Sunday, November 24, 2013

Paul Epstein's Diet Challenge -- 2 Day Diet

Beginning weight 11/3/13: 209 lbs.
Height 5'8" Age: 61
Goal weight: 165 lbs.
Total loss goal: 44 lbs.
Beginning waist size: 43 in.
Current waist size: 42 in.
Weight end of week 3: 198
Gain/Loss this week: -1lb.
Total Gain/Loss: -11 lbs.

First, a moment to revel in the glory of a third week of weight loss and a cessation of cravings, a better understanding of hunger, and, for the first time in probably thirty years, a sense that I have control of my ultimate weight. The 2-Day Diet: Diet Two Days a Week, Eat Normally for Five by Dr. Michelle Harvie and Professor Tony Howell is the book that has inspired me to -- pick your metaphor for diet: 'lose weight,' 'watch my weight', 'change my eating habits', 'adopt a healthy relationship with food' (I like that one today--it reminds me of the way many people are attracted to others who are dangerous or at least 'not good for them'). I heard about this diet on The People's Pharmacy, a radio show carried on West Virginia Public Radio. Dr. Harvie, a research dietician at a breast cancer center in U.K., was a guest on Saturday, November 2. I was so inspired by her scientific approach that I looked it up online, bought the book for my Kindle, started reading, and started my 'new eating regimen' the next day.

First, the 2-Day Diet is NOT a fasting diet or the "5-2 diet" that suggest you stop eating for x number of hours a day or severely limit your calorie intake a couple days a week, but eat however you want the rest of the week. Basically, the 2-Day diet consists of two "low carb" days and the rest of the week you are to adopt a Mediterranean Diet. In the language of the book, the low carb days are "restricted days," and the others, "unrestricted", which I find somewhat disingenuous, because it is certainly not an invitation to eat as much as you want of whatever you want those days. I would call the rest of the week, "balanced healthy eating" days. True, you are not restricted from eating any of the food groups, but you must restrict the types of foods and the amounts, otherwise you'll gain back the weight you lose on the low carb days.

If, like me, you've been struggling with your weight for some time, at one time or another you've probably tried or known someone who has tried a low carb diet. The (usually described as controversial) Atkins Diet is the best known example of that. This low carb diet, at least when I tried it and lost 25 pounds in the early 1990's, allows you to eat as much protein and fat as you want, but severely restricts your carbohydrate intake. The biochemistry of this is that without the carbs, your body cannot process the protein and fats, so they pass through. Your body is essentially being starved, so it turns to your stored body fat for energy. You lose weight. But there are potential risks to health in this regimen, and it's not a good sustainable diet for several reasons. First, there is some danger of damaging kidneys (you have to drink a lot of water to flush toxins), losing muscle tissue if a dieter runs out of fat to burn, and increased risk of heart disease and cancer from over-reliance on meats and fats. But probably the worst thing is that it does not teach you a long term healthy eating strategy. When I was on the Atkins diet, though my hunger was reduced because of the chemistry, I actually recall feeling kind of repulsed by the food I was eating after awhile, and I was craving carbohydrates. After going off the diet and bringing carbs back in, I found I was still used to eating the fats and proteins, but now I had my old carbohydrate cravings back. Within a couple years I'd gained it all back despite going back on the low carb regimen a couple times to try to control it.

The Two-Day Diet takes advantage of the fat burning advantages of carb restrictions, while avoiding the dangers of the Atkins Diet. First, during the low carb days you are given limits on the amounts and types of protein and fat you consume. Though the biochemistry might allow one to eat unlimited proteins and fats and still lose weight, that's not a healthy approach. Small portions of fish, lean meats, or beans, some dairy, plenty of vegetables, a very limited amount of fruit, these are what you are allowed on the "restricted," low carb days. As I've written in previous posts, I have not found it difficult to stay within these limits. The rest of the week, you add healthy whole grain carbohydrates in, and many of the limits stay in place. Rather than counting calories, you are allowed a certain number of "servings" of each food group.  I put 'servings' in quotes because, at least to me, in many cases it would take 2 or 3 of the portion sizes they call 'servings' of something to make a meal. But, for my age and weight, I am allowed up to 11 carb servings and 14 protein servings on healthy eating days. The serving sizes of a fairly wide range of foods is provided.

