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Sunday, 17 November 2013


You seem to be doing well with your diet. Keep up the good work. Just make sure you don't short yourself on needed carbs or proteins or vitamins. And ignore the Body Mass Index! Its often very misleading. What matters is the percent body fat, and the distribution of that fat. Back in my college days, many years ago, I had a BMI of 27-28, which is borderline obese. Problem was that at 6'1" and 210-215 lbs, my wrestling weight, I actually had only about 8 pct. body fat. It turns out that muscle weighs more than fat, and I had lots, as well as high bone density. I even had negative bouyancy-in the pool I would slowly drift to the bottom when in floating position unless I took a deep breath and held it. Today, sadly, its a very different story....

Good job Mike.

I remember I had a student who was an overweight vegetarian. We thought how could this be possible, till we saw the amount of French fries he would eat with his meal.

What you're doing is difficult. If it wasn't, everyone would do it. In the end though, you'll probably feel better and wonder why you didn't do it sooner.

You may want to consider integrating this: the Bang-Bang Servo Diet, aka Steve Ward Diet: http://kottke.org/09/07/the-steve-ward-diet

Sounds like you found the right path for you. Family living adds another layer of complexity onto meal planning and weight loss. My wife and I always eat better when our daughter goes on trips. And now the holidays approach, an endless stream of pies and cookies for over a month.

Dear Mike,
As I wrote already before, the best part of your diet, is that you stick to it. In my opinion, there is not enough protein, and perhaps fat as well, although the nuts are a good source of fat. You should remember to vary the diet a bit, and perhaps add fresh herbs, but finding an Italian girlfriend will do the job faster.
I don't agree with the half spoon of sugar in your oats. Make sure you move enough and good luck for the continuation !

[I tried a strictly sugar-free diet for 8 months. My observation was that it made me noticeably fuzzy mentally. I find that a *small* amount of sugar in the morning does not induce cravings and helps me feel mentally sharper. It's the result of experimentation on myself, and I can't say or guess how that might translate to others. --Mike]

My hat is off to you. I agree that there are many diet paths, but yours is a good one.

I meant to suggest this last time 'round, but I would suggest that using a target weight is not necessarily the best way to go. My thinking is that (with advise of a Dr who can monitor progress properly) the goal of a diet change should be blood-chemistry oriented. That is, getting the blood sugar/cholesterol etc levels in line. Weight will reach an equilibrium this way. And like the junk food vegan example you mention, just reaching a specific weight one can still have unhealthy blood chemistry (which is an indicator, not a syndrome).


[Hi Patrick, I actually already had very good blood indicators for a man my size and age. And I have no means of monitoring that. My primary goal here is really weight loss. --Mike]

Mike, Proud of you! If you write on this topic again, you might share the effects of your diet on the invisible but significant sides of your plant-based regime: attention, memory, mood, optimism, energy. Any changes? And for a photographer, that essential quality: vision. After 35 days, seeing things any differently, with or without a lens and sensor in front of you? Inquiring minds, you know.

Congratulations and yes you do feel better not dragging around a lot of extra body weight.

That's great. I'm glad it's working out so well for you. Keep at it.

According to this Scientific American article, we now know what the perfect diet is for us:

"If you want to return to your ancestral diet, the one our ancestors ate when most of the features of our guts were evolving, you might reasonably eat what our ancestors spent the most time eating during the largest periods of the evolution of our guts: fruits, nuts, and vegetables--especially fungus-covered tropical leaves."


I have to get me some of those fungus-covered tropical leaves, I bet they're loaded with micro-nutrients!

Great efforts happen best at a moderate pace.

I recommend three books to people intending to get "healthy" and treat the "weight" issue as a side affect of food management.

The sequence of reading is a personal matter ... , I would read them as follows

1. Toxic Fat, by Dr. Barry Sears explains why most of us are putting on pounds and how it will affect our long term health.

2. Enter the Zone, by Barry Sears again explains how our food choices affect our handling of excess food intake. This book contains easy meals based on the 40-30-30 balance.

