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No pretending to like tofu any more!: Eric's primal transformation

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  • No pretending to like tofu any more!: Eric's primal transformation

    UPDATES below!

    Iím 41 years old, and Iíve had weight issues since I was 7 or 8. The summer before my Junior year of high school, I decided to lose weight. I had reached 195 pounds and was around 5í8Ē. I did it by starvation. I ate about 350 calories a day Ė one frozen WW meal Ė and on Fridays, I would have a large pepperoni pizza as a treat. Crazy, right? But it ďworked.Ē I lost 50 pounds in 3 months. I now shudder to think about the damage I did to my body. Oh well. I kept it off through the rest of high school, and I was actually relatively healthy in my first couple of years of college. I rode my bike about 20 miles a day, and I lifted weights for a while. My roommate, who was a middle distance runner on the track team, gave me a book, ďEat to Win.Ē God, looking back on it, it should have been titled ďeat to die.Ē It promotes a very high carb, extremely low protein and low fat diet. Well, I started doing it. While I continued to exercise, everything was fine. But then I stopped exercising, and I kept doing the basic principles of that diet Ė loads of carbs, little fat and protein. I started gaining weight, and I guess I was too stupid to put 2 and 2 together. Too much beer I suppose. At the time, I assumed it was because I wasnít exercising. True, but Ö the way I was eating was terrible.

    In my mid-20s in grad school, I developed hypoglycaemia and asthma around the same time, and I slowly gained a ton of weight. I lived in DC during 9/11 and realized that I may need to run away from something or walk 10 miles home, and I wasnít in shape to do it at all. I weighed about 295 pounds. Between 2001 and 2006, I studied a martial art and dropped my weight to the 250s. My diet still sucked though. I moved and stopped training. Fast forward to 2009, and I weighed 295 pounds. Again. Yikes. That's a photo of me around that time.
    me in 2009.jpg
    I had to do something. I absolutely refused to go over the 300 pound mark.

    Without realizing it, I started eating something closer to primal/paleo. I ate a ton of salads with grilled chicken, and I cut out bread and pasta. I lost 30 pounds. Then I got married, and I got a job in Vienna Austria, where Iím living now. Here's a photo of me soon after I arrived.

    Eric arrives Vienna.jpg

    I kept my weight in the 270s until this February, when I visited home. I was there 3 weeks, ate every kind of junk food and fast food I craved (or knew I couldnít get back in Vienna), and I weighed over 280 when I returned. Here are some photos of my on that visit.

    me before.png This isn't a mugshot; it is for an international driver's license.

    This one is of me beginning to devour a hot brown, which is technically a sandwich. Yeah. That's right. A sandwich. It has a bottom layer of bread, then some turkey and ham, some tomato, then an enormous amount of white sauce (flour, butter and milk), and loads of cheese, topped with bacon.

    me and hot brown.jpg

    I stopped eating like a madman and dropped to 272 by March 28th. Thatís when I joined a gym.

    I started swimming every day at lunch-time. After my first month, I got a free personal training session, and the trainer said I should start lifting weights if I really want to lose weight. I was sceptical. So then I started doing a ton of research on losing weight and exercise. Turns out he was right. I found stronglifts, but then quickly moved over to Starting Strength (though I do rows instead of cleans). I lift weights 3x a week and swim 2x now.

    I had cut down on carbs (eliminated sugar, but still had moderate amounts of whole grain bread, brown rice, whole grain pasta, and lots of beans, lentils, and tofu). I was also eating a lot of protein thanks to the weightlifting. I was losing weight. I lost 11 pounds between March 28 and April 28th with a respectable gain in muscle. But I was feeling really worn down all the time. Iíd gut out my workouts, but Iíd feel like crap at the end of the day with very little energy. A friend on FB posted that she was eating a high protein, high fat diet with low carbs. I thought she was crazy. High protein, ok. High fat? What? So I was curious. Thatís when I discovered paleo and got Robb Wolfís book and devoured it (didnít find Markís site until a couple of days ago). In the process of gearing up to try paleo, I tracked my food carefully for a couple of days and discovered that even though I felt like I had severely cut my carb intake (the sad thing is that I actually had cut it), I was still eating probably 45% calories from carbs.