So, the two days of low-carb eating (it is suggested, but not required that the two days be consecutive) are weight loss days, but the quick biochemical shift your body makes from burning available carbs for fuel to burning stored fat does not put your body at risk like the extended periods suggested in the Atkins Diet. The rest of the week I think of as weight maintenance. This is the process of learning to eat in a healthy sustainable way. Dr. Harvie says, and my experience confirms, that the participants in her studies tended to restrict their eating more than the guidelines require on the "unrestricted" days. Success breeds success, and success in controlling hunger and losing weight after so many years of feeling helpless to do so is liberating. Because of this, many lost more than the expected 1-2 pounds per week. And so have I!

PS: This week I put copies of the book, "The Two-Day Diet.." in the mail to several friends who took my challenge and promised that if the diet worked for me, they would try it. I wish them the best of luck, and if they are successful as well, I will encourage them to let me know or post their results on Facebook or here. While I'm not buying more books to give away, if you've tried and failed in weight loss efforts, I encourage you to buy the book. It's inexpensive, easy to read, and contains charts and lists of foods that will help you get started. Good luck!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Paul Epstein's Diet Challenge - Week 2

Beginning weight 11/3/13: 209 lbs.
Height 5'8" Age: 61
Goal weight: 165 lbs.
Total loss goal: 44 lbs.
Beginning waist size: 43 in.
Current waist size: 42 in.
Weight end of week 2:  199
Gain/Loss this week: -3 lbs.
Total Gain/Loss: -10 lbs.

When I announced on Facebook that I was starting this diet (see Paul Epstein's Diet Challenge ), I got pushback from a couple friends about the dangers, or at least the unhealthy aspects, physically and/or emotionally, about dieting. "Diets not only DON'T work, they often lead to a greater rebound gain... they can be the gateway to some people developing life threatening eating disorders," said one, a nurse, pointing out that genetics and body type play a large role in weight and the BMI charts should be ignored. And a Wellness Coach advised, "Your body knows when it's hungry and when it's satisfied. If you're eating more food than you need, deal with why." To them I say, you're right, but the fact is, in order to 'change my eating habits' (I'm experimenting with euphemisms for 'diet'), and begin to recognize what my body is telling me about hunger, I needed a 'plan for a new way of eating.' I've never been prone to anorexia or bulimia, but I have set moderate weight loss goals (the upper end of the recommended weight for my height and age), and will trust that if my friends see me starving myself or threatening my health, they will make an intervention.

As my second week of my 'new relationship with food' begins, I'm still thinking about hunger (and wondering if as my 'new approach to eating' becomes an old approach, hunger will always be the main topic ;). During week one, I came to the realization that for years the feeling I had been identifying as hunger was not true hunger. "How could you be hungry? You just ate a half-hour ago?" Those words just popped into my head--the words of my mother, rest in peace. She well knew how, though, because she'd struggled with her weight all her life. Anyway, the false hunger I felt might have been feelings of a not quite full stomach. I don't say an empty stomach, because I rarely let that condition occur. Yes, I suppose in the morning my stomach is usually empty. But I never stopped to ask my myself why I was not ravenously hungry in the morning.

The next lesson I am learning in this 'course on eating right' is what it means to be full. I have long known that I eat too fast. Sometimes I've off-handedly attributed it to teaching in an elementary school for twenty-five years and having only about 20 minutes for lunch, but the fact is, I've always eaten fast. "Chew your food before you swallow!" Maybe it was an effort to escape the unpleasantness of dinners at the family table or to get my share (I'm joking: there was always plenty, and more often than not family dinners were, well, family dinners--sometimes unpleasant and sometimes uproariously funny). It takes fifteen or twenty minutes for your brain to register the fullness of the stomach, so eating quickly allows one to overeat without feeling it right away. Later, you find yourself wondering, "Why did I eat so much?"

