How Did You Do It?
This is, by far, the most common question I've been asked, especially as the weight loss has become more obvious, and the number of pounds has increased to 30, 40, and 50 pounds or more. To me, everyone sounds the same when they ask the question, but once I give the short version of my answer, it becomes obvious that the people asking the question usually fall into one of two groups.
One group asking me how I've lost this much weight this (relatively) quickly hears my answer and kinda nods, as if to say, "Yeah, that makes sense." Some of those folks, I think, may have also been asking purely to be polite and may not be terribly interested in the answer, but either way - they don't hear anything shocking.
The other group, however, does seem shocked, and in some cases, either disappointed or disbelieving - or both. Some of these folks basically say, "Oh" and quickly lose interest. I'm not a mind reader, but what I am is a fat guy who has been fat for a very long time, and I know when I used to ask, "How did you lose all that weight" what I was hoping to hear was that the lucky person had found some trick or some gimmick or some easy way to make the weight fall off. And they never had - not for serious weight loss, and certainly not for weight they had lost and were keeping off.
My Answer to the Question
The very short, detail light version is I'm eating less and much better than I ever have.
The longer version is that I am eating a mostly plant-based diet, and over time, the more I've done that, the better I've felt and the more weight I continue to lose.
A Brief Side Note on Math
Look, losing weight alone doesn't have to be complicated. I've lost 10-30 pounds before eating anything from low carb to doesn't matter by doing one thing - restricting calories. As my primary doc puts it, weight loss is math - burn more calories than you consume and you lose weight. And in a vacuum, that's true. If I eat 1800-2000 calories of Krispy Kreme donuts every day, I'll lose weight. My blood sugar would go through the roof, but I'd lose weight. I focused as much on controlling calories for the first couple of months of this journey as I did on what I ate, dutifully entering or estimating the foods I ate into MyFitnessPal. And the math worked - no doubt about it. But I've been down this road before and every other time, at some point, I made a decision to stop working the math and just eat what I wanted - first every now and then, later more often, and eventually all the time. Turns out the math works for weight gain too.
My Answer Continued
I walked out of Dr. Shreve's nutrition class at the end of April with some guidance I'll detail below, and with a tentative commitment to follow it. I told myself and him that I would work on it, but that I felt like I needed to work up to it, partly because the guidance seemed extreme to me back then, and partly because we had a house full of food that we'd already paid for that didn't fit the plan. We also had a habit of eating out at least 5-6 nights a week - something I foolishly thought we'd be able to keep up if I just made better choices. We were also going on vacation a few weeks after that class, and at that time, I couldn't imagine taking a diet with me on vacation - who does, right?
So I spent the first month partially working the plan Dr. Shreve laid out for me, and partially either ignoring it (vacation) or trying to kid myself into thinking eating 2000 calories of pasta or frozen processed food was OK as long as I made a smoothie in the morning.
The good thing for me is, it worked well enough to motivate me to keep working at it and make better choices moving forward. We scaled back going out to eat - eventually reducing it to once a week for dinner. I cut out bread and pasta almost every night except for a couple of months where we experimented with a meal kit service called Blue Apron. I may have more to say on Blue Apron later, but while we liked it (read my wife's review of it at her blog), we eventually cancelled the service because I didn't want to eat all the animal products most of their offerings contain, and it's too expensive to just get their vegetarian options.
So am I a Vegan Now?
Kinda. Most of the time, anyway. It might make a full-time vegan mad for me to put it that way, but I'd say 6 days a week, sometimes more, rarely less, yeah, I'm eating a vegan diet. More details on how that's progressed in another post, but in a nutshell I can't argue with the results I've seen and the research I've read these last couple of months about the benefits of eating a plant-based diet.
The results in a nutshell are I'm down more than 50 pounds, my blood pressure is normal, my blood sugar is fine, and my cholesterol dropped 50 points. So yeah, I'm going to keep doing this, and I don't see this as something I'm ever going to stop doing.
The Basics of my Meal Plan
I scanned the handout I received at Dr. Shreve's nutrition class at the end of April. If you're familiar with Joel Furhman's Eat to Live book / plan, you would find this very similar, and, in fact, Dr. Shreve has several of Furhman's books available for purchase.
Start with the daily 5 healthy habits:
1. A large salad every day
2. At least a half-cup serving of beans/legumes in soup, salad, or a dish once daily
3. At least 3 fresh fruits a day
4. At least one ounce of raw nuts and seeds a day
5. At least one large (double-size) serving of steamed green vegetables daily
Avoid these 5 most deadly foods:
1. Barbecue, processed meats, or commercial red meat
2. Fried foods
3. Full-fat dairy (cheese, ice cream, butter, whole milk or 2% milk) or trans fat (margarine)
4. Soft drinks, sugar, or artificial sweetner
5. White flour products
Eat as much as you want:
- Cooked green and non-green nutrient-rich vegetables (goal: 1 lb daily; non-green nutrient-rich vegetables are eggplant, mushrooms, peppers, onions, tomatoes, carrots, cauliflower)
- Beans, legumes, bean sprouts, and tofu (goal: 1 cup daily)
- Fresh Fruits (at least 4 daily)
Cooked Starchy Vegetables or Whole Grains:
- Butternut or acorn squash, corn, white potatoes, rice, sweet potatoes, bread, cereal (not more than one serving, or 1 cup per day)
- Raw nuts and seeds (1 oz max per day)
- Avocado (2 oz max per day)
- Dried Fruit (2 tablespoons max per day)
- Ground Flaxseeds (1 tablespoon max per day)
- Dairy Products
- Animal Products
- Between-meal Snacks
- Fruit Juice
Dr. Shreve also provided a sample meal suggestion for each meal of the day.
Daily Diet Outlook
1/2 Cup Rice Milk (You may also use Almond Milk, Soy Milk, or Hemp Milk)
10 Raw Cashews (You may also use Walnuts, Brazil Nuts, or Almonds)
2 Cups of Spinach, Kale, or Arugula
1 Fresh Banana
1/2 Cup Fresh Pineapple
1/2 Cup Fresh Berries (You may use frozen - no sugar added)
1 Large Green Salad:
- 2 Greens: Romaine Lettuce, Spinach, Kale, Chard, Collards, Arugula, Watercress, or Mustard Greens
- Fresh vegetables: Raw Carrots, Cucumbers, Bell Peppers, Tomatoes, and/or other vegetables
- Homemade Dressing - get from Dr. Shreve
- 1/2 Cup of Dark Beans: Black Beans, Red Kidney Beans, Adzuki Beans, Pinto Beans, or Navy Beans
1 Large Green Salad (Same as Lunch)
1/2 Cup of Dark Beans: Black Beans, Red Kidney Beans, Adzuki Beans, Pinto Beans, or Navy Beans
2 Cups of Steamed Vegetables
Try to use 10 grams of:
- Mushrooms: White Button, White Stuffing, Cremini, Portobello, Reishi, Maitake, Shitake, Chanterelle, Babby Button, Oyster, or Wood Ear
- Onions: Scallions, Green Onions, Red Onions, Yellow Onions