Sunday, May 26, 2013

Here's what I ate today, May 26:

Here's what I ate today, May 26:

• Tofu scramble (peppers and onions), two pieces of Morningstar Farms veggie sausage, two cups of black coffee.
• Grilled chimichanga (black beans, jasmine rice, salsa and soy cheese in a vegan wrap).
• Large iced tea and a banana.
• Chicken, onion, garic, bell pepper, tomato, asparagus, mixed with pasta.

Here's what I physically did today:

• Walked two miles, to Broad Street and back.
• Played my way through a tournament of Real Boxing. My arms, at least, should get more toned.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Here's what I ate today: May 25

  • Scrambled eggs and Swiss cheese on whole grain toast
  • Black coffee
  • Quinoa salad
  • Ribeye steak, roasted broccoli, mac n'cheese
  • Fresh strawberries and ice cream.
Given that I'm trying to go "Vegan Before 6"—which allows some latitude for dinner—this doesn't look like a bad day. I don't need to do ice cream every night, clearly. And I'd like to get to vegan at breakfast soon; something I can make that satisfies my salty craving. Oatmeal doesn't quite do that.

EXERCISE: I spent a chunk of my evening playing "Real Boxing" on my iPad. It captures your motions, like Wii or Kinect, though probably not quite as efficiently. I went 1-4 in my evening boxing career. But I worked up a hell of a sweat doing it. We'll see how my arms feel Sunday to see if this can become an everyday thing right away.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Here's what I ate today: May 24

Spicy pork kimchi rice bowl.
  • Veggie egg whites scramble on whole grain toast
  • Iced latte
  • Kati roll (peas and carrots with heavy Indian spices, wrapped in naan) 
  • Latte, brownie
  • Spicy pork kimchi rice bowl   
I'm imperfect, obviously. Wish I hadn't had the brownie. Trying to figure out how to have coffee that I enjoy tasting that isn't loaded down with milk. Still: The represents progress from a couple of weeks ago. It's more whole-grain and plant-based than I was eating a month ago, much less meat-oriented. Though I haven't been updating here, the truth is we're even eating salads in the evening a couple of nights a week now. And not to repeat this point too often: I haven't had a soda since my talk with the doctor.  I'm turning around, slowly but surely.

Things to work on:
  • Regular exercise.
  • Consistently documenting my food/exercise efforts.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Starting Over: Vegan Before 6

I want to thank everybody who has emailed me in recent days to share their own stories of weight loss, advice, or encouragement. I haven't had time to respond individually to everybody, but my plan is to do so.

One thing I've been spending this first week doing is trying to find a plan that makes sense to me, so that I can apply a bit of rigor to the process instead of "merely" documenting everything I eat and hoping that will magically deliver me. I'm going to start with Mark Bittman's new book, Vegan By 6. Bittman writes about food for the New York Times, has inspired me to get creative in the kitchen, and his approach seems flexible to me. I think I need flexible.

The title suggests the essential plan: Part-time veganism. Before 6, Bittman eats a "super-strict" vegan diet, also getting rid of processed foods and "white" starches in bread and pasta—no alcohol either—and after 6, he eats pretty much whatever he wants, usually but not always in moderation. The result? He lost weight and maintained that loss, dramatically improving his health in the process.

He describes the benefits of "part-time veganism" thusly:

Same here. Veganism isn't an "ethical" choice for me—I grew up among ranchers; I've worked around butcher shops—so this approach seems, well, welcoming. I want to take a positive attitude and approach into this effort. I can maintain that positivity by changing my habits while preserving my freedom of choice.

I worry that I'll offend some friends with this choice: Everybody has an opinion about how to lose weight. My promise to you: I'll try this for a month, maybe longer. But if it doesn't appear to be producing results within a short period of time, I'll stop and try another approach.

It'll be a few days before I officially declare myself a Vegan Before 6. I want to read more deeply into Bittman's book, and in particular get some handy ideas for how to eat at breakfast without, you know, using milk or eggs.

In the meantime, you may notice I've been attempting essentially a "Vegetarian Before 6" routine—not completely rigorously—in order to get a head start. Thus, my meals for today:

May 8

Snack: 2 apples

Breakfast: Veggies and egg whites on ciabatta
Large iced latte with 2 percent milk

Snack: Peanut butter and oats bar from Trader Joe's

Lunch: Salad with goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, onion, pecans, mushrooms, and vinagrette.

Dinner: Steak salad. (Includes peas, corn, cherry tomatoes, cheddar cheese, hard boiled egg, lettuce, and steak. Italian dressing.)

Snack: PB&J  on extremely whole-grain bread.