    So I started paleo over the weekend. On May 26th, I weighed 261. Today, I weigh 257. Not bad in 5 days. The first couple of days were hard. Not from a cravings standpoint, but I think my body was adjusting to the transition away from so many carbs, and I felt Ö the best way to describe it was weird and tired. But then by Tuesday, I started feeling pretty good. Yesterday and today I feel great. When I started swimming 2 months ago, I swam 12 laps. Yesterday, I swam 40 laps in less than 26 minutes. And I wasnít tired afterwards. I was actually energized. I donít have any blood sugar crashes now either. I havenít breathed this well in years (thanks to swimming -- canít attribute that to paleo since it has only been 5 days, but I do hope that over time it will improve even more because of paleo). Iím very much looking forward to how I feel after a few weeks of eating paleo.

    My weight loss goals in the past have always been to lose enough that I can function reasonably well and buy pants in a normal store. Iíd resigned myself to being obese for the last 15 years and that, even at best, Iíd be moderately obese. And that was OK for me. It was the way I was. Sad, isnít it? But now I want to be f*cking fit. I donít want a ďbeer bellyĒ any more, and I want to be able to do anything physically that I feel like doing. I never want my weight or a lack of conditioning to hold me back. A lot of whatís motivating me now is that I have an 8 month old son, and Iíve come to the realization that 1) I need to be in better shape to be a good dad and be able to keep up with him; 2) I never want him to feel like we canít do something that he wants to do because I canít physically do it; 3) I want to be a good role model for him; and 4) I want to be around long enough to know my grandkids, and the way I was going, that was NOT going to happen. I donít have a weight goal per se since Iím also doing strength training. My primary goal is to have visible abs for the first time in my life.

    UPDATE!

    I now weigh 297 pounds (83 pounds lost) as of July 16, 2013, about 14 months after I began paleo. This photo was taken over the weekend at Rathausplatz in Vienna.

    Eric July 13 2013.jpg
    Last edited by en2ec; 07-16-2013, 12:40 AM. Reason: added update
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  • #2
    Welcome! I'm new-ish here too.

    Those are really great goals!
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    • #3
      Thanks!
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      • #4
        This is a photo taken of me yesterday. I still have a long way to go, but I feel like I'm on the right track.
        Eric.jpg
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        • #5
          I have been holding steady at 257 for several days now. I felt really good lifting today, easily going up in weight for all lifts. I hope that my steady weight only means I'm adding a little muscle while losing a little fat.

          The last couple of days, I've been eating breakfast when I get up in the morning, but I haven't been particularly hungry. I think I'm going to give IF a try, specifically the leangains protocol, to see how that goes. I've gotten to the point where I really don't feel any blood sugar crashes like I did on my SAD diet, so I'm hoping that means that my body has adjusted to burning fat and that a 16 hour fast will be no problem. As a bonus, if IF works for me, I'll save 15 to 20 minutes in the morning because I won't have to make my breakfast.

          My wife and I went out for dinner last night for the first time since our baby was born! It has been a while. With the exception of a bourbon and some red wine, I stayed primal. I had a steak, a small portion of sweet potato fries, and a salad. OK. The sweet potato fries are borderline, but they were a small portion. My wife had lemonade, fish and chips and a small dessert. She felt terrible after her meal. I felt great. She's reading up on primal. She doesn't eat red meat (except lamb once in a while). For the most part, she only eats chicken, and she only likes to eat it a few times a week. So primal is going to be hard for her. She's supportive of me though, even though she hates the smell of beef or pork (especially bacon) cooking.
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          • #6
            We discovered a Turkish market here in Vienna that has a great selection of fresh fruit and veggies that are much cheaper than in the grocery. The downside is that I'm sure it isn't organic. Going there was like going to Istanbul. We went there Saturday morning, and after we bought our veggies for the week, we ate at a little Turkish restaurant, and I had a 1/2 grilled chicken with a salad (plus an extra cabbage salad with oil and vinegar dressing). Yummy, and primal!
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            • #7
              Hey there! Welcome! Great results so far. Keep it up. Might I suggest you measure yourself instead or in addition to weighing yourself? Especially if you are doing weight training. You may not lose physical weight (or you may think that it's stalled), yet you could still be losing inches.) I find it more motivating to see inches lost than weight on the scale (since that can really fluctuate based on many factors). Best of luck to you. I will be following your journal.

