I married Lisa 36 years ago next month, and since then we’ve been blessed with six children, and as of 2 a.m. yesterday, 13 grandchildren.
It was just after our daughter Rebekah (the mother of grandchild #13) was married four years ago that we decided we needed to seriously explore some changes in our diet and lifestyle.
I weighed over 260 lbs. then, and Lisa thinks she was 185. She isn’t sure because she wasn’t exactly going out of her way to find a scale.
I told her weight loss story (to that point at least) in July, and how much progress she had made between Rebekah’s wedding and our youngest son, John’s. The first year or so had been really frustrating, until we got on the low-carb, high-fat diet combined with intermittent fasting.
In May she had gotten down to 145 lbs., and so on her birthday she decided to try on her wedding dress for the first time since Dec. 22, 1984.
We couldn’t get the back zipped up then, but we thought if she kept going she might eventually close the gap, so to speak.
Having become a 13-time grandma earlier in the morning, she decided to try on her wedding dress again yesterday afternoon.
Lo, and behold…
Lisa was down to 135.8 yesterday, the lowest she’s been since the Reagan administration.
I’m so happy for her, especially because she had previously felt so frustrated and defeated, and now she feels healthy and in control of her eating habits.
Sometimes she fasts, and sometimes she feasts. Generally she’s avoiding extra sugar and carbs, but that doesn’t mean she can never have these things as a treat.
In fact, her dinner Tuesday night was a Papa Murphy’s Herb Chicken Mediterranean Pizza.
The difference was stark, as I had dropped from about 260 pounds to 223, with my most significant weight loss coming from a low-carbohydrate, relatively high-fat diet, which also supported an intermittent fasting/time-restricted eating lifestyle.
According to conventional wisdom, it was unlikely I would be able to maintain that 37-pound loss. The so-called experts tell us “all diets eventually fail.” It’s mainly because we try to stick with the diets they recommend. So much of what they’ve told us for five decades is simply wrong.
They say that for those who lose more than 10% of their body weight, only 20% are able to maintain that loss for a year or more. So having lost 14% of my initial 260 pounds as of January, the odds were against me being below 230 today.
Especially given the lockdown uniqueness of 2020.
So how have I done?
I had originally set my goal weight at 210, which was five pounds more than what I weighed in high school, when I was playing competitive basketball. I thought it was pretty ambitious target.
I reached that mark in early May and, as you see below, I kept going.
I averaged 198.6 during September, and my lowest weight was 196.4, at which point Lisa said I needed to stop because I was getting “too skinny.” Since then I’ve dialed back a little, and am averaging 201.1 for the first half of November.
I’m not sharing my story to boast of willpower or determination or self-discipline. I can honestly say I have hardly ever felt deprived through this whole time. I’m rarely hungry, and I feel stronger, healthier and more fit than I did 25 years ago.
Lisa feels the same. She never imagined it was possible, being post-menopausal and with thyroid issues.
So while I haven’t felt hungry or deprived, I have had lots of other negative feelings about the standard dietary “wisdom” we have been fed for a half century, which has left a trail of metabolic misery in its wake.
So if you’ve been discouraged by or struggling with a weight problem, I hope you’ll catch up on the posts in this series, and follow along as I continue to tell the story.
If we can do it, so can you. And you’ll be glad you did.
I kind of want to shout it from the rooftop, but I also don’t want to be obnoxious, so I’ll settle for writing about it here, and sharing on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Next time I’ll share some updated progress photos.
The scientific method involves proposing a hypothesis — e.g. “Drug A improves symptoms of Disease B” — and then designing an experiment, or study, to test it.
The “gold standard” studies are double blinded and placebo-controlled. Half of the subjects get the drug, and half get a placebo (or “sugar pill”) that has no expected effect. Neither the investigators nor the subjects know who is getting the real treatment. Then when the data are analyzed, it can be clear that any observed effect is the result of the drug, not wishful thinking.
And to reduce the likelihood that any observed difference is due to chance, scientists design their studies with a sufficiently large n, or number of subjects.
In an earlier post in this series, I conceded that I’m an n of 1. I’m an anecdote. Scientists tend to look down on anecdotal claims. Just because a low-carb diet and time-restricted feeding program has led to me losing 60 pounds doesn’t mean it will get the same results for you.
There could be something peculiar about me that led to this result. Perhaps it’s just a random coincidence. Or maybe just the fact that I had decided to pay attention and try to lose weight was the main factor, and the particulars of what I changed didn’t matter so much.
But together Lisa and I are an n of 2, and we’ve lost a total of 100 pounds on a low-carb diet with intermittent fasting or time-restricted feeding. And the weight loss for her didn’t really kick in until she went low-carb with intermittent fasting.
We’re also not alone. The n of those getting good results from a similar approach is much, much bigger.
And the reality is you can’t do a blinded study of a lifestyle intervention. If you’re switching from pizza and pasta to steak and eggs, you’re going to know it. And if you are going 12 hours a day or more without eating, you’ll know that too. There’s no placebo effect here.
