Diet and Exercise

On the anniversary post, I was asked for “diet tips” and exercise tips in the comments. So . . . here they are. YMMV.

Situps are a lot easier when you’ve lost 70 lbs. If you can do them at home, in the bed in the morning or whenever when you can grab a minute, you’ll find you can increase the weight you can pull on the crunch machine at the gym. That’s been my experience at least. And having less time to go to the gym, finding times where I can do plain body weight exercises has been a life saver.

Toe lifts can be done almost anywhere, at almost any time. Maybe you can’t run on the treadmill or go for a walk, but toe lifts can help with a lot of those muscles, and you can reach your maximum exertion quickly. There’s always time for toe lifts.

Pushups work a lot of major muscle groups at the same time (proceed with caution if you’ve got back issues). You can do them in all sorts of places. The goal I’ve got is 100 pushups a day. Eventually, 100 in an hour, in sets of 25. I cannot yet complete a full set of 25, but it’s amazing how many muscle groups are improved by developing strength with plank pushups. Haven’t got to a 100 a day, but I’m halfway there (I’ve topped 50, though I still don’t do that every day). But when I started, I was doing sets of 5 and not getting to more than 20 on a good day. It’s just very slow going.

Diet: don’t eat much. Some people go vegan, do Paleo, do Atkins. Everybody has a reason why there way works and radical calorie restriction does not . . . but radical calorie restriction actually does work. At least, it has for me. All I’m doing. Just not eating very much, but trying to get sufficient nutrition to remain healthy. I focus on calories and quantity, and don’t worry much about nutritional value, or whether there is protein or wheat or saturated fats in what I’m eating. I just don’t eat much. And I eat more of fruits and vegetables, if they are part of the meal.

The motivation game is the issue. That’s trickier. I just always keep in mind that the food will be there next week, next month, next year. I don’t have to eat it now. I also keep in mind that the way the brain works (and the reason I was fat in the first place) is that overeating trains the brain to always ask for more. Dopamine receptors go down and dopamine releases go up. So I always think about that, when I’m downstairs, and it’s late, and I’m thinking of snacking. It took three months of very light eating (most of the time) to retrain my brain to stop acting like I was starving because I wasn’t eating second breakfast. Do I want to lose that? I do not. So I skip the late night snack.

Best time of my life, I weighed around 180. I think about that, too. Not that it’s a causal relationship, but it certainly can’t hurt to recreate what components of that time that I can. I think about how I had felt trapped and miserable in high school (when I was fat, out of shape), and how that had seemed to stretch out for decades rather than a few short years. Then how much and how dramatically so much in my life improved during my college years, and just how awesome they were. There were lots of reasons for that, of course, but being slim and fit certainly helped.

And as the quality of my life deteriorated after college in many important ways, I was putting on weight. Hmmmm. Does make a man ponder.

But the improvements in my life, back in the distant past, didn’t happen right away when the needle on the scale first dipped below 180. So I need to maintain, and then judge how things are in my life generally a year from now and two and three years from now. So I keep that in mind as well.

The other bit as regards motivation is spending time (now that I am much skinnier, and generally more fit) enjoying it. Dressing well, admiring myself in the mirror, jumping down the last five or six stairs and landing lightly on my feet. Running a mile on the treadmill, and reflecting on how that would have probably killed me 9 months ago. Thinking about the difference in squeezing through tight spaces or running out to my car or riding rides at the fair. The quality of all these experiences are dramatically better. Do I need to eat dessert that badly?

The answer is no.

Plus, it’s fun, at 43, to be physically fit and attractive. I get looks from, and flirted with by, women half my age. I got the flustered oh-my-gosh-this-an-attractive-man reaction from my daughter’s dance teacher last night, a reaction that I got very familiar with in college. It’s a reaction you only get from women (if you are a man) when they knew you before, and you show up suddenly transformed, for them. They’ve watched you move (abruptly, in their experience, because they have not see you for awhile) from asexual blob of generic humanity to a fit and attractive man radiating strength. It’s not flirting, but it’s an unmistakeable “Wow!” reaction. And one you never get when you’re overweight and out of shape, and not one you get when you move in the other direction. “Wow, you’ve gotten fat!” is a completely different experience.