              Cheers.
              Jennifer

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              • #8
                Jennifer,

                Thanks for the welcome and the very good advice! I have a tape measure somewhere, but can't find it at the moment -- I need to though. But I do have a hierarchy of pants that were in the snug, tight, really tight, and "you've got to be kidding me" categories. I can now comfortably wear the "tight" pants, so I am also tracking my progress that way, and it is very gratifying. Intellectually I know that the number on the scale doesn't matter and that I shouldn't check it more than once a week, but I like numbers (being an analyst), and I sometimes can't help myself.
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                • #9
                  Originally posted by en2ec View Post
                  Jennifer,

                  Thanks for the welcome and the very good advice! I have a tape measure somewhere, but can't find it at the moment -- I need to though. But I do have a hierarchy of pants that were in the snug, tight, really tight, and "you've got to be kidding me" categories. I can now comfortably wear the "tight" pants, so I am also tracking my progress that way, and it is very gratifying. Intellectually I know that the number on the scale doesn't matter and that I shouldn't check it more than once a week, but I like numbers (being an analyst), and I sometimes can't help myself.
                  Oh me too, I have a collection of jeans. Also, in addition to keeping track by measuring, progress photo's are also motivating. I can see you have a couple. I did mine in a sports bra and running shorts. VERY SCARY! but hopefully it will turn into lean and muscular.... With regards to measuring and weighing, I only do it mid and end of month ONLY. Otherwise, I'll get obsessed and disappointed by the daily fluctuations.

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                  • #10
                    OK. I tried IF today. I was hungry this morning, but not too hungry. No big deal really. However, I was feeling a bit lightheaded. I was curious how I would do in the pool on a fast. I swam my usual 40 laps, but I was about a minute slower than last time when I had eaten breakfast. I know that Leangains intends for you to lift weights rather than do cardio, but I wanted to give it a try anyway. I swim at a pace equivalent to fast walking, so it isn't an intense exercise like running would be.

                    I usually only have whey after I lift, but I decided to have some today knowing that I'd be really hungry after I swam. I then had lunch. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring the nice chipotle crusted roast beef I made, and so instead I had to go to the cafeteria. Blah. I had a premade salad with lettuce, tomato, hardboild egg, and strips of what were described as turkey, but Grok would be hard pressed to identify it as food (and so was I). I shouldn't have eaten the "turkey" strips, but I did because I was in a food frenzy. I poured copious amounts of olive oil on the salad and forced it down despite it being iceburg lettuce (I normally hate). I also had a burger (no bun) and some cooked spinach. The choices in the cafeteria are pretty dismal. By the time I finished, I was feeling even more lightheaded than when I began. I decided that I needed some carbs. I went to a shop and got a bar of Lindt 85%. I'm a milk chocolate addict. Add in whole hazelnuts, and that's like crack for me. Dark chocolate ... well, the best I can say about it is that I'm not tempted at all to eat the whole bar. Maybe I'll get used to it. I ate 1/3 of a bar (forced it down is a better description), and I'm feeling a lot better. Come to think of it, I was feeling like I had been attacked by a dementor ....

                    Time to rethink IF. I'll give it another shot, but this time on a strength training day. I think one problem is that I had my dinner at 6 pm last night, and I had a handful of strawberries at 9 pm. I just wasn't very hungry and didn't feel like cooking anything. I think if I have a more substantial 9 pm meal I'll do better with the fast. If you ignore the strawberries, which don't have many calories at all, I practically fasted for 19 hours. And then swam 800 m. I'm not surprised I felt lightheaded.
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                    • #11
                      I think if you are trying IF that it is important to eat a substantial meal at night and the handful of strawberries were definitely not that (like you said). I find that a meal with decent fat sustains me much longer. I generally have a meal right before bed (around 11pm-ish), then I IF until about 3pm the next day (or whenever I get hungry). Take it a bit at a time and make sure you have your prepared food handy because the unfortunate choices that you had to choose from and chocolate aren't going to be terribly sustainable in the long term. Better luck tomorrow!

