Saturday, January 19, 2013

What's Up Part I: Weight Loss (Rant?)

Well, not really a rant, per se, although not a post about the happiest of situations. Weight loss...yikes. Heck, I COULD write a rant, but that is not really my style, at least, not so far, as I like to put a positive spin on things, which IS my style.

I feel like I have a peculiar relationship with this blog, in that I don't write steadily and also have no set "subject" matter like "successful" blogs are supposed to do (write steadily), and have (a set subject matter)...which, thus, in their case, builds a following. Me, I write when I feel like putting something down in a public (but semi-anonymous) place...and have the time to do so (which seems to be a big problem, lately). I also do write in a hand-written journal (much more there, actually), things that are only for me and my eyes (for which, I am sure, most of you would be thankful).

A friend of mine sent me a message that simply said, "Wazzup?" and that got me to thinking about what HAS actually been happening lately. You know, sometimes you simply slide right through it all in real time and don't really reflect on it, but there is a time when looking back at it as a whole is valuable. In fact, I think that "journalizing it" in this case would be a good thing, so I realized that I would write my friend a comprehensive answer to his question and that a lot of my answer may be worth posting here, too.

I started what I think could be a pretty long answer, but as one of my "New Year's Resolutions" (ha ha, have I EVER been successful with them?) was to NOT stay up all hours of the night working a project that I hadn't completed yet (that is to say, to WORK on getting enough sleep and creating a steady circadian rhythm), but to put it aside and come back to it in the morning, that this section that I did complete kind of makes a whole entry by itself, so I am posting it now.

Since most readers come here by way of a particular tag search, I think that this section (weight loss) may be of broad interest.

I have also made a second "Resolution", and that is to strengthen the character of my will and steadfastness, which means to actually FINISH TO COMPLETION my ideas rather than put in a good start and then move on when the time or energy runs out and never finish it. I have known since my early 20s that I am what I call a "comprehensive doer", which means that once I start, I don't want to have to stop before I am finished. But if I DO stop (or am forced to), then it is very hard to get back to it and very often I just never do. (Interrupting that creative energy flow makes me lose interest.) Paramahansa Yogananda used to talk about what he called "monkey mind," which he said interrupted a person's meditation. This refers to a mind that just jumps from one thought to another instead of focusing one-pointedly onto one thought. Well, I have a subset of that, in that my interest in something can jump around, too, but only when situations interrupt my will to "comprehensive doing". Like having to go to bed.

A good example of what I mean is that once upon a time, I wrote a novel. I would have been perfectly happy to write it all at once at one sitting, if that were possible (and sometimes it is), but my novel, which was nearly 400 pages long, could not have been done that way. As it was, my energy pattern was that I would write for 36 hours straight, then sleep for 8 hours, write again for 36 hours, sleep for 8, and so on. This meant that I had NO circadian rhythm and often had no idea whether it was AM or PM (at certain transitional times of day). It worked for me; it seemed to keep me in that creative space for several months. I successfully wrote the whole thing, and even got an agent for it. However, she was unable to find a publisher for it, that is to say, she got tired of looking for one within whatever was HER level of sustainance, and surmised that the book, while interesting to hear about, needed to be rewritten in order to sell it. She may be right, I don't know, but the point was, my mind then moved on to something else and I couldn't abide the idea of sitting down and writing it again.

I was thinking about that book a couple of weeks ago, realizing that it actually still DESERVES to be rewritten (is worth doing) and I feel bad that I had not done it all these decades. So I have resolved to not let projects be shoved to a back burner where they get ignored and then forgotten.

So, with this, which is supposed to be a comprehensive answer to my friend's question, which I had to interrupt, I hope that I DO follow my New Year's Resolution and finish writing, and posting, the rest of it beyond here.

* * *

So, what's up? I could just say, oh, not much, you know, same old, same old, just work and stuff, blah blah blah. And on the surface of it, that would probably be the truth. More or less. Oh, there are some good things about work, and also some bad things, but the bad things are pretty much not all that bad compared to most other people’s situations. I have it really very lucky, actually. I am developing quite a good reputation (in a small circle of people) for doing amazing work with truly awful things, things nobody in their right mind would ever want to deal with, and I don’t want to either, but I do seem to have a particular knack for it and while each new project along those lines is awful, I do end up making it fun for myself. Most of it has to do with constantly-increasing and unreasonable government regulation to the point of absolute insanity, nothing that anyone should ever have to deal with since it is all negative and destructive and makes me feel that my job is doing nothing but digging holes and then filling them up again and then being asked to dig yet new holes. In other words, in the world of universal meaningfulness, it has no meaning whatsoever…it just keeps our enterprise alive, that is all.

