don’t need to take statin pills for controlling cholesterol), but I also feel that my journey hasn’t finished. There are many areas of my physical and mental/emotional fitness that are still improving and still have a long way to go. All I want to do is keep moving in the right direction, little by little, at a comfortable speed. Below is a comparison of my body’s appearance in between the 8th of December, 2012 and the 16th October 2013. Between these two dates, I’d dropped 16 pounds (7 kgs) and I’m feeling better and better. I have less general puffiness coming from the excess, unnecessary fat stored around my abdomen. I’m not worried about how much I weigh, I just want to keep improving the heath and fitness of my body. I’m enjoying the progress and looking forward to more.
For more on what gave me the inspiration to lose weight and get healthier, take a look at these posts;
- Where do I start… avoiding diabetes?
- Oh no! A hernia! … more motivation
- Skiing? Yes! – I need fitness…
If you’re wondering how to get started on your own health improvement then I’d say start with avoiding some things and adding others into your life, as in these posts;
Here’s a link to a good page about intermediate fasting – http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2013/11/08/beginners-guide-intermittent-fasting.aspx
I’d love to hear from you if you find anything I’ve said either good or bad. Please leave a comment. One of my goals is to keep learning about life and finding the right direction to follow, and I’d like to learn from your experiences. Thanks.