I've been consciously altering my eating habits. I don't feel deprived. I sure hope this works.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Starting Over: Still Starting

At the same time (and for the same reasons) I've embarked on a mission to lose weight, I've been getting started on medicine to bring my blood pressure down. With it remaining persistently but moderately high, the doctor this week ordered me to double up on the prescription. Today? I was wiped out by a combination of bad headaches, light fever, and unsettled stomach that I understand to be side effects. I took a two-hour nap after work, and woke only because my son was sent to rouse me.

I feel like I'm starting this journey with a series of mistakes and excuses.

But my body really is doing the thing it's doing today. So I'm going to celebrate one thing: Consistency of effort is not going to be easy to come by. But I haven't had a soda in a week. So. That's something. Just gotta string a few more somethings together.

May 7

Weigh-in: --
Exercise: --

Breakfast: Bacon, egg and cheese on croissant
Large iced coffee with skim milk

Snack: Strawberry protein smoothie

Lunch: Qdoba veggie grilled burrito (brown rice, wheat tortilla, black beans, grilled squash, pico sauce, cheese, lettuce, guac.)

Snack: Trail mix (peanuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, carob chips)

Dinner: Two bowls of "Tex Mex mix"—beef, beans, Rotel, and spice—over corn chips.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Starting Over: Day Three

If am to be successful, I need to figure out how to deal with stress, anger, rage, and general grumpiness without eating a large bag of potato chips.

I don't wanna talk about it.

May 6, 2013

Weigh-in (doc's office): 279 lbs

Exercise: 1.48 miles of around-town walking.

Breakfast: Veggie sausage, egg, cheese on toast
Iced coffee with skim milk

Um...Breakfast two:
Iced latte with 2 percent milk
Egg white and cheese sandwich on whole grain

Lunch: Small bowl leftover chicken brown/wildrice

Snack: Cup of trail mix.

Snack: Greek yogurt

Snack: Salt-n-vinegar chips (ooooooh no!)

Dinner: Three bowls of salad (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, cheddar, hard-boiled egg, Italian dressing)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Starting Over: Day Two

A bit more than a decade ago, after 9/11, I lost a bunch of weight. It made me happy, I felt confident, and not coincidentally—from both a pants-size perspective and confidence perspective—I dated more during that period than at any other time in my single life. It was great. And all I did was two things:

• I spent an hour on the treadmill at least four days a week.
• I quit soda cold turkey.

That's it. I ate whatever I wanted, and sometimes still ate too much. And I wasn't what you'd call slim: I'm never going to be what you call slim, I don't think. But I slimmed-down. It was awesome. And except for that hour a day on the treadmill—set at its highest hill settings, making me sweat like crazy—relatively easy.

(Why did I quit? I got sick—sick with what now seems likely to have been a precursor to the diverticulitis that took me out in 2011. That at least consoles me on one level: If I got sick when I was fit, the illness was probably more genetic than God's retribution on me for living my sinfully excessive lifestyle. It took me more than a month to recover, and I never quite got back on the treadmill with the same vigor I previously had.) 

While I'm figuring out what my food consumption will look like—and thanks to all the many of you who have written me with your stories and advice—there are two things I know I can do: Give up the soda. And devote an hour of my day to moving.

The second might sound difficult: I think I have to let it not be. For example: My wife was in Maryland today on a previously scheduled trip, leaving me to take care of our son. That doesn't exactly scream "gym time," does it? But the great thing about living in Center City Philadelphia is that if you want to get moving, all you have to do is go somewhere and not take the bus.

So Tobias walked out to get lunch and coffee today. By the time we made it home, we'd covered nearly two miles. Was I sweating? No. Did I move? Yes. Something is better than nothing.

Tomorrow: Another doctor's appointment!

May 5

Weigh-in: None

Exercise: City walking with Tobias: 1.93 miles

Spinach-mushroom quiche
Iced coffee, splash of half-and-half

Cup of wasabi peas

Lunch: (Easily the worst-chosen meal of my twodays so far. Mediocre and flavorless)
Falafel wrap (includes rice, roasted red pepper, sauce)
Hummus with red peppers, olives, garlic/pita

Snack :
Iced coffee, splash of half and half

Two bowls of brown/wild rice, topped with tomato-basil marinated chicken

Addendum: A finger of Laphroaig scotch, two squares of dark chocolate. I'm not going to be an ascetic.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Starting Over: Day One

Clearly chunky. Lucky for me
the black T-shirt has slimming qualities.
Thanks to everybody who contacted me today, either through the comments here, my Facebook page, or via email, to encourage me and offer advice. I'm only a day into my weight-loss mission: One thing I haven't done yet is figured out how I'll do it. There are as many approaches as, well, people who have lost weight.