3. The Fast Diet by Dr Michael Mosely uses a five day feed, two day fast cycle which requires you to eat two days at a limit of 600 calories male/500 female. Easy to follow and has meal plans. The fast days are not taken together , Monday and Thursday seems to work the best. The feed days are not restrictive as to intake, however the process reinforces the effort to eat "normal" intake.

So I eat within the Zone approach and utilize the Fast Diet cycle.

Easy to follow and very effective. Down 17 lbs in 28 days.

I do add a 20 minute low intensity workout (stationary bike) three times a week.

Keep up the good work Mike.

Are you doing anything re burning calories?

[Fairly long walks with the dog--4-16 blocks--every day it's not raining. I don't have a treadmill yet, because I haven't been able to replace the toxic carpet in the living room yet. (My organizer quit on me, I don't know if I've mentioned that yet. I appear to defeat all efforts at organization.) --Mike]

Congratulations on the loss. Weight watchers has worked for me in the same pound a week way. I have kept off 70 lbs. for nine years now. I need the weekly meetings to keep me straight and get positive feedback and ideas. You seem to be able to do that by yourself for which you should give yourself a pat on the back.

I agree that the science of nutrition and weight loss is in it's infancy and that none of the miracle diets or plans takes into account how differently each individual reacts to food.

Once more, congratulations.

Planning weight loss over some significant time is good because it more or less forces you to come up with a sustainable diet. If you can do one, I think an even broader scope is better, with a sustainable diet as part of it. By a broader scope, I mean exercises of various kinds, and getting decent sleep. All of that should be done the way you're doing the diet, on a basis that you can sustain. With a little ingenuity, that can be done, I think -- I'm struggling to fine-tune that whole process right now, and so far, it seems to be working for me. The toughest part is getting good sleep. I sleep best if I go to bed about the same time every night (midnight, or a little after) and I've taken the time to quiet down my mind with a little reading, and haven't made any early morning appointments that I have to worry about. I now avoid appointments before about 10:30.

The best way to exercise your body (for people with jobs like ours) is with formal exercise, which I loathe. I belong to a golf club with a good exercise room, but the problem with any exercise club is that you have to go there. I asked the club trainer to give me a full-body exercise program I could do at home in a short time. He gave me one; it involves a few dumbbells, a small cheap weight bench (a low chair would have worked just as well) one of those inflatable exercise balls, and an elliptical machine, all of which I have in my work space. I can work, take a fifteen minute break and do the weight component, work some more, take a ten-minute break and do the yoga/stretching component, and at some point (the only thing I quickly change clothes for) take a 25-minute break to watch television while I'm on the elliptical machine. It's pretty painless, and makes me feel better. I work at a computer about 4-5 hours a day, and simply fit the exercise into my work day. It even seems to make the work go more easily. I've been on the program all fall. I think I can sustain it, but I won't be sure until I'm at least a year out.

Congratulations! On a similar journey myself, started in March and up to just over 35 pounds myself. My goal was 30 pounds, but I think if I stop trying so quickly I'll rebound, so I need to get this to become a habit (increased activity, reduced calorie intake).

For me, the biggest motivators were twice daily weight checks and an activity monitor. I allow myself to slip on the weekends (which isn't helping with the habit forming) but I think I'd go crazy without the slipping.

The one major conclusion I have drawn is at least for now, sustainable weight loss is a deeply personal (and hard work) thing for most people, and facile plans offered for sale by so many opportunists are unlikely to do any good.

Congrats on the good work. Regarding that 3rd meal, I'm similar to you in that I'm not much of a cook, so here's something to try that has made a huge difference for me:

Look in the frozen food section of your market for dinners by "Amy's". They are all vegetarian recipes, made with organic ingredients, with sensible portions, a wide selection (American, Mexican, Italian, Indian), with many "cheesey" ones that are dairy free using delicious soy cheese (lasagna, baked ziti, etc). And the best part is they are absolutely delicious. Makes me hungry just writing about it :)

Best of luck,

Grade B maple syrup is a nice addition to oatmeal. Grade B is stronger in flavor.

Congratulations, Mike!

Our bodies seem pretty bad at estimating how much energy we take in - and no surprise; how would it measure that accurately? Instead we seem to relay a fair amount on habit; we teach ourselves how often to eat and much food to eat in order to feel satisfied. Many successful diet changes seem to really be about learning to accept less food as sufficient.

