DeadLiftDan's Journal on food, fatherhood & picking stuff up
A forever addiction to carbs and sugar ended for me in April of 2012. It had taken its toll. 330 pounds on a 5'10" frame, huge energy swings, constant guilt about my food choices and the very real prospect of not being the type of dad I wanted to be to my three young boys (4 yr old twins & a 2 yr old).
I have lost hundreds of pounds over the course of my life through force of will and exercise. But it always came back when the cravings for processed carbs and sugars pushed me back into a less vigilant eating routine. Having a measured amount of bread, pasta, or fries just left me hungry for more. Lots more.
Over the last few years I have been a very avid powerlifter. If I was always going to be heavy, I reasoned, I might be able to change the composition of my physique by getting much stronger. But because I used lifting big as an excuse to eat big, the composition of my body didn't change that much. Plus, all the body fat I had been carrying around created challenges for me in the weight room (i.e. proper squat depth, racking a power clean).
In March of 2012 we took the boys for a very modest hike at a state park. I had been away from the gym for a few weeks and felt miserable. I knew that I would soon be unable to keep up with my kids in an outdoor setting. It was the wakeup call I needed to start dieting again and being more vigilant about getting to the gym.
At first my diet was just what it had always been. Cutting out the junk (soda, candy) and getting into the gym several days a week to lift and do cardio. I even hit Subway for lunch -- hey it worked for Jarrod --, consumed meal replacement shakes and used a phone-based calorie counter.
I enjoyed some modest success when, seeking some inspiration, I came across Mark's Daily Apple on the web. I devoured the content like a super-sized order of french fries and it clicked for me. Over the next week or so, I transitioned into Paleo eating, using my calorie counter to track my micro nutrients and get myself under 100 grams of carbs everyday.
It took some real refinement. The 'healthy' tropical fruit Visalus breakfast shakes and the FootLong, low fat Subway Club had to go. Two bananas a day gave way to just a couple per week before a workout. I turned to jerky and pumpkin seeds as my on-the-go snacks rather than chips and candy.
Within a couple weeks I made a successful transition and found myself free of carb cravings for the first time in my life. I could order a salad off the menu without feeling deprived and pass on the free rolls and french fries.
I knew I made it when, a couple of months into my journey, I was at a McDonald's with my boys -- it is a rare visit that includes white milk, apple slices and plenty of time in the play land -- and ordered myself a salad.
Four months later, I am down 40 pounds. And while I have not tested my body fat, I know I am losing the right kind of weight while maintaining and maybe even adding to my lean muscle mass -- my squat has climbed over 100 pounds and my deadlift has improved as the numbers on the scale have gone down.
My clothes are the best indicator of progress. Shirts and pants from the back of the closet or basement that were too small fit comfortably or even loosely today. I was "swimming" in my old wardrobe and moved what used to be my everyday apparel into storage in the basement. Soon, I'll give the stuff away.
Gaining the understanding that my genetics / metabolism are not carb-adapted has provided me with remarkable clarity in terms of my food choices and lifestyle. I now know that a 300 pound (or more) body weight and all that goes with it is the only possible outcome when carbohydrates are my primary fuel source.
I have conditioned my body to once again utilize fat as its primary fuel source. I can skip a meal before a workout, manage a 24-hour fast, and sit at a table without devouring the basket of bread within my reach. I rarely count calories or worry about an occasional indulgence like a ice cream with my kids or popcorn at the movies.
It is not a diet for me. It is an intuitive and informed lifestyle that I intend to stick with for my family and for me.
The Reach Shirt and the Scale
I know I should avoid daily check-ins on the scale. Actual weight is, after all, just one very minor indication of the progress I am making in terms of my body composition and health. But seeing the numbers go down is such a rush that it is hard not hoping on the scale on an almost daily basis.
And therein lies the frustration. I'm losing about 2 pounds a week on average and in the long run. But the actual change comes in fits and starts. I've gone a week without dropping a single pound. And I've gone through stretches where I've lost 4 pounds in 48 hours. By and large it seems to be two steps forward and one step back. Overtime that will get me where I'm going.
Nevertheless, watching the scale for good news would be mind numbing if I did not use other indicators to track my progress.
I keep a "reach" shirt in the front of my closet. It is too small for me but gets closer and closer to fitting on a steady basis -- I try it on about once per week. Once I am able to wear it, I'll get another goal shirt and start measuring my progress against that garment.
XXXL to XL -- a transition in photos
When I started my Primal Journey I wore triple-x clothing. Over the last few weeks, I have been able to purchase and wear XL shirts for the first time in more than a decade. Getting to the point where my chest and shoulders are more prominent than my gut made a huge difference in my physique -- I am starting to develop that thick and strong look of the powerlifter I am training to be.
I don't feel like I am racing for a finish line. Just taking the journey as it comes and enjoying the progress along the way. The top photo was taken last week at about 270 pounds. The bottom photo was taken in May at close to 330.