I’m down about 6 pounds of the 15 or so I want to lose, and I’m pretty confident I’ll get there. Keeping it off will be another challenge, of course, but I think I can do that too.
In the course of getting this far I’ve learned a lot and expect to learn more. I have a better (read: not-virtually-zero) understanding of how basic nutrition works; I’m much more aware of nutritional values of a lot of foods; I realize what was off kilter in my food intake until now; and I’ve learned some pleasant ways to get more balance in my diet.
I’m relying on four books. I went into B&N, and looked on amazon.com, and ended up buying a copy of The Diet Docs’® Guide to Permanent Weight Loss by Joe Klemczewski and J. Scott Uloth. This is a quite recent book, so doesn’t have many reviews on amazon — but given my reaction to several of the books that have gotten a lot of positive reviews, that may not mean much. I bought it because my initial look at it, and the comments in the few reviews there were, convinced me — and cover to cover reading confirmed — it was the kind of book I wanted: no-nonsense, real science based, sensible nutrition advice. In a nutshell their program is: eat a good balance of carb, protein, and fat, in appropriate quantities to lose weight. Not exactly profound, is it? Well, compared to a lot of fad diets it certainly is. Furthermore they discuss the physiological reasons for keeping this balance (and not, say, reducing carbs to a minimum while letting protein and fat slide) and for such well-known ideas as not skipping meals and emphasizing whole grains and complex carbohydrates as opposed to white flour and refined sugar. I find having this understanding of physiology is helpful in motivating me to follow the advice. So is paying attention to macronutrient levels (it has how much fat?!)
The one thing that I found rather surprising, initially, was their protein recommendations. It didn’t take more than a day of tracking my eating to realize I’d been eating almost certainly less than what the US says is a daily minimum, while what Klemczewski and Uloth recommend is substantially more. (And then I was surprised at how little consensus there seems to be on ideal levels of protein intake.) In fact I’m finding it a challenge to get enough protein — without, of course, getting too much of everything else.
As for those other macronutrients, I think I was already doing fairly well at keeping fat intake fairly low. I put skim milk on my cereal, and I eat red meat but less of it than many people. Carbohydrates, on the other hand, I was probably eating way too much of — especially for snacks, and I did tend to reach for the pretzels or popcorn or chocolate in the evenings, not out of real hunger but more out of habit.
I dropped about 5 pounds in the first week. As I understand it, when dietary intake isn’t sufficient to maintain metabolism, the body starts using stored glycogen as well as body fat. Glycogen holds water, so you shed water when you use glycogen; that means the first week’s weight loss is a combination of fat loss and water loss. After the first week it’s mostly fat loss. At least that’s how it’s supposed to go on Klemczewski and Uloth’s plan: typically 5 pounds or so the first week, and after that 1 to 3 pounds a week, what they call a good safe rate of weight loss. Nearing the end of my second week, it seems I’m perhaps on the low end of that, so I may need to adjust my carb and fat targets down a little.
I mentioned there were four books. The other three are:
- Dana Carpender’s New Carb & Calorie Counter. This one’s aimed at low-carb diet adherents, but it does list calories and grams of fat and protein, and the format seemed the best to me of the various nutrient counting guides.
- A Moleskine notebook. There’s a whole Moleskine cult I’ve never managed to understand, but when I decided I needed a notebook to keep track of every meal and snack I eat, I bought a Moleskine. And it is a nice notebook, with a ribbon marker and an elastic closure and a pocket for storing loose papers. I’m being obsessive about tallying the macronutrients of everything I eat — and usually measuring what I eat rather than guessing — because I know if I start letting it slide, it’ll get away from me.
- And finally — our MacBook Pro! (Haw haw!) Keeping daily spreadsheets that add up what I’m eating — I also made a place to note my weight and another to mark how much exercise I’m getting, and, totally off the subject, how often I play music — and weekly summary spreadsheets. I also made a handy spreadsheet to calculate nutrients in a serving of a recipe based on values for its various ingredients. I have not started drawing bar graphs yet, but give me time.
I’ve also made some new friends. Like almonds. High in fat, but it’s good, unsaturated fat — you need the essential fatty acids to metabolize body fat, it turns out — and also a good protein source, low carb. And egg whites: I kind of hate paying for organic eggs and then discarding the yolks, but the yolks are where the saturated fat is. Turkey burgers and turkey sausages. Protein shakes. I’ll find others as I go.