Trim Healthy Mama Plan

That’s not the name of a diet I would have expected to find myself trying.

I guess the fact that I did it in response to Lisa’s invitation is a sign of my desperation.

In October 2016, Lisa got blood test results that showed her fasting glucose at 102, and her doctor said she should cut back on carbs and sugar.

Meanwhile, my daughter Rachel had been on a diet called Trim Healthy Mama Plan, and Lisa asked if I would try it with her.

If I had watched the video below that explains the basics, I’m not sure I would have gone through with it.

But I was getting it second-hand, interpreted by Lisa, so I was willing to go along.

As Peter Attia, M.D. says, compared to the Standard American Diet (SAD), almost any diet plan is an improvement.

As I understand it, this plan gets some important things right, which is why I think lots of people have found it helpful. I lost about 15 pounds using it. Some of those good points:

  • Eliminate sugar.
  • Choose carbs wisely, avoiding starches and other carbs that spike blood sugar levels.
  • A healthy view of fats.

They also have some tasty recipes in their cookbook. That was helpful for Lisa in meal planning.

I think their advice on fuel separation is somewhat dubious:

  • Limit carbs to 45 grams per meal in what they call the “E” or Energizing meals.
  • Eat until you’re full when you have “S” or Satisfying meals, but limit carbs to 10 grams.

Their biggest error: recommending that you eat every three hours to keep your metabolism going. Your body isn’t a furnace, and the flame isn’t going to flicker out if you go six hours without eating.

Did our ancestors eat six meals a day?

As I said, I did pretty well on this diet, losing about 15 pounds in three months. Lisa was somewhat scarred by her experience with it though: she only lost three pounds. It made her gun-shy about getting on a scale, because she worked so hard and the lack of results was demotivating.

Another of the downsides of this diet is that with the recommendation to eat every three hours, you’re literally always thinking about food.

Lisa is quick to point out that different diets work for different people, and that with her thyroid issues and being post-menopausal it makes weight loss more difficult.

But it meant that we needed to look for a different plan, and so in early 2017 we switched to something that worked somewhat better for both of us.

More on that next time.

See the whole series about my health journey. Follow along on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

Before and After

While I used to joke that I was “working on my ‘before’ photos,” the reality is that three years ago I wasn’t eager to actually capture them.

So the following is the best I can do to show the before and after results from the changes I’ve made since then.

Tomorrow I’ll start with the story of our journey toward health and fitness, through eating and exercising differently, and I’ll continue to share on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

“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.