In January 2016 and almost twelve years since retirement, I visited my family doctor regarding swollen lower legs, some loss of feeling in a couple of toes and a strange pad-like feeling under my right foot. He suggested that I seriously needed to lose weight or risk significant health problems in the near future, and implied that a weight reduction would likely improve the problem with my legs and feet.
At retirement, my weight for my age and height was a reasonable 165-168 lbs. After retirement, it wasn’t very long before my stress levels dropped dramatically and my physical activity reduced as well. Although I was active in maintaining my property and doing the odd renovation and small building project, my weight had crept up quite consistently by a few pounds each year to reach a peak of, incredibly, about 220 lbs. I truly needed to make some real changes and right away. I was down to wearing sweat pants, one stretchy pair of jeans and XL-size shirts. My closet was full of favourite unwearable clothing and my winter coat was getting difficult to zip up.
I immediately set about reducing my caloric intake by 500 kcal per day in an effort to reduce my weight by one pound per week. This way, if I were successful, by Christmas I would be back to a reasonably healthy weight. I used a free computer program to keep track of my nutrient intake and to take into account any extra physical exercise that I was able to perform. It was winter in Ontario when I started this and I walked a couple of km on average two or three times a week to help with the adjustment to fewer net calories. I kept on this approach for about 11 weeks, expecting to lose about 11 lbs. In fact, I did get my weight down to about 210 lbs. Then, no change. I was hungry all the time, and would still occasionally binge and ruin a week’s worth of progress. It was very difficult, and frustrating, and I still didn’t feel very good.
The Answer and a New Approach
In early April 2016, while researching diets and nutrition on the internet, I came across a YouTube video of an interview with Dr. Peter Attia who, being very fit but still overweight, had explored the ways in which his body reacted to or utilized the foods he was eating. I was completely spellbound by his explanation of his journey and the results he achieved. I was going to apply his excellent logic to my own situation. In the ensuing several weeks to the present time (mid-May 2016), I have tried to adhere to some guidelines I have gleaned (and adapted to my own requirements) from the approach Dr. Attia described. Although I am continually adjusting (I would call it tuning) my diet to suit my lifestyle and activity, and although it is very soon after making these changes, I am almost ecstatic with the results.
It’s Working Well
At present, and subject to change, I still use a 500 kcal reduction in my daily food intake to achieve the weight loss I desire. The main difference is the balance of nutrients that make up that intake. I now strive to achieve 25% of the calories as protein, 25% as carbohydrates and 50% as lipids (or fats as I call them). This meant giving up some of my indulgences almost completely. No more ice cream, chocolate bars, cereal, bread, potatoes and anything that hinted of carbohydrates or sugar. I do occasionally eat some of these but very infrequently and in small quantities. But – I could now eat cheddar, whole milk, almonds, most meats, most (but not all) raw vegetables and many other foods that are low in sugar (and carbohydrates) and some of those I had given up in my previous quest for low-fat foods. It has taken a few weeks to come up with choices that work for me but the results have happened so quickly that it was difficult to believe. I have found that if one tries to go sugar-free, one will still easily meet 25% carbohydrates as almost every processed food and many raw foods have lots of sugar/carbohydrates. Keeping track of one’s intake has sometimes been a deterrent for certain people but I found that after the initial start with excellent free software, it is a simple and quick matter to track every bite on my desktop PC or my smartphone. I find that TV commercials are the perfect time to “catch-up” on these entries on my phone.
In the past 4 weeks, I have reduced my average carbohydrate intake to about 200 grams per day from an average of about 320 grams per day. In that time, my weight has changed from 206 lbs to 198 lbs or about about 2 lbs per week. The swelling in my lower legs has all but disappeared, my feet feel almost normal, I have much more energy and endurance, almost no cravings and am a happier, clearer thinking (I believe) individual. I have, under my doctor’s supervision, stopped taking my blood pressure medication completely and at-home measurements show an average of 126/64. My blood glucose measurements show an acceptable range for before and after meals.
My goals in point form are:
- no more days when my carbohydrate intake is 300 grams or more (I have had 3 of these in the last 4 weeks)
- perhaps raise my carbohydrate limit from 70 grams to a more practical, achievable 80 or 90 grams per day (I may have to adjust this slightly upward again in the future)
- search for even more good foods (spaghetti squash has recently entered the diet) that we can enjoy
- start some moderate strength training to firm up weak muscles so as to avoid injury in future physical endeavours
- continue walking and cycling
I know that there is much more to know about the food that I eat. I have also happened upon other proponents of reduced-sugar diets that are supporting a dietary approach away from so much carbohydrate. I have noticed, for me, at least, sugar begets sugar, so to speak. If I eat something sweet, even if it is bread, I crave more and more. If I don’t take that first sugary bite, there is no craving. That makes the changes so much easier. It is that first temptation that must be avoided to make the changes easy.
In addition to the previously-described benefits, I have also noticed reduced or eliminated joint pain in my hips and knees. My sense of balance has improved, probably due to reduced weight.
Lastly, I have this incredible urge to share all of this with anyone who will listen. At 65 years of age, my life has changed but this is just the beginning of this story.