Since I'm now deciding before I eat just how much I'm going to allow myself to eat at this sitting (and since that amount is considerably less than I used to put on my plate for a first serving in the past: and, trust me, I've always been a member of the clean plate club), I find that I am eating more slowly and trying to stretch the amount of time I have to enjoy this limited amount of food. When my plate is empty, I don't feel full, but I have almost always felt satisfied, or at least that my hunger was assuaged. If, after a half hour or so I begin to feel hunger or a distressing lack of fullness, I have a small snack (usually fruit, vegetable, dairy, or nuts). So this lesson on fullness seems to be that to feel full is not the goal of healthy eating. Fullness may be a sign of having eaten more than one needs. Now, before you jump in and say, but you're eating less than you need, that's why you're losing weight, I have to reveal a bit about my 'weight loss plan'. It involves a different balance of food groups on certain days than others, and most of the weight loss is intended to occur on those days, while the rest of the week is more or less a 'weight maintenance plan,' that is intended to be a healthy way of eating after you've reached your goal weight. And, if I continue to be successful on this plan for another week or so, I'll be revealing that plan and recommending the book (even buying the book for a few people who have decided to commit to trying it out if I'm successful).

So how has week two gone? As expected, not as dramatically as week one. Maintaining last week's loss would have been success, even regaining a couple pounds wouldn't have put me off my goal of losing 1-2 pounds per week. And indeed, my weight remained pretty even all week, showing a pound or two loss on some mornings, regaining that pound or two on some. Adding a pound at mid-week. The important thing is that the cravings I felt during week one have receded, and my feelings of hunger have greatly diminished. It gets easier every day to eat less and feel satisfied. In fact, that helped me buckle down and cheat on my diet a little on Saturday in preparation for my Sunday morning weight check: I cheated by eating less than allowed and ended up losing three pounds. I felt very empty when I awoke at 5:00 am, but the oatmeal with 1/2 banana and a few walnuts, olive oil based butter substitute (is margarine a bad word?), and Stevia sweetener were every bit as satisfying and delicious as any breakfast I've ever had.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Paul Epstein's Diet Challenge: Week 1

Beginning weight 11/3/13: 209
Height 5'8" Age: 61
Goal weight: 165
Total loss goal: 44 lbs.
Beginning waist size: 43 in.
Current waist size: 42 in.
Weight end of week 1:  202
Gain/Loss this week: -7 lbs.
Total Gain/Loss: -7 lbs.

I started this odyssey Sunday morning, November 3rd. It wasn't the ideal time to start a new (pick your euphemism) diet, weight loss regimen, healthy eating plan, lifestyle adjustment. A relative had died, there was family in town, there would be restaurant dinners Sunday and Monday and a lot of finger foods. But such is life. I had not finished reading the book (I'm choosing not to reveal the book/diet name until I decide if it's working for me), so I had only a hazy idea of what the diet entailed. At the restaurants, I didn't worry about how the food was prepared, but knowing it was going to be higher fat than what I fix at home. I just did my best to eat in moderation and avoid the obvious culprits. By Tuesday morning, the scale said I had lost 1/2 pound. But Tuesday and Wednesday I got serious.

Tuesday was a little tough. The diet plan I am following calls for certain restrictions at times (oh, you thought I'd found a diet that allows me to eat whatever I want whenever I want?), and I had cravings. But celery and salsa, a few walnuts, an apple, or a little yogurt got me through the hard moments. By Thursday morning I'd seen dramatic progress: 5 pounds lost. But I also woke early and really hungry. I ended up having two breakfasts, both smaller than I might have had in the past, and all of it "allowable" food. Really, they were probably smaller than snacks I was eating last week on a regular basis. You know, the food that doesn't count. It was getting easier. I was taking care on portion sizes, which in the language of the book seem incredibly small, until I realized a "serving" was really just sort of a measurement tool--you were allowed enough servings during the day of most food groups that you could easily have 2 or 3 "servings" of, say, chicken at a meal without having to forgo protein the rest of the day.