We’re going on a cruise in November. I weigh now what I weighed when I went to London in college (best trip of my life, for many reasons). I haven’t been this skinny or fit on a nice vacation in 20 years. That’s exciting. I’m going to buy a new suit for the trip, the kind of dress suit that looks great on thin, fit people. And I’m going to look awesome in it. Would I want to spoil that with a cheeseburger (and then another, and then another) or snacks and sugared soft drinks all day long? No, no, I would not. Would it be nice to lose another 5 or 10 lbs before the trip begins? Yes, yes it would. Can I see myself running half-a-mile on a treadmill on the cruise ship each morning? Yes, yes I can. And I couldn’t do that without having done the ground work, or maintaining it. So . . . that’s what I focus on. Because that’s what’s working for me, right now.

A great deal of it is where I keep my mind. Hopefully, I won’t be back here a year from now reporting I’ve gained 50 lbs! I’ve lost weight (I topped out at 300 lbs in high school, bottomed out at 150 lbs 2.5 years later). I got down to 225 before a trip to Mexico in 2008, then shot back up to 270 in 6 months. But I weighed in at 185 lbs this morning. I haven’t weighed that since early 1990.

Now, if I could only will away the perma-flab that comes from having weighed 300 lbs in high school and 270 lbs a year ago. But perma-flab was a problem even at 150 lbs in college, it’s not the kind of thing you fix without surgery. And, at 43, I think I’ll pass on cosmetic surgery. Because I still look drop-dead gorgeous in a suit. 😉

I’m not sure any of this will be beneficial to anybody else. But it’s working for me, for now. And that’s my story.

Or, my story, so far.

Bites & Pieces OR Do Alpha Males Eat Quiche?

I have a basic quiche recipe that can be adapted for all sorts of dietary restrictions and preferences.  I’m trying to gradually add a few pounds back on that I misplaced this year and I can make this once a week and add a few calories to my diet.  On the other hand, it can be made with lower fat/calorie ingredients and still be delicious.

Basic Ingredients:

3 whole eggs, you can substitute egg whites for part of them or all, two egg whites equals one whole egg

1 can evaporated milk, you can use low fat or non fat and honestly you won’t be able to tell the difference

2 1/2 TBS of flour

Salt, pepper and other spices depending on the rest of your ingredients.  I use thyme, parsley, basil and herbs de provence  pretty frequently, but please experiment.

Additional Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups cheese, again low fat versions are fine and I frequently use a combination of mozzarella, parmesan and feta.  Of course you can use cheddar, swiss or really any kind of cheese.

5 to 6 diced green onions

2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 to 2  cups of veggies.  I generally use a combination of broccoli/cauliflower or a variety of summer squash.  Experiment.

1 cup of  meat (cooked).  If you use meat, cut back on the veggies.  For a breakfast quiche the obvious meats are ham, bacon or sausage.  For dinner, chicken would probably work fine.


Beat the eggs, milk, flour and spices until well blended.  Sir in the other ingredients, adding the cheeses last and pour into greased 9″X9″ baking dish and bake for about 45 minutes at 350 or until center is set.

By the way, my husband loves this recipe.


And from okiegirl, who is still finding gorgeous asparagus at an even more gorgeous price, a couple of faves.

Asparagus with Curry Butter


2 teaspoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 shallot, finely diced

1 bunch asparagus, (about 1 pound), trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces


Combine butter, curry powder, lemon juice and salt in a small bowl.  Omit salt if your curry powder has salt in it already.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add asparagus and cook, stirring, until just tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir the curry butter into the asparagus; toss to coat.

Yummy with grilled salmon!

Spring Pizza


3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

3 cloves garlic, minced (or to taste — this is a lot of garlic)

2 medium tomatoes, sliced

1 bunch asparagus (about 1 pound)

1/2 cup snipped fresh chives, divided

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 pound whole-wheat pizza dough

1 cup shredded fontina or mozzarella cheese


Position rack in lower third of oven, place a pizza stone or large pizza pan on the rack and preheat oven to 450°F for at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine 2 tablespoons oil and garlic in a small bowl; set aside. Trim asparagus spears to about 6 inches long; slice any thicker stalks in half lengthwise. Toss in a bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, 1/4 cup chives, salt and pepper.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to about a 14-inch circle.  (I cheat and buy ready made pizza crust.)

Carefully remove the pizza stone or pan from the oven and set on a heatproof surface, such as your stovetop. Place the dough on the stone or pan and brush with the reserved garlic-oil mixture. Cover with a layer of tomato slices.  Arrange the asparagus in a circular pattern on the dough with the tips facing out (like spokes). Top with cheese and the remaining chives.