But since I enjoy figuring things out and setting up processes and procedures to solve the issues and to comply with them, I view it as a campaign of sorts, like a military campaign and perhaps organizing a great adventurous journey through “systems”. (It’s sort of how I imagine some people might love writing computer software, except at least in my case, it is slightly less abstract than that.) So once I get into it, or maybe around the time I successfully complete one of these “campaigns”, I realize that it has been fun. (A kind of scary fun, but fun nevertheless.) And THAT amazes people, especially those who are my bosses, or immediate co-workers. “We’re so glad that it is fun for YOU, for us, it would kill us.”

But, is it the best use of my time and talents? Is this the fulfillment of my lifelong dreams? Is this an acceptable way to spend the remaining years of my life until I become frail, senile, unable to care for myself, or dead? No, not at all!

I had thought that this past Christmas break (for which we get, I am most thankful, two whole weeks off…which is in addition to the two whole weeks we get off in the spring and then whatever time we get for vacation in summer, which for me is three weeks), was rather depressing. Looking back at it a month later, now, I see that it actually wasn’t and that what it really was quite wonderful, even though it didn’t conform to what I thought had been my plans for it. But to explain all that, let me just go back to a little more than a year ago, well, actually more than a year ago. This sort of sets the groundwork…maybe!

Let’s go back to October of 2010. The big thing that happened in that month and year was that I became a patient of a particular doctor whom I understood to be a GENIUS in weight loss. Weight, or to be more specific, obesity, was a problem that was very much bothering me. I was after all heading toward weighing 300 pounds (I had actually gotten to 275)…I will let you convert that to whatever other mathematic system communicates those numbers to you. And the problem was, I simply had no idea what to do about it. That was because by then I had tried everything, in fact, so many things that worked reasonably well, but nothing worked perfectly well. And even those things that worked reasonably well were nevertheless a huge struggle…a struggle that actually completely takes over a person’s life during the time that it is going on. And to have all that effort not really BE THE ANSWER is worse than a disappointment; I think it genuinely counts as a form of trauma.

So in the years and months leading to October of 2010, I was a traumatized person. I had doctors of every stripe continually haranguing me over that issue, “You HAVE to lose weight” (as if I needed them to tell me), but my answer back to them was always “you tell me how and I will do it,” and they all would tell me what they THOUGHT was “how”, and I would say, “no, I KNOW that doesn’t work.” So they always knew that I should lose weight, but they never REALLY knew how I should actually do it, but that wouldn’t stop them from making it a constant refrain, so I would “fire” them…that is to say, I would stop going to them and start over again with a new doctor…and then fire him when he got to be too much on that subject. Don’t bother me over something you have no genuine solution for (and you KNOW you have no solution, since not ONE of your patients that you make this demand of is able to do that, and that I can win a bet on).

My attitude was (still is), there IS a way to do it that works, and I think that somewhere deep inside me is the knowledge of what that method will be, but so far I don’t consciously know what it is anymore, but when I hear it, then I will do it.

And that’s what happened prior to October 2010…a friend of mine at work (this happened in August, actually), happened to tell me that she had lost 60 pounds by working with a particular doctor who works in the town where we live, and she described how it worked and something inside me of said that this was IT. She loaned me her copy of the book the doctor had written, and I read it, and I even more knew that it would be the diet that worked, but it also looked like I would be suffering terribly throughout all of it, so it took me from August to October to finally get up the energy to actually go to him and get started with this “misery”.

To my surprise, it really wasn’t miserable at all…in fact, I say to people that it was the easiest and most pleasant weight loss program I had ever been on. Sure, there was always what I think was an emotional sense of deprivation associated with it, but it didn’t feel like physical deprivation. The program was really pretty strict…I was limited to 40 grams of carbohydrates and day and 1,100 calories per day. The theory behind it was that keeping carbohydrate ingestion below 40 grams a day, there would be no insulin response (since there was not an over-abundance of sugars), and with no insulin response, nothing would block the burning of my body fat, and with eating only about half the number of calories that my body needed to sustain itself, the other half would be coming from my own fat stores. It would be like having a constant “IV-drip” of your own body fat, feeding you 24-hours a day, so you would never be hungry. No cravings. No misery. Your own FAT would be making you THIN! (In fact, that was the name of his diet, “Your Fat Will Make You Thin”, although in medical circles, he called it “a Ketogenic Diet”.)

In order to eat like that pretty much meant eating only what I prepared at home. I found that I COULD eat out from time to time by having some kind of meat dish and then vegetables, forgoing all other foods, but that pretty much made eating out not really worth it, so the particular fun of that was out. Also, parties were pretty much impossible; oh, maybe there would be one food item that was acceptable, but usually not, so I pretty much understood that if I went to a party at all, there was going to be no eating and drinking at all. Sure, one can enjoy other things at a party, but essentially, it is the near total elimination of the fun of parties and eating out that contributed to what I refer to as the “emotional” deprivation, when there really was no accompanying “physical” deprivation, since I wasn’t really bodily hungry, per se. I maybe WANTED to eat other stuff, but I didn’t HAVE to.

So, I was losing so much weight on this program, so fast, that it was obvious to any and everyone who ever saw me. The results were exceedingly dramatic and impressive and every day was exciting…looking in the mirror was exciting...constantly moving down in clothing sizes was exciting. Since I work in a school that has around 500 families, I was a very visible weight loss success to a huge number of people. I’d say that every single day I would have three or more different people pointing out the impressive weight loss, asking me about it, saying that they wanted to go on the program, too (but almost nobody ever did actually do it. Maybe about five others attempted it, but only one of those has stuck with it).

I was my doctor’s “star” patient (and, to my knowledge, the ONLY one to ever show any true demonstrable success) to the extent that he would take me as an example to lectures that he would give. He even made a video tape of me that he shows to new or prospective patients. And, I, of course, was floating on cloud nine.

By July of 2011 (I had been on this program for 9 months), I reached the weight of 173 pounds. I had lost 102 pounds. According to my body composition metering scale, I had a fat percentage of 9% and the metabolism of a 14-year old. My body was defined as “athletic”. And I was able to buy “male fashion model sized clothes” at the clothing stores…even the extra-lean or extra-fitted versions of those clothes. So, in clothes, I looked like a million bucks. To me and to everybody else.

By this time, now, my doctor kept haranguing me to “choose a goal weight”. He would say, “Are you there, now?”, or “So, what is your goal weight, 170?” And every time he brought that up, which he brought up once a week since that was the frequency of our medical visits, I’d give him the same answer—“I do not have a goal WEIGHT, I have a goal FAT PERCENTAGE”. According to a fitness calculator that I was going by, I had started out with a fat percentage of something over 30%, which was defined as “Very Poor” for any age (they allow you to have, or expect you to have, more body fat on you the older you get, but even at my age, the oldest age category they had, I was “Very Poor”, so certainly I was “Very Poor” for someone in his 20s). To me, it was unacceptable to be limited by the age categories. Why was I going to go all through this only to be “Excellent” for a man in his 60s? If I’m going to do it, and it looked like I certainly could, I was going to go all the way to the best. And “the best”, to me, meant 6% fat, which was the absolutely lowest fat percentage for any male of any age. I figured I would get down to 6% and then allow the fat to settle up to a healthy 7% when I wasn’t dieting any more.

I told the doctor that I didn’t care so much what the weight number was…whatever I weighed when my body fat percentage became 6%, that would be my “goal weight”. And I expected that ultimately my weight number would increase, but not from fat…I figured I would then want to work on gaining more muscle, so my weight would actually get higher, but I will still have this awesome low fat percentage. But none of that “computed” with him, because, as I viewed it, he was still so old-fashioned that he only thought of “goal weight” when “weight” isn’t the issue, but the amount of FAT is. So we reached an impasse where he could not go any further, in his mind…he’d kind of sit there catatonic like a computer waiting for the next correct instruction input and until it comes, it just freezes. So everything kind of remained in abeyance at that point.

But I didn’t care about his reaction, I only knew what I wanted to do and I set out to continue of the path that had been working so well to achieve that. After all, here was where I stood at that time…I had long ago gotten to an “Excellent” fat percentage for a 60-year-old, which was 20%, and then I had gotten to an “Excellent” fat percentage for a 50 year old (19%), and then to an “Excellent” fat percentage for a 40 year old (17%), and then to an “Excellent” fat percentage for a 30 year old (14%), and even an “Excellent” fat percentage for a 20 year old (10%)…I was 9%. I only wanted to get down 3 more percentage points to “perfection”.

But from July 2011 all the way through to July 2012, one whole year, I did not budge one pound down below the weight of 173 and that fat percentage of 9%. So, was that year, for me, “half full” or “half empty”…was I a success, or a failure? Well, the “keeping my weight off for a whole year” could be considered quite a notable success, so that’s the “cup is half full”. But to me, I was on a painful PLATEAU for over a YEAR, could not LOSE ONE MORE POUND, no matter how dedicated I still was to the diet, not matter how much I still continued to follow it, no matter how much emotional deprivation I was putting up with. And, worst of all, I now had PHYSICAL deprivation. I now was hungry all the time…the meals I was eating felt like “nothing”…I craved to be able to eat like a “normal” person, hadn’t I certainly earned that by NOW? (Well, maybe not like a normal person, but something a bit beyond an eating program that somebody more than a hundred pounds overweight would have to be stuck with…for the rest of my life?)

And the doctor had no advice to offer, at all. He only knew to say the same old stuff over and over again. His advice was outstanding to “get you nearly there,” but that was where it ended.

Then came my trip to French Polynesia, and particularly, to the isolated resort of Raimiti in Fakarava. There at Raimiti there would be no control of the eating. While we would be fed at this resort an hour and a half boat ride away from any other civilization, it was whatever the kitchen there presented to us. No choices at all (they felt that we were lucky that they got supplies way out there at all). Well, there would be one choice, and that was to simply “not eat” certain things, which I don’t think was an acceptable solution. Not for a trip that cost something like $4,000. I’m not going to starve on my vacation. And besides, shouldn’t I be ABLE to more or less eat the things that they serve at a tropical resort with a kitchen run by a French cook? Surely my life did not require me to be forbidden this kind of exotic travel, which I plan to do a whole lot MORE of. This is very different from simply having ones daily working life back home in Los Angeles, where things are more or less dull but for a while I can stand being deprived of elaborate dinners in world class restaurants, and having fun at parties.

I came back from that trip having gained four pounds. And the doctor hit the ceiling. I could not believe his negative reaction. I was described as “a failure”, a “disappointment”; I was his “star patient” and “look what happened” to me, it’s so “embarrasing”; in short, he had to say it, I was “disgusting”. And his final summation was that I needed to be on a “very short leash” because I had “a great will to relapse.”

What is this…I who had lost 102 pounds, gained four pounds on a vacation when I had no choice in the meals presented, and now I am disgusting and have to be kept on a very short leash because I had a “great will to relapse”? What am I, a drug addict?

This man had had nothing of value to offer me for a whole year…he had no solution for a year of hunger, and now he loses his mind because I gain back four pounds, four pounds which I assumed I would burn off in the next couple of weeks.

So I decided that there was no point to going back to him anymore. It would be great to save that money. I didn’t tell HIM that…I simply stopped making any more appointments. Does he notice that I am no longer going to him? What does he think about that? Probably now chalks up his “star patient” as “yet another failure”…like ALL the others.

Okay, now…hold that thought. Is there something else I should have done, instead? Such as…what? Well, I could have decided that I had already lost enough weight, that 9% body fat was low enough for anybody. I could have satisfied him by establishing that my goal weight was 173, and then he would move us into the next phase which was “maintenance”, but which he called “stabilization”, which meant (under some kind of guidance from him) that I would be slowly taken up into increased carbohydrates and increased calories until I started to gain, at which point, I would have then “known” how much I could eat from then on.

But, I simply would NOT have ever thought that I should stop three fat percentage points away from my goal. Why would I? That would be like running a marathon and stopping with my chest just one inch away from the ribbon at the finish line.

It’s more like what HE should have done, such as said, “Well, you’ll burn that extra four pounds off in no time and then we will work on getting that fat percentage down to where you want it”…or else MAYBE he could have said, “I don’t think you CAN get the fat percentage down to 6% unless you are running marathons, but where you are is amazing and awesome. I think you should stay right here, but if you INSIST on going down where you want to go, then I will help you and we will see if it can be done. But I warn you, I think it is going to require some serious changes in the program [I don’t know what they might be…fewer carbs for a while, fewer calories, much expanded exercise?].”

But really, there was nothing he could do, nothing that he KNEW to do, because I DID have the horrible hunger and craving and yet he had no solution for that.

In short, my feeling about that program now, was that he knew how one can get the fat off, but he had no idea how one can keep it off. So, ultimately, his plan was no different than other ones I had followed successfully, but that also never worked at the end.

Because IT IS NOT OKAY to have to follow a starvation diet for the rest of ones life, and to live every day with serious hunger and cravings. Not when there are people who follow no rules at all and remain totally thin (so it IS possible). (Those are these shits who think they know everything there is about weight loss, when in reality, they don’t know any more about it than they know what kind of nutrients are growing on a habitable planet near Alpha Centauri.)

So now I am back to that same place I was before August 2011 (except, thankfully, I am not 102 pounds overweight), not consciously knowing what to do, but still thinking that somewhere INSIDE of me is the answer, I just haven’t “heard” it, yet.

I have tried some other things, though, but haven’t figured out anything conclusive. And the truth is, I would do just about ANYTHING if I had faith that it would actually work and that it was possible to live with forever.

There are some conflicting schools of thought and I have no clear idea which one is the correct one.

School of Thought Number 1: It is all about having a CALORIE DEFICIT. You cannot burn any fat off your body unless you eat fewer calories than you use up. You can create a deficit by eating fewer calories than your body needs, or you can create a deficit by burning more calories than you eat (by exercise), or some combination of both. All this sounds kind of good, until you get very near the end. When you are very obese, it is very simple to create a good fat-burning deficit. There is a big difference between the calories one has been eating to weigh nearly 300 pounds, and the eating that will sustain someone at 150 pounds, so there can be a visible and encouraging weight loss week after week as a person diminishes from that nearly 300 pounds. But when you are nearly at your goal, those few remaining pounds, based on the calorie deficit theory, would take more or less forever to burn off, based on the concept that to lose one pound of fat, you have to have a 3,500 calorie deficit. To lose even one pound a week (if one can stand that slow rate) means that there has to be a calorie deficit of 500 calories a day. That most likely would put a person below their basal metabolic needs (and the 1,100 calories a day I was eating for two years was definitely doing that), which means that their diet is destroying their metabolism. They’re losing weight, sure, but then are putting themselves into the situation of having to always maintain this “below basic needs” calorie eating in order stay there, so of course their body is fighting them tooth and nail about that with all the arsenal it has as its command…hunger, cravings, and storing as fat ANYTHING extra that ever passes beyond those lips. Does one want to REALLY live their whole life battling (and hating) their own body?

School of Thought Number 2: It’s all about making your body healthy, providing it all the nutrients it needs so that it can function humming along energetically and doesn’t feel that it is starving, and once you are healthy and properly nourished for a sustained length of time (say, three to four months), then your body (when it has “faith” in this steady nutritious food supply) will automatically NORMALIZE, as it no longer needs to hang onto this excess fat, which was there because the body felt that you were undernourished. This means that obesity is NOT a sign of eating too much, but is, instead, a sign of eating not ENOUGH of what the body actually needs. Plain old “calories” is not the measurement of that; one can get a LOT of calories in sugar, white bread, pasta, and Coca Cola, for example, but there is not ONE nutrient in all that.

That second school of thought is the more appealing one for many reasons, although it does have a bad side and that is that IF IT IS TRUE, that it was holding onto pounds of fat because it felt like it was in a famine (even if you were “overfeeding”), it is going to make you gain a scary amount of weight during the time you are eating this way (now that it is finally getting some good nutrients, it is going to want to hang onto them), until it feels secure enough to “normalize”.

I really wanted to avoid that “gaining more weight” outcome, but as I was more interested in testing that theory than I was going back on a calorie-deficit diet that I felt had already harmed my metabolism and that would take too long to achieve success with, anyway (by my calculation, two more years of being very hungry with nearly imperceptible success every step of the way). Unfortunately, this HAS definitely caused weight gain, so far, 30, maybe 40 pounds worth (I am, once again, scared to death of the scale), which is very terrible to undergo, and I don’t really have much in the way of clothes that I can now wear (that are comfortable and look reasonably good), plus what I see in the mirror looks horrible, and people have (thankfully) stopped talking about my body, now, because I don’t think the conversation would be GOOD, so I’d rather that they just shut up. And actually, I don’t really want to view myself as a failure (like they probably do) in that what I am really doing is trying to find out what really WORKS, but for the sake of appearance, I am always on the brink of simply going back to the “starvation” method, although I think that is the wrong way to go.

One might want to ask, “how or why were you under-nourished, didn’t you know how to eat healthfully?”

Uhm…does anybody in America know how to eat healthfully, and if they do know, do they actually do it? There is a lot of conflicting buzz about that, too. Such as “everyone” seems to feel that a McDonald’s hamburger is a very unhealthy thing to eat. And it seems that the majority of the people who think this way feel that it is the MEAT that is bad…oh, too much FAT, too many calories, and maybe they will attempt to moderate that by substituting a chicken patty for the beef, or maybe fish, or perhaps even a vegetarian (soy) “burger”. The program that I was on felt that the unhealthy aspect of a McDonald’s hamburger was the BUN (all that white bread), not the meat, and that those various meat substitutes made it the worst of all, especially since the fish was breaded, for example, and soy is not only an excess of carbohydrates, but is also a poisoned GMO (genetically modified organism) product.

Then there is the question of “healthy fats” versus “unhealthy fats”, where the average person maybe thinks that animal fats are bad, but vegetable fats are very healthy. While the program that I was on didn’t distinguish among the various fats, the doctor just wanted you to moderate the fat level (controlled by the calorie restriction more than anything else), but things that I have been reading and believing lately state that almost ALL vegetable oils are horrendously unhealthy and that animal fats are better or at least “okay”, but what would be ESSENTIAL would be animal fats loaded with Omega 3 amino acids, which means certain seafoods or grass-fed animals (natural grass-fed free range beef, wild deer, etc.).

And, of course, “dairy” is extremely controversial, from those who think all dairy is unhealthy and definitely not for adults, to those who will accept it only if it has 0% fat (which in the older days was the waste that the farmers fed to the pigs). The other polarity concerning dairy says that milk is extremely HEALTHY and we need to be drinking a LOT more of it, but only the full-fat kind, and that cream is definitely good to have, not avoid (and butter, too). And for those people, RAW dairy is best of all, which is illegal, now, in most states in the U.S. and “federales” have arrested even farmers who drink raw milk from their OWN cows.

Everybody seems to understand that sugar is bad, but I challenge anyone to completely do without any kind of sweet taste, so, should you use artificial sweeteners that at least have very few, or no, calories? But those seem to be poison, so which do you choose to use, that which will make you fat or that which will cut holes in your brain?

The truth is that no two Americans (or doctors, or nutritionists, or diet book writers, or the government) will agree as to what foods are healthy and which ones are to be avoided, and besides, NO ONE is eating most foods in a natural state since we are no longer hunter/gatherers and very few of us even live on farms, and so our food is preserved, processed, insecticided, antibioticized, growth-hormoned, raised in horrible and unnatural conditions, and even genetically-modified. SO WHO IS ACTUALLY HEALTHY? We may be eating a lot of STUFF (and the more convenient it is, the more likely we are to eat it), but we also may actually be STARVING anyway, so our poor bodies are like squirrels saving nuts for the winter, except for us the nuts are BODY FAT and winter is not always COMING, it is ALWAYS HERE ALREADY.

So that is what we are up against. I am up against. Except I insist that there is a solution and that I can find it.

I can see at this point that I have only just warmed up—the weight loss thing was NOT the main story, here, but rather than write all night at this point, I think it might be better to at least send you this one thing and hope that I do continue this

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