On my year of living less dangerously…
Aug 4, 2012: At my first clinical visit in years (for an unrelated swollen joint issue), my new doctor notes the routine weight and blood pressure reading. "30 pounds overweight, and a BP of 170/110… you're about 2 to 3 years away from having a stroke or something more drastic. Is that what you want?"
This was the beginning of my wake-up call. I had been obese (by any standard) for most of my adult life, and at least "chubby" (as we called it) from my earliest years of elementary school up through my late 20s. My mom is also overweight, and I joined her as she tried various calorie counting and restricting plans (Weight Watchers, TOPS, etc). But usually after the fifth week of eating salads and bland food, I'd give up, and any weight loss would be… lost. I had resigned myself to just being this shape, with the corresponding sloth and low self-esteem. (Yeah, I was brilliant on stage, but felt very shy when the limelight wasn't on. Who wants to hang out with a fatty?)
For the next few weeks, I wrestled with what the doc had said. I began justifying my current denigrated health with the statement "but I've already DONE so much in the world… everything else I get now is gravy!". Yes, I figured, whenever I was to go, I would have no regrets. And the alternative, of yet another diet and "eat less/move more" was too disrupting for me.
Aug 26, 2012: I'm visiting my friend (and client, and service provider) "Captain" Neil Bauman. I discussed the doctor's observations, and he pointed out the regimen of pills that he was already taking, and said that I'd probably need to start something like that. But then I countered with my justification that any extra life I have now is just that, extra.
The moment I said it out loud though, I was taken aback. What a stupidly selfish position to take! Sure… I
wouldn't have any more worries after I'm dead… but my friends and family and students and clients and co-workers and twitter followers and Perl community members and FLOSS Weekly fans and G+ friends… would certainly miss me, and likely be very sad.
That night, I started to do the unselfish thing. I finally found a reason to live, and it was for the people in my life.
Aug 27, 2012: I posted my "I will live to be 70" manifesto on G+. (https://plus.google.com/105487854388646525021/posts/FRvRfifSUHx
). It was a bold move, but through that, I was able to bring the conversation public, and solicit supporters. I started immediately on one of my "eat low fat and walk more" diet plans. I bought a portable weight scale that I could keep with me in hotels that didn't have them. At the Dragon*Con that immediately followed, I was conscious of the foods I chose (especially the free stuff).
The biggest turn was yet to come. The following week, at the happy hour of my favorite Culver City bar, I once again ran in to my buddy +Andy Lopez
. He's a construction worker who claimed that he would melt a half stick of butter into his coffee every morning, and could sometimes go on that all day (skipping lunch) even though his buddies would be famished. It sounded like crazy talk… this idea of eating all the fats you want as long as you restricted the carbs. But now, with a new desperation for getting something that would work, I quizzed him more on it.
He pointed me at the Tom Naughton's _Fat Head_ movie, a response to Supersize Me
showing that you can
actually eat at a fast-food place every day if you use your brain! But more than that, Tom was also following a modified Atkins protocol, and reportedly was satiated at every meal, even while still losing a dozen pounds in 4 weeks. This seemed too good to be true, but Andy assured me he'd been researching this "low carb high fat" way of eating for quite a long time.
I decided to give it a try. I gradually shifted from low-fat to low-carb, so I don't recall having the "keto flu" that many report. But once I was keto-adapted, it was amazing. I carried packets of nuts with me at first, just in case I got hungry at an inappropriate time. Gradually, I stopped doing that, because I found I could easily go 18-24 hours between meals with no loss of energy. I started reading blogs of LCHF-savvy and conventional-wisdom-bucking doctors and explainers (I'm up to 116 blogs now!). I joined the Fat Head support group on Facebook, and went on Jimmy Moore's Low Carb Cruise.
And of course, as results started happening, I started sharing that with my friends, being as public as I can about that. I was interviewed for a couple of podcasts (and will probably be a frequent guest on an upcoming health podcast soon). But most important, I was feeling reborn.
In the first six months, my weight went from 220 to 175. My waist size went from 38.5 to 31.5. My shirt size went from XL to M. I haven't been this small since high school, or maybe even junior high. Most importantly, my blood pressure went from 170/110 to 110/70, without meds. My lipid panel is textbook. And having done so, I am now in maintenance mode. The eating habits are now permanent… I can scan a restaurant menu and instantly determine what modified meals I can eat. (It's actually far easier than when I was on a low-fat diet, because in a pinch I can order a bacon double cheeseburger minus the artery-clogging bun.) I'm no longer dieting: I'm eating properly.
I have also been moved to tears many times, as my friends and fans have chimed in, that I was offering inspiration to them, so they tried what I was doing. Pounds and inches off. Amazing. So I'm not only saving my own life… but helping others to make real changes for themselves.
I want to publicly thank all those who have helped me along my journey, including my critics for keeping me honest. I've had to do a lot of unlearning, and there's still a lot of very bad "conventional wisdom" out there, motivated both by "everybody knows" ignorance and "if we tell them how bad grain is for them, they won't buy it any more" financial pressure.
In conclusion, I'm both happy and angry. Happy I discovered at age 50 (thanks to Andy) this way of eating before
my first cardiac event, but angry that I spent my entire adult life being chubby and obese for no damn reason, except the broken "conventional wisdom".
And you all are invited to my 70th birthday party. I might need to rent a stadium. :)