Carefully return the stone or pan to the oven and bake the pizza on the lower rack until crispy and golden and the cheese is melted, about 15 minutes.

This makes a lovely spring supper, but also is a nice (if unusual) side dish.

On Being Fat

When I was a little boy, I was a normal kid, at a normal weight. I was a rambunctious male child from a divorced household, and, today, I’m sure, I would have been put on Ritalin. My mother, while not maternal, was very health conscious, and kept the food in the house normal, but healthy. There were not a lot of sugary snacks or sugared drinks.

However, I liked to eat, and would find ways to do so. I have the sort of metabolism that packs on the pounds, so after 2nd and 3rd grade, I became kind of chubby. And while I put on some weight through 6th grade, I wasn’t morbidly obese. But I felt fat. When I was skinny—and, after a 4 month stint in boarding school environment where my food consumption was tightly controlled, I was skinny—I still felt fat.

My mother spent a year in France when I was in 7th grade, so I began to live with my father full time. The food there wasn’t as healthy, and I put on more weight. By the time I was in high school, I weighed 300 pounds. After a few years of that, I got tired of it. I started eating less, without a specific goal, with just the idea of eating a little bit less and being a little more healthier, and maybe losing a little weight. I’d still be fat, of course, but I wouldn’t be quite as fat.

At about the same time, my best friend dropped out of school and was rail-roaded into the Coast Guard. Although he was skinny as a rail, a lot of my most egregious over-consumption I did with him. Since he was gone, I just stopped consuming bags of chips and entire tubes of cookie dough in a single sitting.

I smoked like a smoke-stack then–now, I had done that for years, but now it provided me a handy alternative to eating so much. Also, they were menthols, so they were flavorful, as well. But I think the most important thing was that I had resigned myself to being fat, and was only trying to ease up a little bit. I wasn’t going to be skinny–I wasn’t ever going to be skinny. It was an absurd thought. But I could lose a little weight, come down a few sizes. In any case, I could certainly get by on a little less food and eat a little healthier.

By the time I had lost 80 lbs, it occurred to me that I could, in fact, be skinny. And I became so. My freshmen year at college, I went from 215 or so at the beginning of the year to 185 at the end. I had continued to wear baggy clothes, my hair had remained unkempt, and despite having lost 100 pounds over about 16 months, nobody at that point had really noticed*. However, a few changes to my wardrobe, grooming, and a little more exercise over the summer made a big difference. At the beginning my sophomore year, I was now thin and fit, to the point where I got a few audible gasps. I relished getting together with old friends from high school who had not seen me for a year, and seeing their shock (this does eventually get old, when people you don’t even remember come up to tell you how fat you used to be, but at first, I loved it). And even good friends see you in a different way when you’ve lost 100 pounds.

I finally felt skinny. I believe it was over the summer, or at the beginning of my sophomore year. I would have weighed around 175, and was preparing to go out to Rocky Horror. Looking in the mirror, I noticed that I did not have a double chin. No doubt, this had been true for months, but this was the first time I really noticed it. I nodded my head. Still no double chin. I practically had to break my neck to produce anything that resembled a second-chin**. God bless! I was thin!

And I stayed thin for quite a while. I had assumed it would be the case for the rest of my life, and that I had that puppy licked (ah, hubris). But I stayed thin, actually getting down to 150 at one point (of course, I could not actually consume any calories to maintain this weight, so that did not last long). But I hovered between 175 and 185 for years. After working for a year, a crawled up to 195. As my wife-to-be an I moved in together, I put on another 10 lbs, and hovered between 220 and 210 for several years. Then, my wife got pregnant, and I gained 40 lbs. While I managed to get down a little from 250, she got pregnant (again!) and I surpassed it. I been as high as 275 . . . never quite 300 pounds, again, but more than 100 pounds over my idea college weight.

