Post #632 What Are The “Rules” for Eating?

April 4, 2019 at 8:52 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Before you get confused by the title of the post, this is about losing weight.  Or gaining weight.  Or finding your optimal weight.  It’s basically about living with food, and my personal journey that got me to where I am now.  Along the way, I’ve figured out a few things about how my body works where food is concerned.

I was the stereotypical 98 pound weakling.  When I was a kid, I was the smallest in any class I was in.  My arms were so thin they actually looked like pipe cleaners.  I wasn’t starving or anything, beyond the normal “I’m a kid so I’m always hungry” kind of thing.  I was hyperactive; I never sat still.  I burned energy in my sleep.  Looking back, I wasn’t a weakling, but I wasn’t the strongest kid around, either.  I could play ball with the rest of the kids.  I could climb any tree I set my mind to, much to the frustration of my mother who had to wash the sap out of my clothes.  I could walk the railroad tracks for hours.  And, man, could I run.  Once I started, no one could keep up with me.  But my thinness was such a bother to me, that once, in the second grade, I asked my mom if I had a tapeworm.  She was surprised.

“No!  Where would you get that idea?”

“My teacher asked me if I did cuz I’m so skinny.”

In those days, parents didn’t just walk up to the school, or call, or anything, but I could tell mom was pissed off.  My teacher never asked me about it again, but that wasn’t the only time I heard that.

Mom usually gave us well-balanced nutritious meals, without an overabundance of sugar, so we grew up eating well.  There were the occasional hamburger suppers, and pizza parties, etc.  But those were out of the norm.

I was also a late bloomer and I didn’t have any real growth spurts till my late teens, which really just made the thinness worse.  But, I could eat anything I wanted and never gain an ounce.  My self-perception was terrible.  I saw myself as the pipe cleaner kid (great title for a story!) despite my best efforts to gain weight.  When I was 20, I still had a 29 inch waist even though I was very nearly six feet tall.

After I turned 18 or 19, I just made up my mind that I wasn’t going to worry about it any more and do the things I liked to do.  I started riding my bicycle everywhere.  I played competitive tennis as often as I could, and practiced in the meantime.  I hiked, climbed mountains, swam, took long walks along the canal banks.  If someone suggested an activity I hadn’t tried before, I just grinned and said, “Sure!” trusting to my never-ending luck that I wasn’t going to kill myself.

I noticed that my muscles which had been very small, started growing a little bit.  I’ve never had huge muscles, but I’ve always had toned muscles, and hidden strength that surprises people.  One time, about a year after graduating college, a friend came to visit and called me fat because I’d put on some weight.  My metabolism was so fast, I put out body heat like a wood-fired stove.  People used to sit next to me to get warm.  Not always great in the desert, but what are you gonna do?

I still ate well-balanced meals, but I also ate a lot of junk food because I could.  Since I was so active, everything I ate just got burned off.  Anytime I felt “overweight” which was seldom, I modified my diet for a few days and everything was fine.

Let me tell you something.  When someone is severely underweight, it’s as bad as if they were severely overweight.  They have the same self worth issues; the same body distress; the same feelings of failure.  People are constantly giving advice.  You are constantly reading the few books and articles about gaining weight only to find nothing works for you.  By the time I left Arizona for Washington D.C., I was approaching my thirties, stood at a shade over five foot eleven inches, and weighed in at about 136 pounds.  There’s a term for those type of people – Ectomorph.

However, I felt worthless because all the other men my age had muscles and confidence.  I looked in the mirror and still saw the kid whose teacher thought he had a tapeworm.  It didn’t matter that slowly things were changing.

When I started my computer career in DC, I spent long hours in the office usually in front of a terminal.  I was still active on the weekends, and a couple of times a week I took very long walks, but it wasn’t the same as when I was younger.  And the metabolism started to slow down a bit.  And the weight started going up.

My muscle tone was still there, but now was overlaid by a layer of something that took me a long time to admit was fat.  By my mid-30s, I was sporting a 32 inch waist.  Finally.  I felt successful and didn’t pay too much attention to the other warning signals.  Like the loss of distinct abs, the bouncing of pectorals, and the slight breathlessness when hiking up a mountain.

I was still reading about nutrition and healthy lifestyle.  I was doing all the right things, but I didn’t stop all the bad things.  And let’s not forget that during all this, I was teaching myself how to cook and bake.

Then, I started my world traveling.  Nothing is worse for a healthy lifestyle than the vagaries of traveling 80% of the time.  Particularly to the places I went to.  Just not good.  My weight ballooned.  I tried to be as active as possible, but that didn’t work out well.