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Metric View Post
                        I think if you are trying IF that it is important to eat a substantial meal at night and the handful of strawberries were definitely not that (like you said). I find that a meal with decent fat sustains me much longer. I generally have a meal right before bed (around 11pm-ish), then I IF until about 3pm the next day (or whenever I get hungry). Take it a bit at a time and make sure you have your prepared food handy because the unfortunate choices that you had to choose from and chocolate aren't going to be terribly sustainable in the long term. Better luck tomorrow!
                        I think you may be right about having fat. I ate dinner last night around 8:30 pm, and I had a pretty large meal. Big portions of grass-fed roast beef and sauted bok choi (in ghee). I was still hungry and had 2 fried eggs and a tomato. Then I had a bowl of strawberries and coconut milk. Wow. Delicious. It is now 9:15 am, and I'm not hungry at all. I think that this will be a much better IF attempt today. Still forgot my lunch though. After years of never bringing a lunch, I'm finding it hard to get in the habbit of taking it out of the fridge.
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                        • #13
                          As part of the contract for the gym I joined, I have to have periodic coaching sessions. I had my first one yesterday (same guy who did my intro training session who convinced me to lift rather than only swim).

                          I went into it thinking it was going to be a waste of time. We talked about weightlifting for a long time, which I'll get to later, and then he asked about nutrition. I told him that I was eating paleo/primal. He didn't know what that was. I started to describe it, and he said he knows exactly what it is and that he's been eating this way for 3 years. I forgot to ask him what he calls it. He said he lost about 45 pounds of fat in 6 months when he started, and he is 100% convinced that it is the best way to eat. I thought that was cool.

                          That brings me to the weightlifting discussion. He thinks I'm doing it bass ackwards. He thinks that I should focus exclusively on hypertrophy for fat loss because 1) it builds muscle mass faster, which means that more muscle consumes more calories and 2) interval training for hypertrophy also burns a lot more calories than strength training. He also recommended periodiztion. Basically 4 - 6 weeks of hypertrophy first, then 4 - 6 weeks of strength, then a week off.

                          Then repeat. His advice contradicts the Starting Strength and Stronglifts communities. Now I'm conflicted. Do I focus on strength (I certainly have some hypertrophy from my strength training) or do I focus on building mass?

                          A lot of people in the paleo and primal communities do SL or SS. But is that because Crossfit promotes paleo, and Rippetoe, author of Starting Strength, used to be affiliated with Crossfit? Obviously, people have great results with strength training, but would they have had even better results with hypertrophy? By the way, another trainer at the gym, who I've chatted with and who has given me some tips on lifting form, also said that I should be doing lighter weights at higher volume. They've both said that what I'm doing isn't bad, but not as effective for fat loss.
                          Last edited by en2ec; 06-06-2012, 12:50 AM.
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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by en2ec View Post
                            I think you may be right about having fat. I ate dinner last night around 8:30 pm, and I had a pretty large meal. Big portions of grass-fed roast beef and sauted bok choi (in ghee). I was still hungry and had 2 fried eggs and a tomato. Then I had a bowl of strawberries and coconut milk. Wow. Delicious. It is now 9:15 am, and I'm not hungry at all. I think that this will be a much better IF attempt today. Still forgot my lunch though. After years of never bringing a lunch, I'm finding it hard to get in the habbit of taking it out of the fridge.
                            Do you have a phone that you can set an alarm on? If so, set an alarm to remind you to bring your lunch. I had to do this in the beginning. I found it VERY effective!!!

                            As for the training, I'm sorry, but I have no idea. I only concentrated on moving slowly for the first month and focusing on adding some body-weight movements this month: Pushups, Planks, Squats. Maybe some gym time, but I haven't read PB part on exercise yet.... Hopefully, someone else will be able to point you in the right direction. Have you searched PB for this info yet??

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Metric View Post
                              Have you searched PB for this info yet??
                              Only briefly. I'll try to look more in depth when I have time. I also posted under PB Fitness.

                              The alarm is a good idea, but I leave every day at a different time because my son wakes up randomly, and that means I'm up at random times and go ahead and get ready and leave soon after. But, I just had an idea to stick a post-it on the inside of my front door at night right after I prepare my lunch. I don't think I would have thought of it without your alarm idea, so thank you!
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