Thursday, April 4, 2013

I'm Shedding Pounds and Feeling Great

A New Direction

In the last nine months I have lost fifty pounds; needless to say, I'm thrilled. I'm following Dr. Joel Fuhrman's diet plan from his book Eat to Live. This is a lifestyle change for me, not a diet.

For comparative purposes here are pictures of me in 2005 and in April 2013. I'm not the most handsome guy in either picture, but at least now I'm not so fat.

Sheesh, even my eyelids were fat.

You are what you eat. We've all heard the saying. I was overweight; something was out of balance. I finally had to admit that what I was eating was the problem. Dr. Fuhrman's plan has worked for me. I can live eating this way. I don't have to count calories, or portions. I eat as much as I want of good foods and my hunger is satisfied. I am eating much larger amounts of leafy greens, vegetables, and fruit than I ever have before. I have not changed my exercise regimen, which is low-moderate activity. Now that I've lost weight I do feel like doing more things. I will increase my activity level, but I didn't have to do so to loose weight; the lose was strictly from a dietary change.

With my new eating habits, my backyard garden has moved up on the priority scale. I've always had a vegetable garden, but over the years my luck at growing different vegetables hasn't been the best. Partly because as summer heats up I get tired of all the work and the weeds get the best of me. But also, I've struggled just to get different vegetables to sprout and grow.

Two weeks ago my wife and I attended a class at our local library on square foot gardening. The things we learned are so counter to traditional row gardening it's astounding; square foot gardening gives us hope for a garden like we have never had before and with considerably less work—I hope. Square foot gardening is the brain child of Mel Bartholomew. His book All New Square Foot Gardening is a great guide.

So, I'm taking this blog in a new direction. My goal is to lose another fifty pounds. I intend to use my garden as a major source of the leafy greens and vegetables I eat. That's a big order and one that I have yet to achieve. I will chronicle my weight loss and my garden success on this blog.

Dr. Fuhrman's plan is based on eating mostly leafy greens, vegetables, beans, and fruit, and on getting back to eating foods in their natural state as opposed to the highly processed foods that we are constantly bombarded with in the media and that get the most prominent position on shelves at the grocery store. Everybody has an opinion about what healthy eating means.  Even the experts differ wildly about what makes up a healthy diet. Just look at the number of diet plans and healthy cooking books on the market. There may be other ways to loose weight; I'm doing this. In addition to my weight loss, I will also keep a log of my blood pressure level, cholesterol levels (total, good, and bad cholesterol), and triglyceride level. Few will dispute results.

On December 8, 2012, my blood pressure was systolic 141 over diastolic 75; high blood pressure is defined as systolic above 139 and diastolic above 89. On March 30, 2013, my blood pressure was 98 over 74. I can't remember my blood pressure ever being this low, not even as a young man in the military and in fairly good condition. I have taken blood pressure medications most of my adult life; both of these readings are influenced by that. I hope to be off medications after my next medical exam.

My last blood test was on August 17, 2012, about two weeks after I started my new-eating lifestyle. My cholesterol readings were: total 137, bad 72, and good 29; acceptable levels are total of less than 200, bad between 70 and 100, and good above 40 ( that's for males, for females it's above 50). My triglycerides were 178; acceptable is less than 150. I still need my good cholesterol up and my triglycerides down, but for me, this is a really good report. Previous blood tests have always come back with all my numbers on the wrong side of acceptable benchmarks, and some of them way over the mark. After a mere two weeks on this diet my numbers showed significant improvement, even though I still have a ways to go.

As I considered this lifestyle change I wondered if I could be happy eating a diet of almost entirely leafy greens, vegetables, and fruit. Dr. Fuhrman suggests giving his diet a six-week test. At the end of the test period I had lost about twenty-five pounds, I felt much better, and I learned that, with a lot of variety, I liked the diet and could follow it. After nine months I quite enjoy this way of eating and I've gained an appreciation for many leafy greens I had never eaten before. I still haven't tried dandelion greens, but I will.

During the six-week test period I went through a withdrawal stage. I didn't realize how addicted I was to bad foods A food addiction is every bit as real as other addictive substances. I've kicked my addiction, but I have to admit I still get a craving for certain foods. It isn't very often though and with a lot less intensity. When I get a craving I eat a piece of fruit and that satisfies my craving; in fact, I enjoy it more than whatever I'm craving. I know because early on I'd give in occasionally and eat the bad food (not during the six-week test though). That really made me feel worse, physically and psychologically.

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