Cue major accident involving head injury and the next three years of recuperation.  Enforced inactivity.  Diagnosis of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, possible blood sugar problem.  And then a heart murmur shows up that had never existed before.  It wasn’t a happy time, and eating made me happy.

At my worst, I got up to 230 pounds.  But this is where my body style came in handy.  It didn’t look like it.  I even mentioned the weight gain to my doctor and he was surprised.  He even weighed my again himself and couldn’t believe the result and tested the scale by weighing himself.  It was funny, but it did show that I carry weight well, when I have it.

So I decided I needed to do something serious and commit to a healthy eating routine as well as a much better exercise schedule.

Except I don’t like “working out” or scheduled activities.  Even when I was biking or playing tennis, two things I love to do, when I forced to practice it wasn’t fun.  It was just something that had to be done to be good at it.

Then I found one system that sort of resonated for me.  It’s called Body for Life by Bill Phillips.  It’s actually designed for people who want to gain bodybuilder physiques, but can be used for anyone who wants to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

I started on the plan (more on that in a minute) with a friend from work.  In seven weeks, I lost seventeen pounds.  My friend lost twenty-three in the same amount of time.  I had to stop because my headaches from the injury increased at that time, and there complications from the meds I was taking, so I had to take a step back from the intensity.  Since then, though, I’ve basically followed the plan and now I’m down to 180 and have maintained that for months.

Basically, it follows the idea that to lose weight is not the goal.  To be healthy is what everyone should be focusing on.  If you exercise properly and eat right, the body will find it’s own correct weight.  So, in a nutshell:

  • You should stop eating highly fatty foods.  Also, stop eating sugars.
  • You should eat foods high in protein.  Carbs are good, in moderation.
  • You should eat six small meals a day, but the term “meal” is flexible.
  • A portion is about the size of your tightly closed fist.
  • You should aim to exercise every single day.
  • You should be drinking water more often than you are because many times you feel hungry you are really dehydrated.
  • Picture a dinner plate.  Cut it in half horizontally.  Then cut the top piece in half vertically.  The bottom half should be the portion of veggies and fruit you’re eating, while the top two portions are carbs and protein.
  • Your carbs should come from as unprocessed foods as possible.  Whole wheat bread rather than white bread.
  • Protein should be lean, like chicken breast, salmon, sirloin, etc.
  • Veggies should be raw if possible, and if cooked, they should be steamed or roasted to keep as many vitamins in them as possible.
  • If oil is being used, use scant amounts and use olive oil, or canola oil.
  • Pick one day a week as your rest day, and eat whatever the heck you want.  But only on that day.

When I followed this strictly, I lost weight, but gained muscle tone.  Muscles weighs more than fat, so in gaining muscle my weight went up, but in losing fat, it went down.  Net result was less of a weight loss, but a healthier distribution of the weight.  Hence, a healthier me.

The book(s) and testimonials go further in explaining what can be done with the plan.  For instance, a healthy meal bar and a glass of water or unsweetened tea can be a meal.  A smoothie made correctly can be a meal.  A sub sandwich with the correct bread, meats, veggies, and dressing can be a meal.  A meal replacement shake (not from McDonalds, guys) can be a meal.

The book is still in print, and there are a couple of cookbooks to help with meal planning and prep.  There are charts you can use to plan your week for meals and exercise.  The website has a ton of good stuff to help with planning and execution.  I’ve made a ton of the recipes and one of my favorites was the pancake sandwich.  I also enjoyed the meal replacement shakes made from the powder, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen them in stores.

People who’ve been successful in the plan are showcased on the website and in the books.  They look like they’ve been hefting weights for their whole lives.  I was after weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.  I think I’m there.  It worked for me.

It’s because of this plan, and the early training I got that I have a better outlook for myself, and enjoy my life more.  I don’t look at eating as something I have to do.  It can be difficult trying to squeeze in six meals a day, particularly at the beginning.  You feel full all the time.  But after a while, since you’re eating smaller portions, you do feel hungry again.  And as your activity levels get higher, you get to needing the fuel.

So, there it is.  Not a big secret, but it’s something to consider.  If you have any questions, throw them at me.  I’ll be happy to share my specific experiences on this plan.

And drink plenty of water.

As always,

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2 Comments »

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  1. This is a really extensive post Joe, keep going. Check out my page for all things fitness, specifically for ectomorphs.

    • Thanks for the heads up. I’ll check it out soon.


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