Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Success on a large scale

Americans have a reputation as highly independent souls who like to do things their own way. It’s a notion that is certainly borne out in the realm of weight loss.

In 1994, two well-respected researchers founded the National Weight Control Registry to track people who have lost weight. Dr. James O. Hill, a noted obesity expert, and Dr. Rena R. Wing, a professor of psychiatry, wanted to find out how people lose weight. But even more so, they wanted to know how people keep it off.

To date, about 6,000 people have logged their weight loss stories into the database. To qualify, a person must be at least 18 years old, have lost at least 30 pounds and have kept it off for one year or more. Participants have reported losing up to 300 pounds and keeping it off for as long as 66 years.

Almost half of the registry members—45 percent—designed and followed their own weight loss program. I'm not surprised by this at all. In looking for people to interview, it was far easier to find people who went solo. When I asked why someone would go it alone, more than once I heard, “I’m just not a joiner.”

While people in the NWCR study may have struck out on their own, their avenues to success have been pretty much the same. Ninety-eight percent of participants modified their eating habits, and most people report eating a low-calorie, low-fat diet in order to maintain their weight loss. Similarly, 94 percent of people said they increased their level of physical activity, mostly walking. On average, people report exercising one hour a day. And where do they find the time, you might ask? Sixty-two percent report watching fewer than 10 hours of television a week.

So... I'm ready to post my success. I've lost the 30 pounds and kept it off for a little over a year. How about you... will you join me?!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lose a job, gain some weight

Recently, I wrote an article about our family's experience of my husband's layoff. You can read it here. My husband was laid off in 2005 and out of work for six months. It was our first experience of a layoff, and it was a hard time, both emotionally and financially.

Well, that column hit a nerve. I got more response to that article than I ever have to any of my writing. People found me through my website, my e-mail, this blog and through other web searches. All of them were families whose primary job-holder was laid off. I began to think I should have a job loss blog, not a weight loss blog!

As I thought about the relationship between joblessness and weight struggles, I remembered how depressed my husband became as the weeks went by, losing hope by the day. He began to eat for consolation and perhaps through boredom, something he'd never done before. It worried me, and I bit my tongue many times. Any comment I made would be cruel and rooted in anxiety about our situation, but it's hard to watch a loved one self-destruct.

At the time, I hadn't lost all my weight, so that fact also kept my mouth shut. Who was I to tell him what to do or not do? Yet I recognized emotional eating for what it was then, and it was the start of recognizing it in myself. Today, I'm aware that the minute I have the house to myself, my mind wanders over to the refrigerator and pantry, thinking about what might be in there for me. I've traced that to my childhood, when I would stay up long past everyone else and watch late-night movies, just to have the house to myself. I would sneak food while I watched, but I had to hide my tracks so I wouldn't give myself away and get in trouble. (My parents considered snacking to be almost sinful.)

I guess childhood habits die hard. The pull of the quiet house and the promise of food still works on my psyche today. I'll bet that the pull of the quiet house is working on many job-seekers today, too. But you might want to take it easy on your spouse. My husband got a job after six months, and today has lost all the weight he gained then. We're grateful for both his job and our health!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Jimmy Moore: Livin' La Vida Low-Carb

Jimmy Moore is Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb. That’s the name of his book, and it’s the theme of his life.

At age 32, Jimmy weighed 410 pounds. He was being treated for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and labored breathing. He had no hope for his life.

“I believed that was just the way I was supposed to be,” he says. “My family was fat, and I had been fat my whole life. My mom was a single mom who had to feed three growing kids, so she bought what she could afford, which was pretty much junk food.”

Over the years, Jimmy tried many diets, all of them low-fat. But even when he dieted, he piled on the sugar. “I was addicted to Twizzlers—a naturally fat-free food!” he says.

In 1999, he lost 170 pounds on a zero-fat diet. But he was grumpy and "psychologically messed up,” he says. And, ultimately, he couldn't stick with it. After one slip-up with a McDonald's meal, he quickly gained back all 170 pounds.