On Friday I had a realization about hunger. I haven't always been obese. In fact, though I've known for several years that the charts say I am, I still have trouble acknowledging that I fit that word. I see myself as overweight, chunky. I have a stocky build, lots of muscle, which I've read, is heavier. When I look at the BMI charts, I think, "That might not apply to me." Okay, maybe it's healthy to have good self-esteem. Anyway, though I haven't always been obese, I've been overweight  much of my life, and obese by definition the last twenty years or so. My realization about hunger is that we obese folks define any mildly unfilled feeling in our belly as hunger. As soon as we feel "hungry" we begin to think about what we're going to eat next to fill it again. If a meal is too distant (like more than fifteen or twenty minutes), we want a bite of something…now. Then a bite turns into a snack, and maybe we turn on the tv and mindlessly put whatever it is we got out to snack on in our mouths.

So I continued to do that the first few days of the diet, only the snack was measured and healthy, and twenty minutes later, and sometimes even while snacking, the feeling which I'd interpreted as "hunger" was still present. I realized it wasn't hunger. Sort of a dull ache, only the word ache means pain, and as I thought about it, and felt it, I realized it wasn't pain, it wasn't an ache, it was….emptiness. The feeling of an empty stomach is something I hadn't allowed myself to feel in years, because if I did get in a situation where I had no access to food, my mind would start creating fantasies about what and when I'd next eat and start yearning for food; it manufactured the idea of hunger. How many times have I had that feeling, and said to myself, "I'm hungry." Literally! A voice in my head saying, I'm hungry. Well, I'm turning it off. I'm going to learn to live with an empty stomach. Maybe at first only for a half-hour or forty-five minutes, but maybe, like building up a muscle, I can learn to expand it. We'll see. If I can't, so be it. I'll just have to stick to the smaller, healthier snacks. That's really not so bad.

And so, my friends, it's Sunday morning and I feel successful. But I also feel determined not to allow one week of dramatic weight loss to lull me into complacency. I've been here many times before. The first pounds are easy (and in the long run, keeping it off is really all that matters). So, it's off to fix a (small) bowl of oatmeal with maybe a half apple and sweetened with 0 calorie magic powder (the natural kind). I will report again next week!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Paul Epstein's Diet Challenge

Friends and Family,
          This is going to sound like a commercial; for that I apologize in advance, but I'm not following a script and stand to gain nothing except (I hope) better health for myself and my friends. No secret, I've been overweight for years. I am not a serial dieter, but have tried a few over the years, and like most people, I've lost some weight on diets (up to 25 lbs. over a period of months of dieting) only to gain it back. In the last 20 years (ages 40-60) I've been between 192 and 212 pounds. I'm currently 209. According to the "Ideal Weight Calculator" at my ideal weight is between 150-165 for my age depending on which of five best known formulas you agree with. Taking the top number, I would have to lose 44 pounds to reach it. Today, I am beginning a diet plan that I heard a doctor/researcher talk about on the radio. I bought the book and have only read the introduction, but I've decided to follow it and make it public (the public part has nothing to do with the doctor or book's recommendations, just something I've decided).
              According to the book, in clinical studies, the average amount of weight lost using this plan was 14 pounds in three months. Therefore, if I follow the diet, I should be able to lose 44 pounds in about 9 months (by August 2014). Now, here's the point of this post. From what I've read, this diet, which in terms of what you eat takes from other well-known popular diets, but what makes it different is that more people can stick to it, shed the pounds, and keep them off over time. So, while I'm not telling you what the diet is, friends, I want to issue a challenge. IF this diet works for me (I will post my weight weekly), I challenge you to make a commitment (if you feel you would be healthier by losing some weight) to try it out if it works for me. You can make that commitment by replying here publicly (or later to one of my diet updates) or in a private message or e-mail to me. If you make the commitment, and if I am successful, I will buy you the book (at least for the first 100 people who accept my challenge). I'll decide by February 1, 2014 if the diet is something I can support, and if I'll therefore purchase the books by then if I do.
              So, do you accept Paul Epstein's diet challenge? I'm going to post this to my blog as well…whether you take the challenge or not, need to lose weight or not, please wish me luck with a comment and cheer me on, because, after all, surely all of may friends and family would like me to be healthier and (presumably) live a longer and happier life.

