“Is this just the way it’s going to be?”

My first approach, upon recognizing that I did in fact have a weight problem, was to ramp up my physical activity.

After all, I thought I was eating a fairly healthy diet, and was following the basic proportions of the USDA guidelines.

And I had some successful experience with intentional weight loss in the years before I had been diagnosed with celiac disease.

In just six months, I had lost enough weight and also increased my strength and fitness to reach my goal of dunking a basketball on my 4oth birthday.

Since I had done this previously, I expected I could do it again.

So in early 2016 I started working out hard, six days a week, 30 minutes per day, on the Precor elliptical training machine at our YMCA.

I had two daughters getting married later that year, and I wanted to be at my best as I accompanied them down the aisle.

I stepped on the scale every day before my morning workout, and after several months I had lost…about five pounds.

Lisa asked, “Do you think maybe you should do some weightlifting?”

“How am I supposed to fit that in? I’m already working out at least three hours a week with heavy cardio. And it’s not doing any good!”

There’s a reason why our parents and grandparents called it “working up an appetite.”

“Eat less, move more” is trite and simplistic at best.

The reality of weight loss is a lot more complicated than fighting gluttony and sloth.

So by sometime between those August and October weddings, I was teetering between resignation and readiness to change.

I was willing to change, but had no realistic idea of what could work.

So I asked myself the question that is the title of this post.

A few months later, Lisa asked another question that started us in the right direction, together.

More on that starting Monday.

But first, I want to share an update from Thursday, when we continued a family tradition in taking as many of our children and grandchildren as were available for a day at Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn.

We had five of the six kids, three spouses and two significant others, and 11 of 12 grandkids join us. Ruthie, Trevin and their daughter Noa couldn’t make it because they’re in Bulgaria. But otherwise, we had them all.

It meant we had to get a lot of all-day wristbands.

Our tradition is to pick a Tuesday or Thursday in January to avoid the crowds. Lines are typically non-existent. And Thursday was especially slow, with temperatures of -8 ºF. So this was typical for many of the rides, with all seats occupied by our descendants:

This was our fourth consecutive year with this extended family amusement park outing. It’s been fun to see the kids grow and get tall enough for some of the more adventurous rides.

This time I also qualified for a ride from which I previously had been excluded.

Because I was safely below the weight limit, not only were my grandchildren able to ride…

… so was I.

So the answer to today’s blog post title is “No!”

Tomorrow I’ll share some before and after photos.

Then I’ll begin the story of our journey to improved health on Monday.

If you want to follow along, I’ll be sharing the links on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Seeds of Dietary Doubt

In June 2015, I read a review of a book with an intentionally provocative title: The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet.

I downloaded and listened to the audio version, and while it didn’t cause me to immediately change my eating habits, it was my first step toward a different way of thinking about diet.

I was still a year away from “Peak Lee,” when I reached 265 lbs. in Summer 2016.

I was going to focus on exercise as the way to get healthy, and I thought a reasonable amount of weight loss would be the natural result.

But it was jarring to learn how deficient the scientific basis was for the dietary recommendations we had been given by government for nearly 40 years, as author Nina Teicholz detailed how the diet-heart hypothesis became dominant, and our entire food system shifted to reduce fat consumption, which necessarily led to an increase in carbohydrates.

She made a strong case that the rise in prevalence of obesity and overweight status was not because people were failing to follow dietary guidelines. The guidelines were contributing to the problem.

You should get the book to read or hear for yourself, but this video of a TEDx speech by Ms. Teicholz is a good primer.

For a more extended version, check out this speech she gave last year to the Cato Institute.

My “Before” Pictures

At 6’6″ I’m blessed with a relatively large frame over which I could distribute some extra weight.

But when that extra amount became 40 pounds, it definitely showed.

Even under a sport coat:

Two weeks after my youngest daughter’s wedding, in August 2016.

Here are a few of pictures from June of that year, when I had the opportunity to visit China, along with one with my dad at a baseball game in Chicago:

And finally, one from Australia in 2015. You can definitely see where water had an opportunity to collect after a shower.

Readiness to change is an extremely important factor in improving health, but another is knowing what kinds of changes would be beneficial.

In my next post I’ll describe how I started to get some inklings that the path that would lead to sustained weight loss was different than what I had expected.

Getting to “Peak Lee”

Before recent asides to indicate the future name of this blog – Stuff I Find Interesting (SIFI) – and to provide a necessary disclaimer, I had told the story of getting a celiac disease diagnosis at an anemic 225 pounds and becoming at least borderline obese at 260 pounds four years later.

Here’s how it happened.

In one sense, the explanation is that my gluten-free diet allowed the damage to the villi in my small intestine to be repaired, which meant I was now absorbing my nutrients.

That’s how I explained it to myself at the time anyway. While I had previously been able to eat anything and in any amount without appreciable weight gain, with newly repaired villi that was no longer the case.

I simply needed to adjust my portion sizes to this new reality. And I also tried to follow the advice in the USDA Food Guide Pyramid (which I had used as the basis for my SMUG Social Media Pyramid.

At its base was the recommendation of 6-11 servings per day from the Bread, Cereal, Rice & Pasta Group.

While I couldn’t have wheat, barley or rye because of celiac disease, I soon had plenty of other options, especially as food manufacturers became more accommodating of the gluten-free diet.

The next level up featured the Vegetable Group and the Fruit Group, with 3-4 servings per day each.

I’m not claiming to have been a model adherent to these guidelines. I’m sure my idea of a serving size didn’t correspond exactly to the USDA’s definition.

But I’m pretty confident the proportion of my diet coming from each of the food groups was reasonably close to the recommendations. I had done media relations work in the cardiology field, so I minimized eggs and drank low-fat (but not skim) milk to reduce my fat and cholesterol intake.

A typical day’s menu looked something like:

  • A bowl of cereal (typically Corn Chex) for breakfast
  • A grab-and-go chicken salad from a restaurant near my office, with a few favorite choices
  • Dinner (various entrees and side dishes)
  • At least a few nights a week, air-popped popcorn as a late-evening snack, with no butter.

Sometimes instead of popcorn I would have tortilla chips and salsa, taking one item from the grains and another from the vegetable group.

While I now know some of those choices weren’t the best, none were wildly out of line with USDA recommendations.

And yet, within less than four years, I found myself carrying around this much extra weight:

As I sometimes joked, I was “working on my ‘before’ pictures.”

In my next post I’ll show some of them.

Keeping the Lawyers Happy

Who am I kidding?

I don’t have any lawyers. I’m just a guy with a blog.

But still, I guess I should clarify what I’m doing here for legal purposes.

I’m not offering medical advice. No doctor-patient relationship is being created.

I’m not a doctor or a medical professional of any kind.

This blog’s purpose is for education. Mainly mine.

Just as I started it in 2006 to learn about blogging, and later shifted to learning in public how to use social media, I’m following the same model for the future.

I’m sharing some things I’ve found interesting, and a lot of them will relate to health, diet, fitness, longevity and disease prevention.

I’ll talk about the things I’ve decided to do based on what I’ve learned, and I’ll share the results I’ve gotten.

I’m not saying what you should do. You need to decide that, in consultation with your trusted health care professionals.

And if you read my posts and have questions, or have a different opinion, or can provide links to studies that cast doubt upon or support something I’m saying, I hope you’ll post them in the comments of the relevant posts.

We all have to make our own health decisions.

Hopefully together we can become more informed in them.