I'm averse to strict calorie-counting—though it may be the way I have to go ultimately. I know from previous attempts that calorie counting actually made me obsessed with food. It's not wrong to think about what you're eating or how much; the calorie-counting process, though, triggers something in me that to think about food constantly, when I'm eating, when I'm not eating, mostly wishing I was eating. It actually works against healthy weight loss for me, I think.

But: It may ultimately be that I have to calorie count in order to accomplish this.

I'll be exploring the merits of several plans in coming weeks. I want something that's more than just a crash diet, but a new lifestyle that I can somewhat comfortably maintain. In the meantime, I'll be documenting my exercise and eating, anyway, just as a way of beginning to be mindful.

So. Here goes.

Weight: 281 lbs

Exercise: 60 minutes on elliptical, 3.02 miles

Bowl of Kashi GoLean cereal
Mixed in with cup of honey Greek yogurt
3 small cups of coffee, two of which had a splash of half and half.

Snack: 1biggish apple
Snack: Baby carrots and hummus

Lunch: Veggie Wrap from Almaz Cafe

Snack: Two cups of wasabi dried peas

Dinner: Two bowls of salad: Lettuce, chicken, tomatoe, broccoli, asparagus, some small chunks of cheddar, Italian dressing.

There may be an after-dinner snack later. If so, I'll put on an addendum. You can see where the emphasis is, though: Heavy on veggies. I had maybe a quarter-pound of chicken in the salad, but probably not even that much. What's more: I feel fine. Did I lose weight today? No idea. But thinking about what I'm doing is already changing what I'm putting in my body. Hopefully that counts for something.

Starting over

So the blog is about to take a left turn, for reasons that will become apparent. 

I keep thinking I've bottomed out. I keep finding not.

Let's get up to speed very quickly: Two years ago this week, I went into hospital with stopped-up bowels. Turned out I had diverticulitis, a nasty infection on top of that, and was about to die. They performed a colostomy on me.

Two months later, the doctors did a second surgery: A colon recission. That means they shortened up my colon. In practice, it meant cutting out old dead colon that had wrapped itself around my bladder. Oh, and: They punctured my bladder during the surgery.

The colostomy, for what it's worth, created a hernia. And the doctors tried to fix that hernia when they reversed my colostomy in November 2011. But the fix didn't take. Today, I'm overweight AND lumpy in a way that being merely overweight doesn't describe. A CT scan a few months ago shows I basically have no abdominal wall between my belly button and my sternum. Oh, and I weigh 280 pounds—this being a chicken-and-egg thing: Am I *this* fat because I can't exercise much ( get tired, and frankly sit-ups are out of the question) or do I not exercise much because I'm fat?

Doesn't matter. A surgeon told me yesterday he won't operate to fix me because, at this weight, there's an 85 percent chance the repair would fail. He wants to see me in three months. He wants me to lose 50 pounds. And if I can't do it the old fashioned way, then I need to look at "surgical" methods for dropping the weight. For my health.

So that's the story. I'm 40, fat, and herniated like a motherfucker. And I don't really have many good stories to tell about how I got this way. I've spent a lifetime making undisciplined, mediocre choices. Now I find I'm falling apart. "You can't continue to live at that weight," the doctor told me. He's right. So what the hell do I do?

I'm giving myself a month to see if I can start to lose that weight in a natural and meaningful way, before I call the weight-loss surgeon he named. I'm not entirely sure  how it's going to happen. I think it means an hour on the treadmill or eliptical, every day. I think it means no more cheeseburgers, wings, pizza, sausage breakfast sandwiches. I think it means weighing myself every goddamned day. I think it means tracking every thing I eat. I'm not sure I can be a strict calorie counter. I've done that before, and it drives me nuts.

But this is where I start. This is how I start. I'm a freelance writer. I largely shape the schedule I work. My son is in school so I don't have to drag him around during the day. I'm on the road very little. If anybody has the space in their life to reshape their eating and exercise habits, it's me. So, fuck it, it's time.

I'm a compulsive oversharer. Everybody who knows me knows this. I'm aware of this. But it's not easy for me to share this stuff, because it reveals me to be weak in a lot of ways I don't want to be seen as weak in public. This is humiliating. But I suspect I'm going to need support and ideas from people.

I want to be a vigorous and vital partner to my wife for decades to come. I want to be an active and energetic dad for my son for as long as I can. I want to live, and live with a good quality of life, instead of quickly crumbling to an early grave. This is where it starts. I'm out of delays, out of excuses, out of time.

Starting today—later today—I'll post what I'm eating and how I'm exercising at the end of each day. I don't expect a huge audience for this. But I am interested in hearing from folks. I guess I'm crowdsourcing my survival.