Weight Loss: Piecing it Together

I’ve always read with interest the conundrum behind weight loss.  Science says that it’s pretty straight forward: eat less, move more.  Burning more kcals than you consume is the so-called “simple math” of weight loss.   And yet.  Well you know the story: folks want to lose weight and cannot for a wide variety of reasons.  Personally, I’ve never subscribed to the whole diet as weight loss scheme simply because when I did use such a diet it was almost impossible to maintain.  I distinctly remember a diet that combined beets, hot dogs and the like…some kind of chemical reaction in your body produced weight loss.  The crazy thing was, that ridiculous diet worked!  Sure, but who wants to eat hot dogs and beets all the time?

I started an eating plan, the plant-based one, and folks told me I would never lose weight on that plan.

“Too many carbs; you cannot lose weight eating carbs”

“The only way to weight loss is by eating protein; lots of it”

“Low carb diets are the only guaranteed way to weight loss”

You have heard all of those phrases I am sure.  So,  like always, I went to the research.  The body of evidence that reveals the success of dieting on a variety of diets is extensive. You will find studies that support weight loss on almost any diet plan.  This article offers perspective on many eating plans.  Other articles offer quite biased perspectives.  For example, the Whole30 folks are committed to their program (a lifestyle program rather than a diet).  They claim dramatic physical and mental changes as a result of this eating plan.  By contrast, folks are equally adamant that a plant-based diet is the way forward.

Entering into the debate on this issue was an essay written by Nina Teicholz and response Dr. Dean Ornish.  Teicholz is a journalist, Ornish an M.D. who has administered a series of studies on diet.  The debate between the two is intense and filled with invective.  The article is a fascinating look at the debates between plant-based diets and low carb diets.  I’ll leave you to judge the outcome.

All of these studies, diet’s and plans can have very real consequences on human lives.  From my perspective, I cannot follow the advice of a journalist like Nina Teicholz when faced with science and research based analysis of what to eat.

Further, after a lot of research on these various plans, I chose the plant-based approach based on the research.  Then I tested my body; I AM a test subject on the plant-based diet. I follow the diet (eating plan) strictly.  Further, I increased exercise, moderately, from what I had done before.  Then I checked my blood work and used my body as evidence of the success (or not) of the plan.  Here’s what I have found: all markers for everything from glucose and insulin to calcium and etc are improved, dramatically.  Cholesterol (156 to 98) trigycerides (95 to 76) LDL (90 to 40), HDL (43) all excellent.  Blood pressure down dramatically (140/78 to 118/60)…weight loss a consistent 1.5/2 lbs per week.  The plant-based diet works in all of the ways that Ornish, Campbell, and Esselstyn have said.  Their data and my data match.

As I move forward on this plan, I’m very curious to see a change in stenosis or restenosis of the stent repaired artery.  Ornish et al claim that I can see significant improvement in stenosis over time.  If I can get some funding, my plan is to check stenosis directly using a heart cath procedure.  Those tests will come in a couple of years.  In the meantime, I feel good.

Finally, the weight loss question.  As I mentioned, I am losing weight, consistently.  I’m eating carbs; a lot of carbs compared to the other low-carb diet plans.  Based on descriptions from those practitioners, I should have NO luck losing weight; and yet, here I am, dropping pounds each week.  Does it come down to moving more, eating less?  The fact is, I’m eating a lot of food….veggies, fruit, grains, beans, lentils.  Good lord I’m eating a lot.  However, the food is low calorie, and I can eat vast amounts of these foods and still lose weight….especially as long as I avoid the processed foods.  So, I eat whole foods, like the Whole30 plan, but none of the artery clogging fat and meat.

Further, exercising consistently is one of the factors in this whole process.  For me, that means 45-65 minutes 5 to 6 days per week.  I workout at a facility and walk about 2 miles  3 nights a week.  My movement has increased (although not dramatically).  I track my workouts and the calories burned just as a way of measuring my progress….I burn about 2500 kcals per week in exercise.  Combined with the eating plan, my weight loss is 1.5 to 2 pounds each week.  I’ve found I can slow down or speed up weight loss simply by changing, slightly, my food intake….using this experiment, I dropped all grains for 5 days and saw weight loss increase that week to 3 pounds; I did the same with salads…dropped the salads and stuck just to grains and legumes with about the same 3 pound weight loss that week….SOOOOOOO, maybe the science is right: that eating less and burning more calories equals more weight loss!  Wow.  Science is cool.

Finally, here’s my question: what diet, what eating plan are you willing to bet your life on?  Seriously.  If, like me, you have faced the very real prospect of death, then which diet is the one that will, more than likely, improve your chances of survival?  Are you willing to bet your life on a diet filled with animal protein and saturated fat? Does such an eating plan jive with what the data tells us?  Does a plant-based diet make sense based on the science?  I’ve made my choice…..the proof will be in whether or not I’m able to survive into the future…..THAT is a story I’m interested in seeing through to the end.

Whew.  I’m kind of DONE with the whole diet thread.  I’m moving back into my philosophical discussions about practice and mind….those ideas are, it seems to me, more important, ultimately, than what I eat!

May you be happy, may you be well!

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