In the fall of 2003, Jimmy attended a church festival that featured a climbing wall. He thought that at 6-feet, 3-inches tall, getting to the top would be a breeze.

“I started up and on the first step, my foot slipped and I fell,” he says. “I tried again, and again I fell. On the third try, I slipped again and this time, I sprained my ankle.”

At that moment, the defeated climber thought to himself: “Jimmy, you are out of control!”

Jimmy knew two people who had succeeded on the Atkins diet. On January 4, 2004, he began. Right off, he ran into trouble. “That first day, I thought I was going to die. I had the worst headache, my body ached. I pleaded with my wife to just kill me,” he says.

Within a few days the symptoms subsided, and in two months, Jimmy lost 70 pounds. Some of the loss was undoubtedly because Jimmy started using a treadmill, but obviously, he was thriving on a diet comprising about 60-70 percent fat, but just 20 grams of carbohydrates a day, including two cups of low-carb vegetables.

In a little over a year, Jimmy lost 180 pounds. Today, he continues with Atkins, limits carbs to 30-35 grams a day, engages in aerobic exercise and works out with weights.

Succeeding at the Atkins diet has literally changed Jimmy Moore’s life. In 2005, he self-published Livin' La Vida Low-Carb: My Journey from Flabby Fat to Sensationally Skinny in One Year. He is at work on his second book, 21 Life Lessons From Livin' La Vida Low-Carb: How the Healthy Low-Carb Lifestyle Changed Everything I Thought I Knew. He blogs, writes for nutrition and health-related websites, and creates podcasts and YouTube videos for the low-carb cause. Read Jimmy's blog here and tune into his podcasts here.

Jimmy pleads with others to take control of their lives, no matter what weight loss plan you choose.

“Do it like you’ve never done anything before,” he urges. “It’s not about will power; it’s about steadfast resolve. Commit to it, even when it hurts. It is so worth it.”

Friday, September 11, 2009

Politics, religion and the Atkins diet

We’ve all been warned not to mention politics or religion at the dinner table. You might want to add a third caveat: Don't bring up Robert Atkins either.

Atkins is, of course, the famous doctor and author whose diet advice turned conventional wisdom on its head with the publication in the 1970s of Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution, updated today as Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution

At the time, almost every doctor, dietician and government researcher preached, “Eat less sugar. Eat less fat. Bread and potatoes are where it’s at!”

Dr. Atkins’ revolutionary thought was that it wasn't fat, but refined carbohydrates and starches that were making us fat. Most experts of the time—and still today—consider that fats, being calorie-dense, lead to obesity, and the name of the game is to cut calories. Dr. Atkins believed that carbohydrates are more directly linked to obesity because they stimulate the body’s production of insulin and cause it to store fat tissue.

I think that even before I knew about the Atkins diet, I tried it. One summer I had a job slinging hash on a steam line at a GM parts factory, hair net, scratchy uniform and all. I rebuffed the pressure from my fellow cafeteria workers to have a smoke, but when they talked up a diet that allowed me to eat the bacon, cheese, eggs and fried chicken we were serving up, I couldn’t resist. Hand me a tray fast, someone!

Apparently, I didn’t get the full Atkins memo, because while I happily mounded up my plate, I somehow didn’t get the message about cutting out the carbs. I came back for seconds on the French fries, bread and pieces of pie, too. Neither did the idea of lean sources of protein occur to me. Needless to say, my so-called diet didn’t work.

Today, the debate about the Atkins diet rages on. Does it work? Does it damage your heart? Yet without Dr. Atkins we probably wouldn't look at the nutrients in our food the way we do now. Virtually every diet in existence today suggests limiting your intake of refined sugars and flours.

Within the next few days, I'll be posting the story of one incredible Atkins dieter who lost 180 pounds -- and maintains his loss -- on the Atkins diet. He's one inspiring guy.