This is the second in a 3-part series of articles recounting my weight loss experience. I feel lucky to have succeeded in my journey by reaching and holding a healthy weight. I have lost (and kept off) 50 lb. in the last eight years. But the path wasn’t a straight one.
In Part 2 I’ll describe a self-inflicted diet regimen that actually worked for me, although I don’t think it would work for most. It involved a very strict daily diet, with a nightly pressure valve. Because of the half-disciplined nature of this regimen, I lost weight slowly, but consistently, 30 lb. over three years. I was happy with my results, but it wasn’t a diet I could sustain forever.
The “Whatever I Want After Dark Diet”
Some might look at my diet over the next three years, and call it brutal. I decided to control my behavior, and I learned my behavior determined my results. I decided to strictly control my diet, and I learned I can live on less, and enjoy it. I lost 30 lb. in these three years, and I got healthier than I had been in many years. I felt great, and I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t easy, folks.
At 240 lb., sick, and getting sicker, I was open to any suggestion. Of course, the TV offered one: SlimFast! You know how it goes. One shake for breakfast, another for lunch, and a sensible dinner, and Bingo! Cut the calories, lose the weight, simple.
I went to the supermarket, and invested in some SlimFast. I read the simple plan, and I tried to follow it. Straight from their website: “Just replace any two meals with SlimFast shakes, bars or cookies, enjoy one sensible meal of your choice and three 100-calorie snacks in between. This way your metabolism stays burning, you never go hungry and you don’t miss out on your favorite foods.”
The “Sensible” Meal Didn’t Make Sense
I decided to go with: Shake for breakfast, mid-morning snack, shake for lunch, mid afternoon snack, a “sensible” dinner, and an evening snack.
Although it makes perfect sense to me now, it was tough back then for a big boy like me. A “sensible” 500 calorie meal for dinner. And then a 100 calorie snack before bed. Yeah, right. You kidding me? After what I considered “starving” all day, that wasn’t cutting it.
And so began the Whatever I Want After Dark Diet (WIWADD), initially powered by SlimFast.
Breakfast: Shake and some fruit or juice.
Snack: a cup of fruit (packaged diced pears, peaches, or fruit salad) or fresh apple, orange… any fruit, or cut up veggies, something like that.
Snack: Yogurt, with or without fruit. Good yogurt, not that creamy candy crap. Rant over.
Dinner and Beyond: After eating nothing but fruit, yogurt, and two shakes all day, I decided I’m eating whatever the heck I want! That was usually a hearty meat and potatoes dinner. Not always meat and potatoes, but no holding back. Calories, shmallories. A more than 500 calorie dinner was followed by more than 100 calories of snacking. I was good all day, dang it. How much damage could I do after dark?
Exercise Made the Difference
Along with the diet changes, I added daily exercise. I think this was the key to making WIWADD work. I was lucky to work at a place with a gym for the employees. So everyone else’s lunch time was my gym time, and I slugged down my SlimFast shake after that. Sometimes I’d grab a garden salad at the cafeteria to supplement, but no more, really. Oh, yeah, coffee. Unlimited coffee.
Having whatever I wanted for dinner worked really well when I had to travel for business, which I did in those days. Dinner out with colleagues and customers was never awkward, me excusing myself for my diet. No, I was ordering off the same menu as everyone, and not a stitch of guilt. I’d pay tomorrow, all day, and I’d like it.
Business travel days always started in the hotel fitness room, burning 400-500 calories. I learned that this was the best way to start the day. That’s a habit that’s lasted.
Find High Quality Products
It didn’t take long for me to realize that SlimFast is sugary, low protein, junk food. Really, look around and it’s easy to find a shake with more protein, less sugar, and fewer calories. I didn’t look far before I landed on Total Lean Shakes from GNC. I switched, and was really happy about it. You could always count on Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry Lean Shakes, plus GNC rotates different special flavors all the time, like Orange Cream, Pumpkin, Banana, and others.
I also switched to non-dairy yogurt – almond milk, coconut milk, or soy milk – on most days.
I was really, really good for three years. Every day I had two Lean Shakes, one serving of yogurt, two or three servings of fruits and vegetables, and whatever the heck I wanted after dark. Almost every day, I spent an hour in the gym, doing strength, stretching, and cardio. I felt so good about my personal control, despite my night time debauchery. No, because of it.
240 lb. turned to 210 lb. over three years, and I was really happy about that. I wanted to lose 10 more lb. and turn the leading “2” to a “1”. But I wasn’t willing to cut anything else.
Meanwhile, my doctor took notice! My cholesterol and triglyceride levels were crazy high before I started losing weight, and he had me on several statins. But with regular exercise and reduced calories, I started hitting the bottom of the normal range, and he started reducing my dosage. Eventually, he took me off the statins, completely. What a victory!
The other benefit was that I felt awesome! Sure, less fat, more muscle, more energy, feels great. But it was better than that. Before the WIWADD, I used to get a terrible ache in my gut, about 10 minutes after eating. Doc thought it might be a gall bladder problem, but we never did figure it out. It was really painful, and happened after almost every meal. Didn’t stop me from eating, though…. About a year into WIWADD, that pain disappeared. Since then it has come back very rarely, and only when I eat something really fatty. Unless you’ve been punished with pain after every meal, you might not understand how great it feels to eat without pain.
So now it’s 2013, and I’m down about 30 lb. from my max. That must mean it’s time to forget about dieting.
Luckily, I had developed the habit of exercise, and I didn’t give that up. Intentionally burning 400+ calories every day feels too good to quit. With more exercise I had fewer aches and pains, including the gut ache I had defeated. So that stuck. And I didn’t gain back too much weight. For a while I swung between 205 and 215, depending on what was going on in my life. I really wanted to be 190-something, but flat out wasn’t willing to work for it. If I crested 215 I’d go back to WIWADD for a little while. But I was pretty tired of that, and things were good enough.
At about that time I decided it was time to switch careers. Sure, why not? At 53 years old, I could become a licensed massage therapist and give up the corporate world. That wasn’t crazy, at all! What was crazy was my schedule, trying to fit in massage therapy school and work, plus other activities, and meanwhile not completely forgetting about my health. No, I wasn’t forgetting about my health. I was feeling too good. I never went fully back to WIWADD, but I managed to visit often enough to keep the weight under control.
It was only after my career change that I achieved my real success: a healthy body and a sustainable diet.
… to be continued.