I seem to have done so inadvertently when I moved ten years ago. Since then I've lost about 22kg (45 pounds?), at a fairly steady rate of 2kg per year, without consciously trying to actually lose weight. In fact, my problem has been to stop losing weight over the last year, as I'm now well within my optimal weight range and shouldn't lose any more.

Congratulation on your progress, Mike!

If you're looking for an easy way to jazz up rice and like indian flavors, simple dals are very easy to prepare. The beans or lentils are cooked in water with a little turmeric, largely unattended (salt added after cooking). You can adjust the amount of water to get the thickness you prefer, from a thin soup to a thick spread (they thicken when cooled). The basic dal will keep for some days in the fridge. Before eating, a chaunk is added to the hot dal for flavor: spices (and sometimes vegetables) are quickly fried in a bit of oil or ghee. Varying the chaunk gets you a variety in flavors very easily and only takes a couple of minutes to prepare.

I find a dal over rice (especially brown rice) along with some fresh veggies or greens a very satisfying meal. Being able to prepare the basic dal in a larger batch, but vary the flavor by making a quick chaunk, is very convenient when you're cooking for one. You might need to locate your local indian grocer to stock up on some of the spices or varieties of beans, but you'll only need go once every few months. Let me know if you want any recipes!


I strongly agree with BH about the FitBit. Monitoring everything you eat, and pegging it to your exercise level, is IMO the way to go. It's even fun! Down 7.5# of the 8# I have to lose.

Well done, Mike. Best of luck with the next 35 lbs, and after.

BH's advice about big-picture thinking applies to all of us, not just "dieters". As MFK Fisher pointed out long ago, people too often confuse diet discipline with meal discipline. We should all eat good, balanced diets, but that doesn't mean that every meal need be strictly balanced and rationed.

If you want some suggestions for that second meal from a life-long rice lover, please feel free to email me.

Hi Mike,

I see that you like sushi. I discovered that it is really quick and easy to make at home with surprisingly little practice. I prefer to make it for my kid’s lunches over sandwiches or such things, it’s that easy.

Watch a video or attend one of those short cooking courses that some grocery stores hold, and you are off. You can then cut down on the sugar and salt that restaurants use, or even substitute for a healthier variety of rice.

Check out green smoothies. Easy way to get a large quantity of greens into your diet. Lots of good YouTube videos. Start with a few handfuls of spinach, water (and/Ice) a banana, blueberries and some strawberries. They mask the tase of the greens, especially when blending kale, collards and or bok choi.

Congrats on the progress Mike! It is a whole lifestyle change, something that some people need to embrace for longterm change.

I have the opposite problem but our paths are similar - I'm working out to add muscle and get 'heavier'. My body type is lean/light skeleton/long limbs and I've always been one of 'those guys' who eats whatever I want in whatever quantities I want and it doesn't have much affect. A couple of years ago I was getting tired of being skinny and decided to add some muscle. Here is where our paths are similar...

Eat only real food/whole food. My food has to look like it came from what it came from. Meat looks like meat. Veggies look like they came out of the ground or plants. There are no Mars bar tree's or Oreo cookie fields. .

Good fat is good for you. Nuts, olive oil, etc...

Time carbs for activities. Breakfast always and then load up before AND after a weight lifting workout. Going to bed soon? Limit any carbs. This is one of the big failings of the way North Americans eat - lots of high carb, low nutrition food in evenings and then go to bed with those carbs not having anything to do except go to bodyfat.

Lots of water.

One of the things i was told to do was keep a food journal for 3 days and add up the nutrient count in what I ate to figure out what needed to be changed and where. Carbs, fat, protiens. In my case, I was so disgusted after doing that for one meal I just hopped right into a whole food/real food diet and havent looked back.

One thing you didn't mention Mike is exercise. Cardio/aerobic activity is great for dropping fat while watching your diet. Walking is fantastic! Most anyone can do it and it really requires nothing in the way of specialized equipment. Only 'problem' is you have to do lots ot it to offset its low impact.

Keep up the good work and be proud of your accomplishment!

Thirty-five pounds gone -- well done !! This surely means that you can now carry the whole-plate camera, five darkslides and a tripod without your legs noticing...