note: I ended up with purchasing 8 books for friends and mailed them out before I made my announcement on 11/24/13. The book is titled, The 2-Day Diet: Diet Two Days a Week, Eat Normally for Five by Dr. Michelle Harvie and Professor Tony Howell

Friday, November 1, 2013

Open Letter to Congresswoman Capito

Dear Mrs. Capito,
         I received your response to my letter urging you to break ranks with your party and vote to end the government shutdown without delay. I find your response to be disingenuous, and my response is threaded into yours in italics.

Dear Mr. Epstein:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding government operations and a continuing resolution; it was good to hear from you and I appreciate the opportunity to learn your views on this issue. 

I wonder how many of your constituents have asked you to work with Democrats to move the country forward instead of voting with Tea Party Republicans to hold back the economy. I have written several times, but you have not seemed to listen. 

As you know, due to the failure to pass a continuing resolution before the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2013, many operations of the federal government were forced to close. Before the shutdown took place, I voted three times to avoid a government shut down by passing a continuing resolution.   Both before and throughout the shutdown, I have encouraged my colleagues to negotiate in a bipartisan way to address the fiscal issues facing our nation while keeping the government open.

Who is responsible for the failure of Congress to pass a continuing resolution or negotiate a workable budget before September 30? You and your Republican colleagues, Mrs. Capito. You voted three times to pass continuing resolutions that could not pass the Senate and would not be signed the president. You voted not to fund the government unless Democrats agreed to defund the Affordable Care Act and keep millions of Americans from enjoying the benefits of affordable health insurance. Your votes cost the American people billions of dollars, slowed the economy, damaged our credibility around the world, and hurt families. You never spoke out against the shutdown or against those Republicans who almost drove us into default on our debt.

I believe there is a consensus among the American people that the shutdown has gone on too long and I am happy to inform you that I voted in favor of bipartisan legislation to reopen the government. Congress is supposed to be about fixing problems and negotiating to a better end, not hurting the well-being of the constituents we represent because of party differences.

Mrs. Capito, one day of government shutdown would have been too long. The consensus of the American people was clear before the shutdown began: it was a bad idea and would damage the economy; yet you voted multiple times to place unacceptable conditions on reopening government.. Have you finally learned that Congress is supposed to fix problems and negotiate? Then speak out against your colleagues who refuse to! You voted to reopen the government only when you realized the favorability ratings of your party had reached an all time low of 22%.  Do you think we should be proud of you for voting to keep the country functioning for a couple months after having shut it down for three weeks?

The bipartisan agreement funds federal government programs through January 15, 2014 and lifts the debt ceiling through February 7, 2014.  This legislation also includes back pay to furloughed federal workers, and requires income verification for those seeking health-insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.

Why did you and your colleagues vote to pay federal employees for not working during the shutdown? Perhaps you realized that they are working hard for the American people despite the fact that you treated them with such disrespect by refusing to do your job and pass a budget in a timely fashion. Though for years you have been voting for extreme Republican budgets that defund many important government programs, during the shutdown you voted for bills to fund them, though not to fully fund the government and stop the shutdown.

I will continue to work with my colleagues to resolve ongoing fiscal issues and work to minimize the remaining effects of the shutdown on West Virginians. Again, thank you for contacting me. I look forward to hearing from you again soon and invite you to visit my website for further information and to sign up for my e-mail newsletter. It is an honor to serve you.
         Forgive me if I don’t believe you at this point. If you want to represent the interests of your constituents, you should renounce your Republican colleagues and join the Democratic Party, or at least announce your independence. You and your Republican colleagues have sabotaged the American economy through intransigence and refusal to compromise costing millions of jobs and, it has been estimated, nearly a trillion dollars in revenues that might have been generated had you not voted time and again for policies that slowed growth. If you see me, it will not be visiting your website, it will be carrying a sign outside your office and shouting “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Shelley Capito must go!”