I’m not sharing our stories to boast about our accomplishments. We did have to change what and when we ate, but it truly hasn’t felt like much of a sacrifice.
I’m sharing them because I’m frankly kind of mad that following official government policy (avoid fats, eat lots of “healthy whole grains”) made us fat.
The “eat less, move more” or “calories in, calories out” dogma is trite and simplistic, and doesn’t correspond with the reality of why we get fat.
In the 1950s and 60s nobody worked out. It was only in the early 70s that running and aerobics became “a thing.”
Obesity hasn’t tripled in the last few decades because people don’t move enough. If anything, people in recent decades have exercised much more than our parents and grandparents did.
Exercise is good and important, but its lack has not caused the obesity epidemic.
I’m sharing our stories because I’m pretty confident that among our social connections, and those we can reach through them, there are scores, or hundreds, or even thousands of people who feel as trapped and defeated as we did four years ago.
There is a better way, and there is hope for a reversal of metabolic syndrome. I want to point you to those from whom Lisa and I have learned this.
I look forward to sharing what we’ve learned from these people and others, and the benefits we’ve seen from applying those lessons. I linked mostly to their Twitter accounts in the list above, in case you want to start following them before I get to writing about them.
Some of them are physicians, while others are Ph.D. researchers, and still others are scientific writers actively poring through the relevant research. They have applied the skepticism of the scientific method to the disastrous dietary dogma that has had such a negative record for the last five decades.
So while Lisa and I together are only an n of 2 and our experience is not definitive, we have seen good results in the last four years through applying what we’ve learned from these people and others.
What other scientific researchers, physicians or writers have you found helpful in understanding diet, lifestyle, weight loss and health? I’d appreciate your recommendations as I continue my journey of exploration.
In addition to being my best friend for nearly 39 years and my wife for more than 35, Lisa Aase has been pursuing health improvement and weight loss with me since October 2016.
We started just after my middle daughter’s wedding, when neither of us felt good about the size of the fancy clothes we bought for the occasion.
I was at about my all-time max of 265 pounds. Lisa doesn’t know exactly what she weighed at the time, because stepping on a scale wasn’t a positive experience. She does remember one reading of 185.
So we both resolved to try a diet, which started by getting rid of all added sugar. I’ve been telling my side of the story through this series, and for the most part it was a continual path of steady loss. Some diets worked better than others, but anything was an improvement over how I had been eating.
Lisa had some extra challenges in being post-menopausal and also having thyroid issues. When we did the Trim Health Mama plan, I lost 15 pounds in three months, while she lost three.
That was really hard for her, because she knew that previously she would have had much more significant results. I suggested that we try a different plan, and had been reading The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferris, so we next tried his “slow carb” diet. She got better results with this, something like nine pounds in three months. It still felt frustratingly slow to her, but at least she could see some progress.
That’s when I listened to The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung, and we began our 10-week experiment with alternate-day fasting. We learned that by having extended periods of low insulin through fasting we could enable our bodies to burn the ample fat we had stored.
Lisa and I found intermittent fasting (also sometimes called time-restricted feeding) both easier and much more effective than portion limitations. Instead of eating several small meals that never allowed insulin levels to decrease, we would skip breakfast and lunch every other day.
By the time we left for our 6,000-mile Wild West driving vacation in late July of 2018, we were both lighter than we had been for several years.
Having felt like we had accomplished our mission, for the next year or so we were not so diligent in managing our eating habits. I gained about 20 pounds, but was still almost 30 pounds below my peak.
Lisa probably gained a similar amount, but doesn’t know for certain. She had been scarred by her bathroom scale experience, so she didn’t weigh. But when she looked for a dress for our nephew’s wedding, she wasn’t happy with what she saw, and resolved to get serious.
This time she was confident that she knew what would work. Instead of alternate day fasting she would eat one low-carbohydrate meal a day, and to ensure that she wasn’t breaking her fast she switched to black coffee in the mornings starting in December 2019. Going low-carb also enabled her to get fat adapted, eliminating cravings.
She said she wasn’t going to weigh again until she felt good about how she looked, at which point the number on the scale wouldn’t matter so much.
Finally, on March 15 of this year she decided to step on the scale. She hoped to be under 160, which would represent a total loss of about 25 pounds.
She couldn’t quite believe what she saw. She weighed four times just to be sure. Instead of the hoped-for 158 or 159, the scale said… 152.6!
Since then, she’s lost 8 more pounds, and is under 145 for the first time in at least 25 years. In May, she began adding a little cream to her morning coffee without noticeably slowing her weight loss progress.
How does she know? Since May 19 she has been weighing every day, only missing once. A minor weight fluctuation that would have sapped her resolve three years ago is now just another data point in a long term trend that is going in the right direction.
And when our youngest son, John, was married on June 27, her dress was several sizes smaller:
Knowing how hard Lisa was working to lose weight four years ago, and how frustrated and disappointed she was at her slow progress, I’m so happy she has found that a low-carb diet with intermittent fasting gets better results with less effort.