In my own limited experience, the first half is easy. My goal is about half of yours and easily lost half by not overeating and especially, cutting down on wheat. You thought salt and sugar was in everything? Look at wheat ... Also, reducing it also gives your digestive system a break. I feel and look better. Saw this happen first with my wife, and neither of us are "wheat sensitive" or whatever. Increased reliance on fruit is a plus. Nothing sustains me in the morning like eggs. So that's my religiosity on weight loss.

I've since plateaued and the next step for me is excersize but I won't kid myself with one or two worthless trips to a gym. I'll either build it into my lifestyle or won't bother at all. I've changed how I eat and know I can keep it up or improve more, so the next step must be doable in the same manner.

I won't wish you "good luck" because you know it's not about that, but instead, good results.

Congratulations! It sounds like you are having a good time and that it is working well!


In my experience and according to what I have read, cheese, being mostly fat without the milk sugar (or lactose), shouldn't trigger cravings like sugar, or things that turn into sugar in your body, do.

Also, speaking of oat meal, have you tried the steel-cut (or "Irish") kind? If not, you'll never go back to that other stuff. I guess the steel-cut is better for you.

Congrats on making it this far!

About 14 years ago I found myself considerably overweight and needed to act. Through a heavy calorie counting program I went from 215 to 145 in 6 months. I found I overshot a bit, and have discovered that 160 is the perfect weight for me. However, after I lost the weight I would find myself having to do the program over again. I'd never gain all the weight back, but I'd get up into the 180s and have to do the program again.

Then I decided to try something new. Basically I mostly cut out processed food and anything that wasn't "natural" for a human to eat. Later I found out that the paleo diet is essentially the same thing, but I've never bothered with getting hardcore with it, I just do my own thing.

Basically I eat a lot of fruits, vegetables and meat (usually lean, but not always), and mostly cut out processed foods including grains and dairy. I use plant oils instead of butter (lots of olive oil, and I've found Hazlenut oil is awesome - great nutty taste similar to browned butter). I'm not super strict about it, I had a cheeseburger last night and some pizza a few nights before, but 90% of my meals adhere to the natural foods thing.

The beauty of this approach is, I don't need to worry about portion control at all, I can eat as much as I like. Just try to get fat on salads, roasted veggies, fruit and meat, I dare you. Also, if I decide I want lasagna one night, it's not a big deal. I have no problem keeping my weight in the 160s anymore.

Thanks for the update, Mike. Your organizer quit on you. May I humbly suggest that you lose a pound per week of your hoard? Just put it in the dumpster.

No wonder your not responding to my lunch invites!

i doubt you'll be happy with lunch and dinner until you learn a little about cooking. if you can read over 50 books on diet and nutrition, a couple of cookbooks should be a piece of cake. i would recommend the smallest, thinnest cookbook you can find in the bookstore.

there are lots of ways to flavor rice. for example, saute an aromatic on medium heat, add some spices and/or herbs at the end, then stir it into your rice. i really like garlic and chile flakes, or onions and dill.

Rice: my favorites are Basmati - kind of nutty, a little sweet & Jasmine which I find tastes subtly like buttered popcorn (I could eat this variety every day & even plain without any adornment). Have to say that even though I'm supposed to enjoy Brown rice ("it's healthier") I do not. Wild Rice is best when it is not over-toasted as most commercial Wild Rice is; when it's good it's really good!

Hi Mike,
Can I just say 2 things:
One your diet and persistence is amazing... Congratulations!!!
As for Fitbit.. my wife bought me one, they aren't cheap...($99.00+/-)
My first bracelet broke. now my wife has bought me another one. ( This is getting expensive) The second bracelet is about to break. The internal sensor is fine. The company won't replace anything and have asked for everything from my blood type to multiple photos of THEIR design failures. Just saying, support companies that stand behind their products.....
Am in a damned if I do, damned if I don't position but there are similar alternative products on the market... consider those strongly.

How long is "4-16 blocks" with the dog in right-Pondian units?

Ours gets 20+45+20min walks per day, minimum, with the odd 1.5-hour stroll once or twice a weekend; I find my diet has adjusted to this level of exercise.

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