There’s a lot I could note about my first years of svelteness (and I suspect, though cannot confirm, that going from being very fat and fit and trim is a great deal more enjoyable than simply having been thin and fit from the outset), but I’ll just note one. The issue of weight, and how I had managed to end up as overweight as much as I did in high school, continued to occupy my mind. A lot of my writing at the time dealt with both direct and indirect psychological introspection. Specifically, songs like Big Fat Geek (I weighed 170 lbs when I wrote it), Fat, Fat (probably around 180, when I wrote it), My Big Fat Friend, with lots of other stuff that touched on similar themes without being quite so direct.I thought I had a great handle on my inner psychology that drove me to over eating and sedentary behavior . . . but, as time would demonstrate, I was a little cocky. Because, while I’m around 260 now (and, slowly, descending, but there’s no rush), I’ve spent a lot of time in the past 5 years around 270 and sometimes has high as 275. If you have told me my junior year of college that, at 40, I’d weigh over 270 and be routinely hoarding snacks in my desk like a chipmunk putting away nuts for winter, I would have told you to go fuck yourself and punched you in the face. Yet, you would have been right, and I would have been a tad hubristic and over optimistic in my projections.

There’s been a lot of dieting since leaving college that I haven’t chronicled. And a lot of eating. Sufficed to say, I have always gained that weight back. And usually in short order, and usually a little more besides. On more than one occasion, I’ve attempted to recapture the state of mind I was in when I lost so much weight from Christmas of 1986 to mid-1988. And it’s been very difficult. But, I’m trying again.

In this case, I’ve gone this way before, but I’m having a little better luck (so far), in that I’m not dieting. I’m just trying to change my eating habits. While I want to lose weight, the goal is to change my eating habits, and do so in increments. So far, this has worked all right. I remind myself that it’s a process of conditioning.

I greatly enjoyed Joel Spitzer’s Never Take Another Puff method of quitting smoking. An important point he makes is that it’s important not to confuse your withdrawal a day, a week, or a month into the process of quitting with how things will be in a year. It’s different for everybody; I’ve quit smoking enough to know it takes me about six weeks to get past the general addiction and, even then, I sometimes still really want a cigarette (if this weren’t true, I wouldn’t have had to quit smoking more than once).† When I remember I’m not trying to diet, specifically (if I don’t lose weight this week, that’s fine) but attempting to recondition myself in regards to how I eat, I have to remember: a lot of what I’m feeling is because my body is used to being fed a lot of calories, and that my body will eventually adjust. I felt fine for a long time eating a very modest diet; I know I can get by with much less.

I am trying not to confuse how I feel when trying to manage day to day life while feeling out-of-sorts, punchy, or light-headed with a state of permanence, and trying to focus on the things I enjoy about eating less (my sense of smell improves, bizarrely, and scents become much more sensual–that is, if they’re pleasant).

So, we’ll see how this approach works. I’ve fallen off the wagon, in regards to overeating, more times than I can count. Because I have an appetite, and I enjoy eating, and tend to over do it. But I’m focusing more than usual on changing eating habits first. No more second breakfast for me!

So, anybody else here overweight? Struggled with dieting? Fit and svelte, but formerly fat? I often debate politics and movies and economics and whatnot but, the fact is, nothing has much more impact on the day-to-day quality of my life than both what I eat, and how much I weigh (despite my undying love of cheese burgers, I miss the lightness and mobility of weighing 185, and try to keep that foremost in my mind when the leftovers in the refrigerator start calling my name).

There is more to be said: I suspect some, though not all, the migraines that I get would be gone with the wind, if I maintained a low calorie, low-consumption diet. I can tell you from experience, people who struggle with their weight really do struggle with it, even if to some they only seem fat and lazy (but I can understand why some people might think that). I wonder how much of the perceived negatives (for me) of low food consumption, and low blood sugar, are psychological. Am I oversharing? But . . . I’ll dip into that in the comments, if anybody is interested in discussing eating habits and weight history on an ostensibly political blog.

But, then again, it is called all things in moderation.

* In fact, we usually make a huge deal about our weight, when wardrobe and grooming actually make as much, if not more, and impact on how we are perceived by others. If I found myself waking up in my 300 pound high school body back in 1984, the first thing I’d do is upgrade my wardrobe and grooming habits).

** Ah, the wonders of youthful skin elasticity. While there was nothing to be done about my flabby stomach–300 lbs is too much stretching, and you’re never going to have six-pack abs after that without cosmetic surgery–I was able to rebound from being 300 lbs in high school to having a nice, tight firm skinny little neck by the beginning of my sophomore year in college. This would not be the case now, alas.

† At some point, I may do a post on smoking. I don’t know how many former smokers we have here, but I’ve got a few things to say about smoking, about enjoying smoking, about quitting smoking, and not being great about “never taking another puff” even though, of course, once you’ve gone through the trouble to quit, you know you’ll just have to go through it all over again the minute you pick up a cigarette.

%d bloggers like this: